Mindful Mondays-"Ayurveda-The Science of life and a Guide to a Balanced Life"
Ayurveda translates to "The Science or knowledge of Life." (Ayuh- life and veda-knowledge)
It is an ancient system of health and healing that began its influence in India over 5,000 years ago. One of the first books I read on Ayurveda, "Ayurveda-Fundamental Principals Volume 1" by Vasant Lad, describes it so eloquently, that my own translation would only be an attempt to not plagiarize.
Taken from the first paragraph in Chapter 1 "Shad Darshan -The Six Philosophies of Life "
" The knowledge contained in Ayurveda deals with the nature, scope and purpose of life, and includes its metaphysical and physical aspects- health and disease, happiness and sorrow, pain and pleasure. Ayurveda defines life as the conjunction of body, mind and spirit found in Cosmic Consciousness and embracing all of Creation. Ayurveda states that the purpose of life is to know or realize the Creator, both within and without, and to express this Divinity in one's daily life."
What drew me to study and use Ayurvedic philosophies and approaches to my health and well being was the idea behind seeing our existence as a whole, from both the metaphysical and physical plans, and dissecting our constitutions from all angles; emotional, physical, and spiritual. We are not just our bodies, and we are not just our minds. We are this beautiful combination of cells, organisms, tissues, thoughts, experiences, feelings, and energy. Did you know the body is surrounded by its own biofield that radiates about 8 ft around the body? This is so fascinating to me because we don't need to see it to believe it. Does music give you the chills? Have you met someone and instantly felt something was off, or instantly felt very happy? Have you ever walked into a room and said "something feels weird in here?" The energy that makes up everything around us is constantly moving and shifting, and if we take a moment to breathe and tune in, we can find out a lot about ourselves and the space around us.
The details of Ayurvedic Medicine are so in-depth that it takes year to digest it all and more years to truly understand. Every organ in the body, every system ( digestive, respiratory, elimination, mensuration, lactation, reproductive, etc) is carefully picked apart and connected to an element or emotion, and every person has a very particular constitution* that effects their overall functionality and approach to their health. It's so beautifully detailed, but can get overwhelming. The wonderful thing is that we can take away a lot of very practical philosophies and guidelines without being an Ayurvedic master. I will leave some links , at the end of this post, to a few great resources if you'd like to dig deeper. Today, I really want to focus on adjusting to seasonal changes, how to recognize when we are out of balance, and what to do to come back into balance.
Our health is effected daily by our environment, our state of mind, the food we eat, and the company we keep. Depending on where you live, your experience of seasons may be very drastic, or very minimal, but either way, there are changes in the temperature, the plants, social engagement, activity, and our moods. Just think about how jolly and cheerful most people are during the holidays, or summer vacation, or that first sign of cool weather after a hot hot summer. Sometimes it's not just about the actual season changing, but about the change itself. Our health and wellbeing is always shifting and our bodies need different things at different times to function at maximum capacity. Therefor we should be ebbing and flowing with the changes to work in harmony with nature and our environment.
Being in Texas, we are days away from brutally hot days, humid nights, and relentless sun. The first thing I start to adjust to prepare for the summer is my diet. Even though I love a good hearty stew, it may not be the easiest thing to digest during the summer. Ayurveda talks a lot about foods, their qualities, and their effects on the body. Are they warming? cooling? sticky? oily? light? dense? The digestive system is our internal Agni, or fire, and since the air is hot, our digestive fire starts to disperse to cool our bodies down. Summer is a great time to eat hydrating and alkaline fruits, salad, and herb infused water. Eating more fruits and raw vegetables will help to keep you energized and less bloated. You may be thinking, isn't it ALWAYS a good thing to eat fresh fruits and vegetables? The truth is, yes, but in different forms. In the winter, fresh fruit and raw veggies can really bloat your belly, so it's best to eat cooked fruit and veggies.
Good Summer Fruits
Good Summer Veggies
Summer is also a great time to eat sweet dairy products ( or non-dairy) such as home made yogurt or ice cream, we well as butter and ghee. The oily nature of the butter helps with digestion and healthy elimination and the dairy can have a cooling effect on the whole body.
The heat can make us irritable and short tempered. Isn't it interesting that we associate a temper or anger with heat? Hot tempered, burning with rage, red faced with anger. I'll admit, I'm not in my best form in the heat. Since moving to Texas, I've had to really adjust my habits and rituals for the summer or I'd be one miserable person for the next 3 months.
I love keeping a face spritzer in my purse with me. I usually mix purified water with peppermint, rose, and vanilla essential oil. The peppermint has a cooling effect, the rose is very calming, and the vanilla is grounding. I'll put it in my fridge over night if I know I'm going to be outside or running errands all day. A few sprits really help to calm the nerves and cool me down.
When we become more fluid and adaptable, we are able to hear and feel the needs of our body. Usually, what we need is much more simple than we may think. I check in with myself daily, hourly sometimes, to see how I am feeling and how I could feel better. Sometime, I'll feel anxious and overwhelmed, and I'll think to myself " this makes now sense, I'm not worried about anything, I have no stress, where is this coming from?" You know what the answer usually is? Dehydration! Not having enough water can put the body into a state of stress, every organ and cell begging for life. One nice glass of water and the anxiety dissipates.
Sometimes, the answer isn't about food, or water, or taking a deep breathe, it's about addressing an underlying emotional issue. We are all aware of how our emotions can influence our eating habits. Sometimes its all in good fun, we're with the family, spirits are high and you end up eating ALL the foods. On occasion, it's ok, and actually can benefit you. All that serotonin and dopamine is great for your health, and a little indulgence won't hurt. The real pain comes from excessive emotional eating or non eating or just plain unhealthy habits because of that emotional issue you aren't dealing with. The thing about emotions are that they don't just disappear overnight, and some issues go deep. That's ok. We've all been there. The important thing is to give yourself the love and attention to acknowledge whats going on, and attempt to make better choices, one small choice at a time. Your body and mind will thank you.