Ayurveda is a truly holistic system that embraces the healing of all aspects of our being (body, mind, and consciousness) through diet, lifestyle (including exercise, yoga, Ayurvedic massage and meditation), Ayurvedic herbs and herbal preparations, as well as Ayurvedic cleansing and rejuvenating programmes and therapies. A balanced Ayurvedic lifestyle that takes into consideration regularity in food, sleeping habits and bowel movements, as well as following daily routines and practices such as yoga and meditation, will bring discipline and help maintain the harmony of the doshas; promoting overall good health.
Ayurveda and Diet
The foundations of Ayurveda and food / diet are:
- Cooking foods properly and avoiding combinations that will create toxins in the body, while learning some of the basic concepts behind Ayurvedic cooking.
- Acknowledging the importance of cooking with respect and love.
- Learning about the fundamental spices of an Ayurvedic kitchen and how to use them to make your food more digestible according to your constitution.
- Understanding why certain eating habits can disturb your health (by deranging the doshas), when to eat what type of food, and how else to improve your digestion.
- Learning how the seasons can affect your digestion and health and how to adjust your habits accordingly.
- Understanding why the change from one season to another may require shifting your diet for a period of time to restore balance, and how you can benefit from specific therapies at the beginning of each season, such as a Panchakarma Detox Plan.
Ayurveda and Exercise
Ayurveda encourages understanding of why exercise should be suited to your specific constitution, including which kind and how much exercise you should perform to stimulate digestive fire (agni), improve your digestion, relieve constipation, and induce relaxation. It also promotes understanding of how to avoid dehydration, breathlessness, muscle aches, chest pain, and other problems such as arthritis, sciatica, or heart conditions, caused by over exercising.
Walking is probably the best exercise for all constitutions, as is traditional hatha yoga. Ayurveda suggests a workout at half the body’s capacity, just until one breaks a sweat. Kapha-dominant individuals can perform the most strenuous type of exercise. Pitta people should do a medium amount of exercise and only during the coolest time of day. Those with a Vata constitution should do the gentlest type of exercise; even though they love to jump and jog, better choices are yoga, stretching and T’ai Chi.
Ayurveda and Relationships
In Ayurveda it is vital to understand why the relationships you develop with others, as well as the relationship you have with yourself, plays a major role in your state of health and wellbeing, and how suppressed or unresolved emotions can poison your body just as much as bad food combining. The cultivation of clear, compassionate and loving relationships is therefore another important aspect of a healthy Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Ayurveda and Bowel Movements
A key feature in the practice of Ayurveda is that wastes should be eliminated from the body first thing in the morning. This helps to revitalise and prepare the body to receive more nutrients. According to Ayurveda, one should have at least one bowel movement a day. If not, the toxins can be reabsorbed into the tissues. To avoid this, it is important to eat enough fibre-rich food and good quality oils, such as flax, olive or sesame oil, and avoid excessive amounts of raw foods and chilled drinks. There are also traditional Ayurvedic herbal compounds that help restore and maintain the tone of the colon whilst gently cleansing it on a daily basis. In the case of excessive toxins, Ayurveda’s ultimate cleansing programme Panchakarma can work wonders for detoxifying not just the body, but the mind and soul too.
Ayurveda and Tongue Cleaning
Another early morning Ayurvedic practice is to gently brush the teeth and scrape the tongue. A thick coating on the tongue indicates that there is ama (toxins) from improperly digested food in the gastro-intestinal tract. One should scrape off this coating with a metallic tongue scraper several times prior to brushing the teeth.
Ayurveda and Bathing
Early morning bathing is another basic Ayurvedic practice. In yogic traditions, bathing symbolises the purification of the soul. From an Ayurveda perspective, it also washes the sweat residue from the pores of the skin, leaving a healthy, radiant glow. Gentle herbal soaps or powders can be used. The daily practice of rubbing the body with oil (abhyanga) can further nourish the skin and deeper tissues. Vata constitutions should use sesame oil, Pitta should use coconut oil and Kapha are best with corn oil.
Ayurveda and Meditation
When following an Ayurvedic Lifestyle, one should wake with or before the sun for meditation. In the Vedic tradition, the pre-dawn hours are known as Brahma murta. This quiet, calm time, when the earth and its inhabitants are still asleep, is most conducive to a meditation practice. Even if it cannot be done before dawn, regular meditation is essential for the maintenance of health. It helps rejuvenate and purify the entire nervous system, as well as calm the mind so one can experience deeper awareness, peace and joy.