Ayurveda ~ The Wisdom of Life
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word which means Wisdom of Life (Ayus = life, Veda = science, wisdom or knowledge). A consciousness based mind body healing system from India, cognised by sages & rishis, ‘great seers’, it is thought to be over 5,000 years old. Deeply rooted in understanding nature’s rhythms, laws and the five great elements, space (akasha), air (vayu), fire (agni), water (jala) and earth (prithvi). Ayurveda offers a complete body of wisdom designed to create balance, harmony, health, vibrancy, longevity and spiritual well-being by adopting preventive and promotive approaches to health and life balance.
Loka Purusha Samya ~ The principle of unity between the macrocosm (the world outside)and microcosm (the world within) … It is understood in Ayurveda that humans, as natural beings, are governed by the same principles and laws as all other natural beings. If we choose to ignore these laws, then imbalances will begin to appear. These imbalances are the precursor to disharmony and disease in the mind and body. This system of medicine and healing understands our deepest connections with the whole universe and the influences of the energies that make up this universe. We are considered a microcosm of the macrocosm.
The Ayurvedic principle is based on the archetypical elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Ether and earth are static in nature while air, fire, and water are dynamic and ever changing. These elements have inherent energies that govern their functions. We are all made up of all of these energies, but each individual has slightly different proportions of the individual elements, making everyone unique in their own constitutional makeup.
The two main guiding principles of Ayurveda are:
1.) The mind and the body are inextricably connected
2.) Nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind
Freedom from illness depends upon expanding our own awareness, bringing it into balance, then extending that balance to the body. This process isn’t as complicated as it may sound. For example, when you meditate you effortlessly enter a state of expanded awareness and inner quiet that refreshes the mind and restores balance. Since the mind and body are inseparable, the body is naturally balanced through the practice of meditation. In the state of restful awareness created through meditation, your heart rate and breath slow, your body decreases the production of “stress” hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and you increase the production of neurotransmitters that enhance wellbeing, including serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.
Meditation is just one of the most powerful tools the ancient Ayurvedic physicians prescribed for balancing the mind and body. Ayurveda also offers many other practices for expanding self-awareness and cultivating your innate state of balance. Here are a few of the most important aspects of the Ayurvedic approach and suggestions for applying them to create perfect health in your own life.
Understand your unique mind-body type and the specific needs that derive from it. Ayurveda is a personalised approach to health, knowing your mind-body type allows you to make optimal choices about diet, exercise, supplements, and all other aspects of your lifestyle.
Eat a colourful, flavourful diet
Next to breathing, eating is our most vital bodily function. To create a healthy body and mind our food must be nourishing. Ideal nutrition comes from consuming a variety of fresh foods that are appropriately prepared and eaten with awareness. A simple way to make sure that you are getting a balanced diet is to include the six Ayurvedic tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent) in each meal. Doing so will ensure that all major food groups and nutrients are represented. When you include all six tastes, you will also notice that you feel satisfied and that the urge to snack and overeat will diminish.
Along with the six tastes, filling your plate with the colours of the rainbow promotes a long and healthy life. You can literally ingest the information of the universe into your biology. Foods that are deep blue, purple, red, green, or orange are leaders in antioxidants and contain many nutrients that boost immunity and enhance health.
- Eat in a calm and settled environment.
- Never eat and run—allow a few minutes after eating to relax or take a gentle walk.
- Sip warm water throughout your meal.
- Eat freshly cooked or prepared meals.
- Chew your food well and be mindful of its smells, tastes, and textures.
- Focus on eating, not on conversation, TV, reading, etc.
- Leave ⅓ of your stomach empty
- Avoid ice-cold food or drink.
- Eat only when you feel hungry.
- Eat at a moderate pace.
- Allow a few hours between meals and bedtime.
- Eat your largest meal at mid-day and lighter amounts at night.
- Sip warm water or ginger tea throughout the day.
Get abundant restful sleep
According to Ayurveda, sleep is the nursemaid to humanity. During sleep, our body repairs and rejuvenates itself. A lack of restful sleep disrupts the body’s innate balance, weakens our immune system, and speeds up the ageing process. Human beings generally need between six and eight hours of restful sleep each night. Restful sleep means that you’re not using pharmaceuticals or alcohol to get to sleep but that you’re drifting off easily once you turn off the light and are sleeping soundly through the night. If you feel energetic and vibrant when you wake up, you had a night of restful sleep. If you feel tired and unenthusiastic, you haven’t had restful sleep.
Live in tune with nature
The phrase “living in tune with nature” has a precise meaning in Ayurveda: having healthy desires that match what you actually need. As nature made you, what you need and what you want shouldn’t be in conflict. When you’re in balance, you naturally desire only that which nurtures your health and life. You flow in harmony with your body’s natural rhythms, getting restful sleep, feeding your senses with experiences, tastes, touch, aromas, sounds, and sights that uplift and nourish you. When you slip out of tune with nature, your desires become non-nurturing and you may crave junk food, neglect to sleep and exercise, and indulge in compulsive behaviours. Overtime, a little imbalance can become a disorder and then a disease, bringing on more stress and neglect.
