For as long as I can remember, I have been on a quest for health, balance, and to feel
as good in my body as humanly possible. Health and well-being have always held a
fascination ever since, at the age of eight, I was trapped underneath a tractor and had
to learn to walk again. Perhaps it was also the realisation at a very early age that my
twin brother did not survive has transition into this physical world. Or witnessing my
mother survive three serious “illnesses” which I later suspected were further
miscarriages. Then at age 14, I witnessed my father become very ill with ulcers,
heart attack and various other afflictions. Each time I wanted to find a way to
relieve pain and suffering.
My other passions were languages and visiting other countries. And wherever I travel,
I seek out local healers, local practices, indigenous approaches to healing and health.
New Zealand, Singapore, most European Countries, America, Canada, Africa, so
many to numerous to mention. I have been to India and Sri Lanka many times and
from local healers and doctors learned much about natural, herbal, alternative and
spiritual approaches to healing and health. That has also included Astrology and
Ayurveda and much to do with tuning into the natural rhythms of the Universe.
Whilst loour British National Health Service is brilliant when it comes to dealing with emergency health situations, there is much we can learn about the creation and maintenance of health and leading lifestyles of well-being from ancient practices such as Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is a leading alternative medicine and probably the most holistic medicine system existing. With its 5 000 years of history Ayurveda is also the oldest known healing science — still practised today in India, where it originates. It was established by the same great Vedic seers and sages who created Yoga and Meditation.
According to chopra.com “Thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, the sages of India developed Ayurveda, which continues to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realizing their full human potential.
The two main guiding principles of Ayurveda are 1) the mind and the body are inextricably connected, and 2) nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind.
In Ayurveda there are three main body types also known as doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Understanding these and how they play out in your life, is fundamental. Understanding your unique mind-body type and the specific needs that derive from it is crucial to your practice of Ayurveda. Discover your body type here.
Even without knowing our Ayurvedic body type, there is much we can learn much from Ayurveda for it advocates some very simple principles for health-filled living.
Live simply that you may simply live
Breathe consciously. Breathe deeply and naturally. Research to become aware of the importance of conscious breathing.
Eat a colourful, flavourful diet from fresh, natural, unadulterated produce. Have at least two regular meals per day and avoid snacks.
Get abundant restful sleep.
Live in tune with nature. Have healthy desires that match what you actually need not just want. You need fresh water to hydrate, not the sodas and fizzy drinks you want. Get out in the fresh air, get natural sunlight whenever possible. Live in tune with the seasons.
Tune in to your body for your body always expresses itself through signals of comfort and discomfort. Pain is a signal to pay attention. Don’t kill it with medication.
Strengthen your digestive abilities and remember always that good health is dependent upon our capability to fully metabolise the nutritional, emotional, and sensory information that we ingest.
With obesity reaching epidemic proportions in Scotland, Ayurveda has much to say about eating in such a way so as to overcome obesity. Again, its principles are simple. In our rush, rush lives, seldom eating together as a family, munching whilst we watch TV or taking our lunch whilst we work, eating has become something merely functional rather than a process to be savoured and enjoyed, the manner of each mouthful aiding our digestion. And we suffer through bad nutrition as well as bad eating. So here’s what Ayurveda recommends.
1. Break the night’s fast and start your day with “honey water” using a teaspoonful of good quality honey (like Manuka) to half a pint of still water. (If diabetic you might omit the honey and instead have the juice of freshly squeezed lemon.)
2. Eat lightly with a combination of raw and freshly cooked, easily digestible non-processed food. It is important to stick to regular eating patterns and to avoid skipping meals.
3. Ayurveda has much to say about the benefits of sleep/ Sleep is vital to keep our biological rhythm in balance, and it’s recommended to avoid too much or too little. It is essential to avoid sleeping in the day as that slows down the body’s metabolism and encourages weight gain.
4. Eat whole meal grains and lentils and avoid processed, sugary food stuff. (NB If following a more Western Low car High Fat eating regimen, whole meal grains and lentils are to be avoided.)
5. Use healthy herbs and spices like fresh ginger, turmeric, garlic, cumin seeds and black pepper in your cooking. These have properties to reduce bad cholesterol, protect vital organs, tackle inflammation, and trigger the body’s metabolism.
6. Movement is essential and should include regular physical exercise such as aerobics, cycling, spinning and stretches. Natural exercise like dancing, walking, yoga and swimming are also to be considered.
7. There is much recommendation for the power of fasting these days and Ayurveda recommends to fast for a day once a fortnight to allow the bodies systems to have a rest which will help to regularise the metabolism. These days, with the increased stresses in life, one might fast every 3 -4 days. Simply drink sufficient water or a little honey water on the day of your fast. (NB If diabetic you may omit the honey.)
8. Reduce red meat, pork, shell fish, excess dairy products, excess wheat and alcohol and try to eat more fish.
9. Fresh juices like wheat grass, spinach, ginger and carrot with a hint of honey also aid weight loss.
10. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables in your daily diet and reduce excess use of potatoes, mushrooms, carrot and aubergine.
11. Take a teaspoonful of flaxseed oil every other day.
Know that Ayurveda is a personalised approach to health, and knowing your mind-body type allows you to make optimal choices about diet, exercise, supplements, and all other aspects of your lifestyle. You can learn more about Ayurvedic mind-body types and find out how to identify your own individual type here.
Meantime, here are a few Ayurvedic practices to aid your eating:
Eat only when hungry.
Always sit down to eat (don’t eat in front of your computer or TV or while you’re driving, or working.).
Eat when you are emotionally settled and calm and not when you’re upset.
Eat peacefully. Be mindful of your eating. Don’t gulp down your food.
Minimise raw foods, which are much harder to digest than cooked ones. Don’t overcook.
Use fresh, unadulterated, non-processed produce.
Include all six tastes at each meal…sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent, bitter. This may take some getting used to.
Drink hot water with grated fresh ginger throughout the day. This keeps you hydrated. Sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst.
Practise some form of moderate exercise on a regular basis…walking, swimming, golf, dancing, gardening, housework ….
Perform a daily oil massage with herbalised oil that balances your mind-body type.
Spend time in meditation every day.
Use detoxifying herbs such as triphala, ashwagandha, guggulu, brahmi, ginger, turmeric and neem. Some research may be needed here.