07 Dec The Healing Wisdom of Ayurveda
Are you seeking a magic elixir to help you look and feel amazing?
It’s tempting to purchase an herb and throw it in your smoothie because some celebrity or blogger is claiming it will give you super powers, clear your skin, help with menopause or shed unwanted pounds. However, herbs are complex and can have different effects depending on many factors such as: the dosage, the timing of administration, the quality, the present state of health of the individual who is taking the herb, etc.
The western medical culture has conditioned people to “treat symptoms”. But this Band-Aid approach simply masks the underlying problem, which will oftentimes resurface in another form. Treating symptoms is as pointless as using earplugs to treat a strange noise coming from your car. Sure, the earplugs will temporarily stifle the noise (treat the symptom) but the underlying problem will remain and eventually, could reappear in another form (a louder noise, or a mechanical failure).
Treat the cause, not the symptoms
In determining the root cause, Google is not the answer. Symptoms can have many different causes and Google is not (yet) able to do an integrated search of your health history overlaid with your present circumstances to direct you to the ideal solution. What instead happens is that you will be targeted with advertisements for herbs or drugs that in some way treat the symptom you were searching. I see clients all the time that are treating symptoms with the “herb of the month” (i.e., buying earplugs). They are in search of a quick fix to make their problem go away; something without the side effects of a pharmaceutical.
There is a time and place for herbs but unless you have training in herbal medicine, you are likely to be over medicating or targeting a symptom instead of treating the cause. The wellness industry profit margins are growing exponentially and new products are coming online daily adding to consumer confusion. But here’s something the wellness promoters won’t tell you: over 90% of disease or imbalances are cured and prevented by diet and lifestyle. In terms of diet, I am referring not only to what you eat, but also: when you eat, how much you eat, what combinations of food you eat, etc. In terms of lifestyle, I am referring to your sleep habits, exercise habits, relationship patterns, life stressors (boss, partner, family, school, parents, children, deadlines, financial), etc.
Here is an example of an evening wellness routine that addresses diet and lifestyle to help with insomnia, lack of energy, brain fog, skin issues, acid reflux, bowel movements, stress, anxiety and weight maintenance:
6:00pm – Eat Dinner. A light, vegetarian meal consisting of dal, lentil or vegetable soup, rice, seasonal steamed vegetables and/or a chutney.
9:00pm – Drink 1 cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of ghee and a pinch of turmeric (vegans can drink cashew or almond milk with pinch of turmeric).
9:30pm – Meditate for 10-15 minutes. Shut down electronics, (TV, stereo, computers, etc.) and put your phone in airplane mode.
10:00pm – Go to sleep.
Try this wellness routine for 7 days and I am certain you will notice an improvement in how you feel.
This sample evening wellness routine is based on dinacharya (daily routine) teachings of Ayurveda – a holistic system of wellness from India. Ayurveda has been used for thousands of years and it works because you are aligning yourself to the natural rhythms of the universe.
Daily Routine – more powerful than herbs
The timing of the evening wellness routine is crucial to help your body reset to its natural circadian cycle. Eating a light dinner promotes proper digestion and elimination, weight maintenance and sound sleep (since your body isn’t trying to digest heavy food all night). The warm milk with turmeric is a mild cleanser, promotes sleep and provides added calories (in case your dinner was too light!) The meditation is to help digest thoughts from the day – thoughts that could keep you up all night if not adequately processed and cleared. Getting to bed by 10 pm is the gold standard in ayurveda; from 6-10pm our bodies naturally begin to feel tired and sleep comes more easily. Sleep is so important because it is the time that our body repairs and heals itself; the mind and emotions become balanced. Our body can heal minor imbalances before they become major disruptions in our lives. When our sleep patterns are regulated, our minds become sharper, we are more productive, we have more energy, our emotions are more balanced, our metabolism processes food better and we feel more joy. Sleep is free. This evening wellness routine is also free. There isn’t a single pill or herb that can do all that.
Ayurveda – a system you can trust
Ayurveda is a complex system that was passed down from the rishis or seers who had a sincere interest in sharing the universal truths to promote longevity and health. There was not ever a profit motive in ayurveda and that is the same today. (Note that ayurveda doctors do charge for their services and are expected to be able to make a living.)
Rather than formulaic recommendations like those given by western policy makers who are often influenced by special interest groups (i.e., food pyramids, cholesterol targets or constantly changing dietary guidelines on fats, carbs, etc.), ayurveda is a multifaceted, comprehensive system that views each individual in relationship to their unique constitution (called “dosha” or prakruti). The Aurvedic doctor determines your dosha (vata, pitta or kapha) and your current condition (vikruti). Usually they will listen to your pulse, but often, they can determine your dosha and vikruti by looking at you. I have found that online dosha tests often produce incorrect results because the “test taker” does not have enough ayurveda knowledge to answer in the right context, nor do they have the necessary objectivity to answer in the most relevant way.
Identifying the dosha/prakruti and vikruti is key to resolving the root cause of your ailment. For instance, the evening wellness routine outlined earlier would generally work well for someone with a pitta or vata constitution (prakruti) and/or pitta or vata vikruti. It may not be ideal for someone with a kapha prakruti/vikruti.
Even though ayurveda classifies people into one of three doshas (vata, pitta or kapha), it does not take a fixed approach in making wellness recommendations. The ayurveda system is designed to be customized to the unique life circumstances (age, location, stress factors, karma, schedules, etc.) of the individual. So two vata people with the same ailment, may be given two separate wellness routines, diets or herbal formulations based on other factors.
Ayurveda doctors are creative and take time with their patients to develop solutions that will provide lasting results. They are not under the regulation of insurance companies and can spend the appropriate amount of time necessary to fully address their client’s concerns. And because the client pays out of pocket, clients are generally more committed to making change.
First look to dietary and lifestyle modifications
If you are committed to improving your health and well-being, ayurveda is the answer. This article includes a simple, yet powerful evening wellness routine. You can support the evening wellness routine with some of the many healthy recipes on my website (www.yogawithlois.com).
Diet and lifestyle changes are the best place to start and the ayurveda system is authentic and time-tested. If you need help implementing a daily wellness routine for your unique set of circumstances (i.e., maybe you just gave birth, or maybe you travel a lot for work, etc.), an Ayurvedic practitioner is trained to create a customized plan to help you on your journey. Food, meditation, yoga, exercise, pranayama are all powerful medicine that can heal the body, mind and soul. For most complaints, you will see immediate improvements. And over time, permanent benefits. No more wasting money on earplugs and magic elixirs!
In the event that you require herbal supplementation, Ayurvedic herbs have amazing healing, cleansing and rejuvenative powers. But to truly unlock their potential, they must be accompanied with diet and lifestyle modifications. Again, for best results, seek guidance from a trained Ayurveda professional who will take a comprehensive approach to your problem – not Google, or a celebrity/blogger whose physical and emotional health is not identical to yours.
To find an ayurveda practitioner near you, check out the certifying board websites: The National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) or The Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America, Inc. (AAPNA) .
Lois Leonhardi is a certified ayurveda wellness practitioner, yoga instructor and author of “The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook”. She trained under Dr. Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico and in Pune, India. She has over 20 years of training in holistic studies (ayurveda, yoga and meditation). Lighthearted and compassionate, she listens to your concerns and creates realistic personalized programs to help you de-stress, detox and restore balance naturally. Sharing the wisdom of the mind-body connection and how to use food as medicine she reveals the secrets of how to slow the aging process, increase energy and bolster immunity giving you the tools to heal yourself, feel better and look great. www.yogawithlois.com.
Photo Credit: (c)Can Stock Photo / gajdamak