Considered by many as the world’s oldest healing system, Ayurveda has been taught and practiced for thousands of years, first in India and now around the world. It’s focus on balance between mind, body, spirit and environment and it’s promotion of good health and a fulfilled life are what have made it so influential on other healing systems, practices and general care, and have led to it being a form of care equal to western medicine in it’s originating country.
In a period we’re all finding difficult, and at the beginning of a new year, a lot of us are finding the time and means to change our habits and health. Ayurveda is definitely a system you should consider, especially while our surroundings are disordered and unpredictable, and we crave balance and order.
The key principles of Ayurveda place you, as an individual, in the centre, putting your personal balance of mind, body and spirit first. Where other lifestyle and healing systems might make it difficult for you to embrace wholly because of the clash of your own limitations with those of the practice, Ayurveda’s gentle and tailored approach makes it so accessible no matter your religion, dietary requirements or career demands.
The holistic practice focuses on the individual by defining your personal constitution - your doshas. Your three doshas are the three life forces that control how your body works and these come in different proportions depending on your person, usually with one being prominent, that can explain a person's body and spirit. In Ayurveda the balance or imbalance of these doshas is what leads to illness and health issues. They consist of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, that together cover all the physical, mental and spiritual qualities of a person. Learning about your constitution and make up of all of these doshas is how you can learn to balance and find equilibrium in your life, with the help of an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner, who will use your constitution to give insights into diet, exercise, herbs and lifestyle changes that can help you find that perfect equilibrium.
Lisa Åkesson Stryker @Areyouvedic is one such practitioner, who’s online courses, treatments and consultations have helped many begin their Ayurveda journey. We spoke to her about the practice, its benefits and how you can join during this stressful time.
Ayurveda is all about the inner balance of mind, body, and spirit. In these times many people are looking for ways to create order. How do you think the pandemic has affected this for most people, and how do we fix this imbalance with Ayurveda?
There are many levels to this and how we respond and what we need is very individual. For some of us, the lack of movement is challenging, and not having social interaction, for others, hugs and physical touch is missing the most. We’ve also become aware of how little control we actually have over outside events. This was always true, but now we can see it more clearly. We really can only change how we respond to the situation, and how we care for ourselves.
Ayurveda can support us by helping us create a steady sleep and eating routine. When the body knows it’s being fed, getting rest, and movement at fixed times, we feel safer. We can then have better focus and perform better in our daily tasks. Restless sleep, anxiety, and spinning thoughts are very common in the midst of uncertainty and change. By incorporating routines such as meditation, breathing practices, calming food that makes us feel satisfied afterward, teas, and self oil massage, we can counter this and reduce stress.
What do you think is the most important element of Ayurveda?
That it is individual. It’s not a one-size-fits-all way of looking at the body and mind. It invites us to get to know ourselves on all levels and learn what personal needs we have when it comes to exercise, diet, lifestyle, relationships, sleep, sex, spirituality, and daily rhythm.
How can we begin practicing Ayurveda?
You can start paying attention to what works for you and how different foods, people, situations and experiences makes you feel and react. We’re bombarded with information every day, Ayurveda teaches us to bring back our attention to our personal experience. Making space for conscious walks and observing nature, meditation, or something that brings you into the present moment is helpful to begin to develop this kind of intuition. We can also practice this while eating by having meals in silence, chewing our food to liquid, and eating without distractions from the TV or phone. The next step could be to find an experienced practitioner you trust to go deeper. In an Ayurvedic Health Consultation, you can get perspective on what you’re experiencing and continue to refine how you live, eat and move to suit you personally the best.
When practicing Ayurveda, we need to be aware of our personal constitution of vata, pitta, and kapha. How do we determine this?
This is what we find when we explore Ayurveda online, however, it’s complicated to determine and can be misleading when we take a quiz to find out. Our personal constitution can be helpful to understand, but it can also be limiting. What is essential, however, is to understand the elements that the doshas are giving language to. Earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and the qualities they have, are what’s important to begin to understand and relate to. As they show up in nature, so do they appear in our body. An example is a bonfire - light, hot, flexible, sharp, flowing, and can transform a piece of wood into a different shape. Similarly, our digestion can be compared to a fire that breaks down and transforms food into nourishment that eventually becomes part of us. Chili is also sharp, hot, light, and heating, if we then eat food with these qualities, it will increase the same qualities in our body and we might feel a burning sensation, lightness, heat, and acidity in the body. A dosha quiz can be helpful in the way that it guides us to explore the areas of our life that need attention. We might not be aware of what our stools are like or how we respond to stress, this gives us valuable clues. It’s absolutely best to work with a practitioner, in the beginning, to understand your weaknesses and strengths. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell right away which foods, activities, and choices work for you, and which ones bring you out of balance.
Could you give an example of a simple practice we can start to begin incorporating Ayurveda into our daily lives?
Switching your ice water to drinking hot and warm water sounds strange in the beginning, but it can actually do wonders. This supports our digestive “fire” and makes it easier for us to digest other foods. Have the water in between your meals, 30 minutes before or after, to avoid diluting the stomach acids. Another powerful practice is to eat slowly and chew our food to liquid.
Why should people choose Ayurveda over other practices?
Ayurveda is built on a time-tested and gentle approach based on your own experience. It’s a science that gives you back the power over your health. It teaches you self healing and how to genuinely honor the body and what it needs. That being said, I think everyone should choose the practice that resonates with them. If Ayurveda resonates with you, then start learning day by day in small doses together with an experienced practitioner. It’s not a quick fix, it’s a long term solution that will be sustainable to the end of your days.
Ayurveda covers every aspect of life, how will it affect routine and western living for people considering? (can people still use western medicines? Would it affect religion? How would it impact a daily schedule?)
The principles of Ayurveda can be applied to all walks of life, it’s not religious. Easiest is to incorporate it slowly into daily life starting with one or two changes and then slowly add from there. One might need a few more minutes in the morning and a bit of organization to plan meals, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated and take much additional time. All cuisines can be made Ayurvedic by understanding how food can be more easily digestible. This way of living will actually make your routine and lifestyle choices easier and more enjoyable when knowing how to truly care for yourself. It can mean waking up a little earlier, getting deeper rest, eating at a different time than you’re used to, or integrating practices throughout the day that bring you back to your inner knowing.
With these tools, we can prevent illness from arising in the first place. There are six stages of disease described in Ayurveda, only in the fourth, will it show up on a medical test result. This means by learning how to care for our digestive system, we can notice signals of imbalance before they manifest as disease. If allopathic medicine is needed that can of course be used. However, the fewer stimuli we have from medication and substances, the easier it will be for us to stay in touch with our inner wisdom guiding us to health.
An experienced practitioner can help you decide in what end to begin and step by step, help you live a freer and more joyful life. Feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like to know more, or schedule a free call here to see how I could support you: https://www.areyouvedic.co.uk/book
I also offer a step by step program beginning February 9th that will take you through the personal process of integrating Ayurveda into your life. Learn more about it here: https://areyouvedic.teachable.com/p/ayurveda-step-by-step.