In this series we explore the ingredients in Natural Alchemy’s Yoga Formula – why they are good for the yogi, where they come from and what research has been done to support the merits of each ingredient.
Curcumin for the Yogi
Wherever we are in our yoga journeys – beginner, intermediate or advanced, mastering the Asanas (yoga positions) put tension in our muscles. This causes discomfort and can hold us back from going further and deeper into our practice.
Curcumin is a yellow chemical present in certain plants – most commonly turmeric, a root herb from the ginger family. It has long been used in traditional medicine by healers of ancient civilisations and masters of yoga and martial arts to aid flexibility, recovery and pain relief. This natural chemical is known to help stretch ligaments and repair injury. It also provides heat to the liver which is connected to the laxity of the tendons.
On top of its health benefits, curcumin can also leverage mental wellbeing. The intake of curcumin extracts has been observed to have uplifting effects to the mood and increased ability in concentration and focus. This is particularly helpful if you’re working on new postures.
This natural chemical is known to help stretch ligaments and repair injury. It also provides heat to the liver which is connected to the laxity of the tendons.
Curcumin in Ayurveda
The use of curcumin in the centuries-old natural healing practice of Ayurveda demonstrates its significance in the fabric of traditional therapy. It’s the biochemical that gives out the yellow colour in turmeric and that vibrant hue typical of Indian curries, subsequently earning its title as The Golden Spice and The Golden Goddess. (1) During the Vedic period in India turmeric was known as ‘the spice of life’ and was associated with the healing powers of the bright sun.
This Ayurvedic superfood is used to balance the doshas (biological energies) in the human body. The heat in turmeric specifically relieves the Vata and Kapha doshas which respectively contain qualities of space and air and of water and earth.
An extract from Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Guidebook for Modern Living, explains these doshas in great detail –
The main locations of Vata in the body are the colon, thighs, bones, joints, ears, skin, brain and nerve tissues. Physiologically, Vata governs anything related to movement such as breathing, talking, nerve impulses, movements in the muscles and tissues, circulation, assimilation of food, elimination, urination and menstruation. Psychologically, Vata governs communication, creativity, flexibility and quickness of thought.
The main locations of Kapha in the body are the chest, throat, lungs, head, lymph, fatty tissue, connective tissue, ligaments and tendons. Physiologically, Kapha moistens food, gives bulk to our tissues, lubricates joints, stores energy and relates to cool body fluids such as water, mucous and lymph. Psychologically, Kapha governs love, patience, forgiveness, greed, attachment and mental inertia.
Turmeric features regularly in the Indian diet as it is antiseptic and antibacterial in nature. Where high populations, heavy pollution and the lack of clean drinking water is part of everyday life turmeric comes as a natural agent in helping settle distressed tummies. (2) It is thought to improve digestion, relieve gas, oust worms, dissolve gallstones and purify the blood.
Flavourwise, turmeric has a subtle taste but used in excess it can be bitter and is reported to have light numbing effects. Outside the kitchen, South Asian countries use it to disinfect cuts and burns.
The importance of turmeric in Hindu culture and religion is present in ancient literatures. It is said that turmeric paste is one of the highly valued gifts offered to the gods, alongside vermillion and sandalwood (3). Its deep yellow tint ‘allude to the colour of Goddess Durga’s skin, which is often referred to as the colour of molten gold’ (4) and is associated with Lord Krishna who is often depicted wearing yellow.
Curcumin in modern medicine
Curcumin in modern medicine is refered to as Diferuloylmethane. It is recognised as a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anticancer agent. It fights inflammation by blocking Nf-kB, a particle that is found in human cells and is involved in cellular responses to stimuli such as stress, free radicals and bacterial or viral antigens.
There has also been extensive studies on curcumin’s role in improving brain function and in lowering the risk of brain diseases.
One such study observed the cognitive performance of Indians who occasionally ate curry (less than once a month) versus those who ate curry often (more than once a month). The latter performed better on a standardized test as compared to those who did not or rarely ate curry. (6)
There are several literature supporting the benefits of curcumin both in Ayurveda and modern science, which is why we chose it to be the key ingredient in Yoga Formula.
(4) Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess: The Liturgy of the Durga Puja with Interpretations by Hillary Peter Rodrigues