What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healthcare system that translates to “Life Science” from Sanskrit, has been generating an increasing amount of buzz in the world of holistic wellbeing and it certainly warrants a deeper look from those unfamiliar with the practice. Different to Western medicine in that Ayurveda is concerned with prevention rather than cure, it accomplishes this by balancing the ever-changing body with the soul through the use of holistic tools. Ayurvedic practices beautifully stimulate your own inner defenses.
How does Ayurveda work to improve ones well-being?
According to Ayurveda, everything is connected to a person’s state of health. This includes living in harmony with the natural world but also the individual lifestyle and environment to name a few. The fundamental tools to use include diet, exercise and meditation and once you feel fully balanced, the body is able to heal itself and radiate vitality. Ayurveda works because the body’s inner intelligence system knows exactly what it needs to do to keep you healthy but its healing abilities weaken over time due to circumstances such as stress, sleep deprivation or exposure to toxins to name a few.
How to make Ayurveda work for you?
Making Ayurveda work for you depends largely on understanding your own nature and energy, which is referred to as the Dosha. To determine yours, it’s highly recommended that you see an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner but taking a reputable online test such as the one offered by Chopra Centre can also be a good place to start as an alternative.
Ayurveda & Nutrition
In Ayurveda, the most significant influencer of our wellbeing is believed to be the food we consume. This is because food is essentially our medicine and should be catered to our individual constitution. For example, 'light and airy' personalities would be best balanced by consuming more grounding foods such as root vegetables and the 'grounded and stable' individuals would be best balanced by eating fresh salads and fruits. Whatever is eaten should be seasonal and taste absolutely delicious. It must be prepared with love and eaten mindfully. Meals should also be eaten as close to the natural temperature of the body as possible so warm or room temperature works best. They should consist of all six tastes to satisfy our taste buds. The main meal should be eaten at lunch, as that’s when our digestive fire is at its strongest, with only light supplements recommended for breakfast and dinner as needed. Remember to chew properly and drink only small sips when necessary to not interfere with the production of digestive liquids produced by the body during meal times.
There are also numerous Ayurvedic practices that are universal and not affected by the individual Dosha. These are easy to implement at home and don’t usually require major lifestyle changes or expensive purchases. Aside from yoga and meditation they also include:
Incorporating more ginger into your life. Ginger is seen as a powerful universal medicine. Drinking warm ginger water upon awaking powers up your physical body and metabolism, and eating small amounts of fresh ginger just before eating enhances the digestive process.
Drinking hot water throughout the day. As with traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda recommends keeping hydrated with hot water rather than cold. Water is of course a natural detoxifier but drinking it hot also increases body temperature, which in turn increases the metabolic rate. It improves circulation by getting the oxygen and blood distributed more evenly.
Oil pulling for better dental health. Oil pulling involves taking a spoonful of oil first thing in the morning and swishing it around for about 20 minutes before spitting it out and then rinsing the mouth with warm salt water. It works because oils cling to other oils which the bad bacteria and toxins in our mouths are covered with.
Tongue scraping to detoxify. Scrape your tongue with the back of your toothbrush or a specialist tool after brushing your teeth to aid in detoxification. This removes the white bacterial build up (ama) from the tongue and keeps the breath fresh. A regular habit can result in reduced gum problems and tooth decay.
Body brushing to detoxify and improve circulation. Before getting into a shower, brush your body to shed dead skin cells and encourage the production of new ones as well as encourage the flow of lymph fluids. Start from the bottom and use gentle strokes that are directed towards the heart.
Self-massaging with oil to de-stress and relax. Stand on a towel and apply 'heating' sesame oil or 'cooling' coconut oil all over your body including your hair. Begin with the head and move down, being especially soft around the face and neck. It’s best to use circular movements around the joints and straight sweeping movements around the longer sections. Finish with the soles of your feet and then leave the oil on to absorb for a few minutes followed by a warm shower. This one is amazing to finish with a meditation session.
Performing nasal irrigation for clear sinuses and improved nasal health. This one requires a neti pot, a worthwhile purchase for individuals prone to congestion of their sinuses. It’s best performed in the morning and requires filling the pot with warm water and organic rock salt (1/4 liter per ¼ of a teaspoon) and then gently flushing the nostrils out one at a time.
Practicing breathing exercises for mental clarity and harmony in the physical body. Breath is everything in life and its importance in our daily routines is often underestimated. Faster breath increases our heart rate and, by association, the production of stress hormones in our bodies. Slower breath works the opposite way by calming our nervous system and helping us stay focused. We can literally force our heart rate to slow down in a stressful situation by taking control of our breath and deepening it. Breathing exercises are also one of the simplest habits to incorporate into our lives as they can be done anywhere and take less then a minute to perform depending on your circumstances.