Have you noticed that we are up to our ears in health and wellness solutions these days? The airwaves and interwebs are overflowing with pills, programs, supplements and exercise plans all designed to keep us healthy, and yet the data shows that the world is facing more health challenges than ever before!
We've also got more technological advancements and a greater understanding of the body and what causes illness and disease than ever before. But some how a disconnect exists between what we think and know, and how we look and feel. Ayurveda is stepping into that gap.
Why "Old School" Rules
Ayurveda has been around for centuries. It comes from the same traditions as yoga, and like yoga, its ability to transform minds and bodies makes it a compelling choice for wellness seekers. It's not a diet or an exercise program and, contrary to popular myths, it doesn't require a voracious appetite for curry! It's a powerful way of looking at yourself and your world that connects the dots between who you are, how you think, what you do, and how you look and feel.
The beauty (and power) of Ayurveda is in its simple message... First know yourself, and then above all else love yourself. It's a time-tested body of wisdom that helps you understand why this is vital to your health and then provides some of the tools you need to do it. But first, there's just a few things Ayurveda wants you to know...
- You're not like the rest
- You are forever in flux
- You're made of the same things as the stars... and your sandwich
- Everything around you is either medicine or poison
- Your digestion runs your show In the Ayurvedic model everything we experience is a form of "food" for the mind, body or soul, including all the sights, sounds, emotions, ideas and sensations that we encounter every day. Digesting this volume of "food" is no small task (it makes Thanksgiving dinner look like a walk in the park!). The mind and body must work together to distinguish and assimilate the good stuff and let go of what doesn't really serve us. And when that process is undermined or overloaded it compromises everything! Moderation is the Ayurvedic mantra. And gratitude along with giving yourself (and your digestion) a break, are perhaps the most powerful health and wellness tools around.
I bet you already know this, but according to Ayurveda, embracing it is one of the keys to your health and happiness. As an individual with a unique combination of physical, mental and emotional qualities, the way you relate to the world is specific in every way to you. And your "formula" for health and happiness will be a unique combination of food, activities, environments, and relationships. Understanding what works for you (and you alone) is a matter of asking the right questions and knowing where to look.
According to Ayurveda, everything that goes on outside of us goes on inside of us as well. Your mind and body experience daily and seasonal changes just like everything in the environment around you. In practical terms this means that who you were when you hopped out of bed this morning is slightly different to who you are now (and who you'll be later). Tuning in to YOUR daily and seasonal cycles provides powerful clues for understanding how and why you look and feel the way you do. It also reveals simple things you can do to be at your very best throughout the day and the year.
Our current understanding of the universe is that it's made up of approximately 118 elements... (and counting). Ayurveda recognizes just five... Space, Air, Fire, Earth, Water, which combine to organize and define everything we experience including ourselves. Our elemental signature (or dosha) informs the qualities most predominant in our minds and bodies (e.g., hot and sharp like fire or stable and nurturing like earth). Simplifying our world in this way helps us easily understand how the things around us impact our health and well being. Hot things such as fire, chilies, or anger heat us up and can lead to "hot" issues like inflammation, infection, or rage. Dry, light, moving things like air, travel, and processed snacks (crackers, chips, etc.) can dry us out, create agitation in the mind and body and lead to things like constipation and anxiety. Our elemental signature also gives us clues to our mental and physical tendencies (e.g., weight gain, hostility, forgetfulness), allowing us to recognize and balance them!
Those clothes your wearing today... how do they make you feel? How about the music you listened to most recently, or the burger you ate last night? According to Ayurveda, everything we come into contact with (yes, everything!) has the potential to either support or sabotage our health and wellness. Identifying your "poison" (be it gluten or the guy in the next cubicle) and your "medicine" (maybe it's sunshine or corny jokes) is a matter of paying attention to the way your mind and body respond to the things around you. Knowing our "poison" and our "medicine" empowers us to make healthier, better-informed choices for prevention and treatment of issues.
The best place to start...
The bottom line, and the underlying message of Ayurveda, is start with YOU.
Seeking outside of ourselves for answers to our biggest challenges (weight loss, disease management and prevention, confidence, energy) leads us to feeling powerless and stuck. We can only change this by embracing that our ability to look radiant, feel energized, choose powerfully, and connect authentically and passionately with the world starts with a willingness to know AND love ourselves.
Chara Caruthers is a passionate Yoga Therapist and Ayurvedic Consultant dedicated to empowering women to recover their vitality and live juicier more connected lives at any age. She's the founder of Bliss Body & Soul, a fast-growing community of adventurous and engaged health and happiness seekers who are tired of "One size fits all" living. If you're looking for mind-body wisdom that's simple, unconventional and liberating... if you're ready to live YOUR bliss... come say hi and discover your true nature by taking the Bliss Quiz!