Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vimala and Vata

In this day and age of high technology and fast living, we are constantly exposed to historically unprecedented levels of environmental and social stress. The climate is becoming unstable because of human activity, the seasons are becoming unbalanced, and many parts of the world today are experiencing all kinds of social, economic, environmental, and spiritual disturbances. One result of all of these disturbances is imbalance in our vata dośa, known in Tibetan as "nyes pa rlung".

Vata disturbances are difficult to manage because people become accustomed to them under the name of "stress" -- spending billions of dollars a year on therapy, sleep aids, and so on. Stress-related illnesses are so pervasive in Western culture that many traditonal physicians in both Ayruveda and Tibetan Medicine see vata-related conditions as being the number one acute health problem facing those in the West. It is not a coincidence that the cause of vata in the human body is the affliction of desire. There is direct link between our consumerist society, the stimulation of desire, and the resultant vata imbalances that so many people experience.

The seasons also play a role in vata-imbalances. Though the fall season is traditionally considered to be the season in which pitta dośa [nyes pa mkhris pa] accumulated during the summer manifests as a disease in both classical Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine, we lack a late summer rainy season in the northern hemisphere, followed by an intensely hot autumn. In our climate, the late summer is when the days are hot but the nights are cool. This produces the manifestation of many dual vata-pitta disorders, and so we commonly observe the increase of vata imbalances combined with pitta imbalances in the form of rampant colds and flues, and so on, that afflict the northern hemisphere every year.

From the perspective of Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine, one of the main reasons our immunity becomes compromised is that our constant level of stress directly degrades and damages ojas (mdangs), the subtle life-sustaining fluid that permeates our entire body and supports our life-force. Therefore, the we need to reduce our overall levels of stress in order to reduce damage the damage to ojas which directly supports our vitality, our health, and our wellbeing.  

Fortunately, there are a number of inexpensive alternatives for the management and alleviation of vata imabalances. Yoga, proper exercise, massage and self-massage with a high quality traditionally-crafted Ayurvedic massage oil suited to your individual constitution, praṇāyāma, and meditation are important methods of reducing stress and controlling vata imbalances. Diet is also important: eating with the seasons, eating regularly, eating whole foods in proper combinations and so on. All of these factors contribute to the management of vata related symptoms. In addition, we may occaisonally need to resort to herbal supplements to assist in bringing our three dośas back into balance.

For persons of general good health, one of the best formulas for controlling vata disturbances is Vimala. Vimala (Dza ti 20) is special formula developed by the great Indian Pandita and Dzogchen master, Vimalamitra in the eighth century. The traditional uses of Vimala are described in Vimalamitra's Eighty-Four Thousand Healing Therapies:
A special therapy for vata (rlung) in the heart:
when the nine wicked spirit siblings are rampant,
no one will be unaffected by this disease.
The symptoms are depression
mental instability, disturbed thinking,
pain and tightness in front and back of the upper body,
lack of mental clarity, poor memory,
being sad for no reason, restlessness,
hostility, lethargy and agitation, shortness of breath,
acute fainting. Because various illnesses
arise, the method of healing them with medicine is demonstrated.
Vimala is a balanced formula, the basis of which is Nutmeg, Terminalia chebulam, Boswellia serrata and Aquilaria malaccensis. Nutmeg and Boswellia serrata are warming; Terminalia Chebula and Aquilaria malaccensis are cooling, and all are used in controlling wind. In particular, the function of nutmeg is to regulate wind in the central channel and heart cakra. In addition to these four herbs, Vimala has a number of other supporting herbs which control wind and support the heart cakra.

 Vimala might be described as the meditator's formula of choice. Vimala is an excellent herbal support for those who are embarking in meditation retreats where vata or "rlung" disturbances are a constant issue. In addition to this, since Vimala assists the regulation of the praṇāvāyu in the heart cakra, it is an excellent aid for supporting calm and restful sleep. For an anupāna (sman rta, foods and drinks to enhance the effect of the medicine), Vimala may be combined with warmed milk sweetened with sucanet or a small portion of high quality aged alcohol such as 10-year old tawny port or brandy. When used in combination with a vata-reducing diet, regular massage, and light exercise such as yoga or walking, Vimala plays a role supporting calmness and a positive mood.

 Why should one choose Vimala over Agar 35? Agar 35 is considered to be the heaviest and coolest of all the Agar preparations. Agar 35 is classified as a heat-removing formula recommended for general vata (rlung) disorders, especially those combined with heat. Agar 35 is contra-indicated where there is a heat condition in the upper body and a cold condition in the lower body (i.e. below the diaphragm), when there is an unproductive cough, arthritis, and so on.

In the past, Tibetan formulas such as Vimala have been hard to find. This formula can be obtained from Siddhi Energetics.


J.Crow said...

We offer Tibetan Herbal Formula's here from Dolkar Herbal and TMAI:

The UDPN said...

Hi Malcolm,
Great post. I clicked on the link and read the description. It mostly talks about calmness and sleeping better at night.....that is great but I don't really have those problems....(crossing fingers).
Do you still recommend this as a daily supplement?
Also...what do you prescribe for energy? I feel tired throughout the day.

Malcolm said...


Fatigue is often related to low metabolic heat and poor liver function.

Without knowing more about your condition, it is difficult for me to assess your state of health.

Vimala is not indicated for you. You might want to try Shilajit, however.

Kagyu Shedrup Chöling said...

Hi Malcolm,

I see what you are saying....I was actually looking at Shilajit as you are saying.
Hope I don't have anything wrong with the liver! sounds more serious than low metabolic heat.
Wished I lived in your state for a consultation.
Anyways...I got back on juicing (vegetables) and I already feel the difference in energy. Perhaps I needed more greens? I'm vegetarian but tend to eat a good amount of process foods in the form of veggie patties and things like that.
How are processed foods viewed in Tibetan medicine?
One more question....are there major differences in Chulen and Shilajit? I am reading the descriptions that appear in Siddhi Energetics.

Malcolm said...

Last question first:

Shilajit is a kind of chulen.

In general processed foods are nutritionally bereft, whether or not they are vegetarian. They often remain frozen for long periods of time, and produce a lot of Ama or ma shu ba, maldigestive residue, which in turn impairs metabolic function in the liver and other tissues in the body. It is best to cook all food fresh.

The UDPN said...

oopss...sorry for posting with different accounts. The UDPN and KSC are both me. It's confusing having several blogs with different email addresses.
Thanks for answering those questions.
I think I will go with chulen:

" they benefit the kidneys, liver, heart and gastric systems"

not everything I eat is frozen but hearing from you what it does seems like chulen is the one I need....plus I should limit the intake of frozen foods as well.
Thanks again Malcolm.
Love this blog! and all the others as well!

The UDPN said...

One more question...how do salads figure in maldigestive residue? how are salads viewed in tibetan medicine?

Admin said...

Malcolm I dont' get to check in as often as I"d like but when I do your writing is very helpful and has a greater depth than alot of what is out there.

Malcolm said...

As for salads, from my perspective, a healthy salad is mostly fresh lettuce, fruit and watery vegetables like cukes. Avoid excess amounts of root vegetables (but beets are ok) and make sure you use oil and some something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice.

Tibetan medicine itself is a little biased against raw food in general, as is Ayurveda. But as long as you make sure you are combining salad with high quality dressing, I think salads are quite good actually, providing everything is fresh and in season.