The term ayurveda has started to pop up more and more: diets, massages, skin care and retreats. It may be the new buzz word on the wellness scene but ayurveda has been around for thousands of years.
But what is ayurveda?
Often translated as the 'science of life' it is the traditional Indian health care system and a sister science to yoga. But it is so much more than herbal capsules, diet books and luxurious massages. Here is a little insight into how it is to live ayurvedically.
Ayurveda is an integral part of life. It is about being in tune. Your inner cycles, landscape, rhythms and physiology being in tune with the outer cycles, rhythms, seasons... Living in balance you start to connect the inner and outer world. You start to listen to your own body and emotions and respond to create balance and wellbeing. You acknowledge your environment and how it affects you. Through this innate wisdom you take responsibility and action to create health and wellness.
Therefore living ayurvedically involves:
- Diet - Eat seasonally and locally. Enjoy your meals according to the daily rhythm e.g. main meal at midday when the sun is strongest and therefore the inner digestive fire is most effective. Enjoy cooling foods and drinks to ease the heat on a hot summer's day.
- Daily routine - When do you choose to get up in the morning, what is your routine according to the 24 hour clock? When do you meditate, exercise and work? Everything has its time and place. Get up early to meditate while it is quiet around you, then start to feel hunger before you enjoy your breakfast (consider the word: you are breaking your fast after sleep). Be inspired to begin projects, work and study in the afternoon when our brains is active and full of ideas. This is the same time asthe air and space (vata dosha) elements are dominate.
- The outer environment - Are you aware of the rhythms of the 24 hour clock? The environment you live in? How does it compare with how you live your life? If you live in a big busy city perhaps you need to focus on slowing down and spend more time in nature? Consider how you spend your time both indoors and outdoors, on transport, travelling. Whether you live a very cold and windy climate, or in hot humid sunshine - all these factors are considered in ayurveda. Your home and how it makes you feel is important. You may know of feng shui and the energetic flow in designing your home. In ayurveda we embrace a similar science called vastu which aims to create balance in architecture and design.
- Seasonal changes - In ayurveda you acknowledge the elemental changes during seasonal change. In summer you feel the heat and dryness of the sun. This will affect you not only at the time but potentially accumulate and affect your wellbeing later. Equally the effects of cold and windy weather accumulate in winter. Ayurveda offers routines to create balance.
- Cosmic influences - The lunar landscape with the ebb and flow of the moon cycle has a great impact on the outer environment (such as the oceans) but also on your inner being. In your ayurvedic routine you become aware of these cycles and how they affect your internal physiology and emotional landscape. For women especially, as the moon cycle is connected to a woman's menstrual cycle. Even astrology, called jyotish in the ayurvedic tradition, is consulted for physical, emotional and spiritual advice.
- Scents and sensibilities - Massage is an important part of ayurvedic treatments. In fact daily massage is part of your morning routine. Adding aromatherapy is an accepted and loved part of ayurveda - and yoga. It is believed that the five elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) are connected to our five senses, the indriyas. The element of earth is associated to the sense of smell. We know scents and aromatherapy affects the limbic system. The limbic system is a part of the brain relating to emotions and memories. Ayurveda uses scents through oils, essential oils, fresh flowers and even spices in food.
- Yoga - Is the sister science of ayurveda. Hatha yoga may be known for movement and as a physical exercise. It keeps your body strong and healthy. But it is also a spiritual practise and a philosophy of life. Meditation, contemplation, spiritual studies and breath awareness are all part of the yoga package of wellbeing and contentment. Therefore yoga asana and yoga as a spiritual practise is the perfect complement to ayurveda.
This is why ayurveda makes sense as a way of life. This is why you don't need a new fad diet or the newest exercise craze. Because with ayurveda you learn to listen to your body wisdom, your innate knowledge and you connect to your environment, the universe and nature. You become in tune with your true needs and you respond from your inner wisdom to create wellness in body, mind and spirit.
Anja is the founder of yogaembodied a yoga teacher and ayurvedic practitioner. She is passionate about self care, wellbeing and contemporary healing through the ancient wisdom of yoga and ayurveda.