AYURVEDA, AN INTRODUCTION
Although my first encounter with Ayurveda was during my studies in holistic nutrition, it was last year at an Ayurvedic retreat in Kerala, India when I was able to explore the traditional system more closely.
Local, organic, vegetarian nutrition focusing on the six tastes (more on that later), regular physical movement, lots of rest, and treatments that included warm plant-infused oils, daily massage, and detoxifying herbal decoctions.
It was the last leg of a six-week trip through both the northern and southern parts of the country, and it was as educational as it was nourishing.
One of the main principles of Ayurveda that I took away from the retreat is the cultivation of self-awareness through mindful practices and daily ritual. From the moment we wake until the moment we lay to sleep, it is important to consider all aspects of our health for optimal well-being. At the retreat, this included the preparation and consumption of nutritious foods, specifically designed for optimal digestion and assimilation; spending ample time alone to meditate and reflect on individual experiences; creating healthy boundaries with other retreat attendees (and making friends); and in general, creating space to take care of one's self for one's self, in order to be one's best self. It was adopting a slower pace to acknowledge and recognize the present, and honour my most basic needs at any given time.
Personal maintenance: self-awareness, mindful acts, daily ritual.
Deeply rooted in Ayurvedic tradition, it is through these small acts of self-kindness that we can acquire and maintain great health. When we slow down, we give ourselves the opportunity to become better acquainted with our bodies. This is something that truly resonates with me, as it aligns with my own philosophy in wellness.
It seems like such a simple idea (to take care of ourselves), but it's easy to be led astray from this practice, with our modern everyday.
Currently, I’m working on a project that combines the principles of Ayurveda with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with the process of cycle syncing. As I continue to develop this project, I will be sharing more information about these varying practices and how they can be of use within our modern lifestyles. You'll also see why I'm such a big fan of ancient modalities and traditions — so many are so effective.
To begin, some notes on Ayurveda.
/ ˌäyərˈvādə/ noun.
traditional Indian medicine, which integrates metaphysical and physical life through holistic practices in diet, herbal medicine, and behaviour
Human as whole: body, mind, and spirit
Ayurveda always considers the psychological and spiritual aspects of healing, along with the physical, in order to address greater being and manifestation.
“Self-examination is the first step and the fundamental basis of understanding and resolving any disease.”
In Ayurveda, the intent is not only in the conventional sense of methodology for treating illness and disease, but it is an art form and a way of life that teaches individuals how to maintain and improve health. It's about what you do each day that matters, not what you do every once in a while. With daily ritual — be that in the form of diet, supplementation, movement, mindfulness — we can foster a greater connection and deeper understanding of self. This is part and parcel the foundation of Ayurvedic medicine: self-awareness.
How healthy we can be depends upon our level of consciousness. Therefore, it is important that we cultivate and nourish a strong sense of self-awareness. This is the foundation for fostering great health.
How can Ayurveda help us to foster a deeper understanding of our health and of our selves?
According to Ayurveda, there are three primary life forces that govern all physiological, psychological, and physio-pathological functions in the body and mind: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Each individual has a unique constitution or dosha, comprised of these life forces — a combination of either two or sometimes all three. The physical, mental, and spiritual characteristics of each individual help to distinguish their unique dosha.
Vata: air/ether, principle of movement;
motivating force behind the other two + governs our sensory and mental balance, promotes mental adaptability and comprehension, ability to transform and understand
qualities: cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, quick, changeable
Pitta: fire, principle of digestion and metabolism;
all chemical and metabolic transformation in the body, inc. mental digestion, and the capacity to perceive reality and understand things as they are
qualities: hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, acidic
Kapha: water, principle of support and structure;
provides substance and holds cells together to offer structure + protection
qualities include: heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, oily
When your constitution is out of balance, this can lead to disease or decay.
To help determine your unique constitution, I'll be sharing more detailed breakdowns of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, including each of their respective physical and emotional characteristics. With this, I will also be providing recommendations for how to maintain harmony and avoid imbalance within each life force.
More coming soon, stay tuned.