You can make choices that keep you in harmony with your inner intelligence and rhythms by tuning into your body’s messages. The body always expresses itself through signals of comfort and discomfort (Yum & Yuck) When choosing a certain path or behaviour, ask your body, “How do you feel about this?” If your body sends a signal of physical or emotional distress, pay attention and consider a different choice. If your body sends a signal of comfort and eagerness, you may proceed. Whereas the mind lives in the past and the future, the body resides in the now and never doubts itself. It knows the truth and will guide you towards the most evolutionary choices.
Strengthen your digestive power
As Ayurveda teaches, good health is dependent upon our capability to fully metabolise the nutritional, emotional, and sensory information that we ingest. When our digestive energy, known as agni (fire), is robust, we create healthy tissues, eliminate waste products efficiently and produce a subtle essence called ojas. Ojas, which may be envisioned as the source of our vitality, is the basis for clarity of perception, physical strength, and immunity. On the other hand, if our agni is weakened, digestion is incomplete and lead to an accumulation of toxic residue known as ama. The buildup of ama in the body mind leads to obstructions in the flow of energy, information, and nourishment, and is the basis of all disease.
Connect with your innate nature
The Ayurvedic approach is about aligning with the infinite organising power of nature rather than struggling or trying to force things to go your way. This principle is embodied by the Law of Least Effort. When you observe nature, you will notice that grass doesn’t try to grow; it just grows. Birds don’t try to fly; they just fly. Flowers don’t try to blossom; they just blossom. Nature functions with effortless ease, frictionlessly and spontaneously. It is intuitive, holistic, non-linear, and nourishing. You will expend least effort when your actions are motivated by love, because nature is held together by the energy of love. When you chase after status, money, power, or accolades, you waste energy, but when your actions are motivated by love, your energy expands and accumulates.
Ayurvedic Tips for Balanced Living
Beneficial Daily Routine
- Rise before the sunrise.
- Drink a full glass (8 oz.) of room temperature or warm water.
- Clean your face, mouth and nasal passages and gargle with salt water.
- Do some light yoga or stretching exercises.
- Meditate for 20 minutes.
- Take a walk or run for ½ hour, 3–4 times per week.
- Have a nutritional breakfast according to your body type.
- Have a relaxing or complete meal at lunchtime. 12–1.30pm.
- Relax after lunch.
- Meditate in late afternoon before evening meal for 20 minutes.
- Eat dinner between 5:00 and 7:00 pm. This should not be a heavy meal.
- Allow two hours after your dinner before going to bed.
- Bedtime 10:00–11:00 pm.
Daily Ayurvedic Regimens
Our bodies naturally work on clearing excess toxins out of our body during the nighttime hours. These toxins are deposited in our colon and skin. That is why it is important to take care of personal hygiene first thing in the morning. We must remove these toxins from the body by bathing and eliminating to prevent them from backing up and becoming reabsorbed by the body.
The following routines are very helpful in clearing these excesses from our body and preventing toxic build-up.
Abhyanga (Oil Massage)
Choose an oil for your body type i.e. Vata, Pitta or Kapha (these are herbalised and blended oils) or an organic cold pressed base oil – sesame for Vata and Kapha, coconut or sunflower for Pitta.
Keep your oil in a bottle or jar in your bathroom. You can warm it if you like in some warm water in the sink or just apply at room temperature. Start your application before your shower or bath. Starting with the head and moving down to the feet, using circular motions around the joints and long up and down motions on the long bones and torso. Once it is applied, let it rest on your body for a few minutes before you go into the shower or tub. Once in the warm water do not soap it off, just let the warmth of the shower drive the oil into the skin. You can soap and wash the hair portions of your body and just pat dry with a towel at the end.
Neti And Nasya (Nasal Rinse And Oil/Herb Lubrication)
Neti: Fill the neti pot with warm pre-boiled water and add a pinch of sea salt. Bring to sink. Tilt your head over the sink and place the spout into one nostril, breathing out of your mouth, allow the water to flow into nostril and out the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. Blow your nose if necessary and gargle with a little salt water.
Nasya: You can use a formulated nasya oil, ghee or sesame oil. Apply by placing the oil on your small finger and inserting into one nostril while closing the other nostril. You can also use a dropper or a squirt type bottle. Sniff the oil up into the nose until you feel it drip into the back of your throat a bit. Repeat the procedure on the other side.
For more information on Perfect Health ~ An Ayurvedic Lifestyle Programme and discovering your mind-body type please email Yog Sundari.
References ~ Deepak Chopra