Ayurveda is an ancient Indian science of healthy lifestyle principles. Translated from Sanskrit it means science of life (Ayur=life and veda=science). It is the sister science to Yoga, and focuses on the mind-body connection to preserve and maintain health, and the harmony between an individual and their environment. Its longevity speaks for itself, as Ayurvedic medicine is over 5000 years old, and although it has become trendy in the wellness world in recent years, it is a tried and true holistic science.
Elements and doshas
Ayurveda is based on the idea that the universe is made up of 5 elements. Space/ether (Akasha), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jala) Earth (Prithiri). They are represented in humans by 3 doshas or energies. Vata, Pitta and Kapha - our mind-body types and the foundation of Ayurveda. We each have a predominant type which is depicted by our physical and emotional characteristics. You’ll find online dosha quizzes that give you an idea of your makeup, however seeing an Ayurvedic doctor will give you a more in depth representation. They take into account all areas of an individuals life; from emotion, to body, behaviour, living environment and time of life. At our Kerala Ayurvedic Retreat, you are assigned an Ayurvedic doctor who gives you an individualised treatment plan for your stay, including traditional treatments, food best suited to your dosha and overall health.
When levels of each dosha increase or decrease, it can affect our body's balance and therefore our health and wellbeing. The idea is to keep them in balance to avoid the onset of disease, and to help balance our mental state. Lifestyle habits can largely effect the harmony of our natural balance, often leading to illness and things like stress, anxiety and depression. The holistic approach of Ayurveda differs from conventional medicine in that it incorporates health of mind, body and spirit.
So what are some Ayurvedic principles you can bring into your everyday life?
Our bodies repair themselves while we are sleeping, so aiming to get 6-8 hours of sleep each night is a good goal. Waking early is a major part of Ayurveda, suggesting waking before sunrise and making the most of the early hours to set yourself up for the day and become more in tune with nature. I aim to go to bed by 10pm at night and rise at 6am (not quite before sunrise at the moment but it's better than nothing!).
Connect with nature
Living in tune with nature is a wonderful practice to get used to. Do things that nourish and uplift you, that make you feel alive. Smells, tastes, experiences, sounds, sights and touch. Slow down a bit and really experience things around you. Take your shoes off, walk on the grass or the sand at the beach. Reconnect with the earth beneath your feet.
When choosing food to eat, reach for in-season fruits and vegetables that have higher life-force energy (prana), with a variety of colours. Try to incorporate the 6 tastes into each meal, by having something sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent in each meal. This helps us to feel satisfied for longer, reduce snacking and overeating and help with appetite and digestion. One way is to make up a spice mix with turmeric, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and mustard, and use it in your curry.
Our digestive power, or agni, is different for everyone. We can improve our agni by waiting until we are actually hungry, sitting down, and when relaxed eat at a moderate pace. Eating mindfully is so important and definitely something I need to work on! Chew your food, girl! Consciously prepare your food with love, transferring good energy to your food before you eat it. Get rid of any distractions (particularly technology) while you eat and focus on the textures and flavours. Cultivate gratitude for the blessing of your food, being thankful for where it came from and it’s journey to your plate.
Movement and meditation
Getting adequate exercise each day is vital too. Even if it's just half an hour of activity, it will help keep things in balance. Try and incorporate a regular meditation or yoga practice into your schedule, to increase awareness and mind-body connection. Pranayama (breathing exercises) helps to clear carbon dioxide from the lungs and increases oxygen uptake. It also promotes digestion by massaging your internal organs.
Sweat it out
Sweat out toxins by going to a sauna or having a nice warm bath regularly. Who doesn't need a little bit of self-care to help detoxify the body?! You can incorporate some meditation into it too. Double the balancing.
There are so many ways we can embrace Ayurveda to help rebalance our vitality, mental clarity and wellbeing.
We would love to hear of any of your experiences in the comments below...