Modern Ayurvedic Living and the Mind-Body Connection
This guest post is written by nutritionist, mother, researcher, and educator Nimisha Gandhi. Well-known for her work and life passion for womxn’s health issues, Nimisha's private practice, Moon Cycle Nutrition, focuses on fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum care with an emphasis on the mind, body, and soul.
Ayurveda, which means “the knowledge of life” in Sanskrit, is considered one of the world’s oldest healing sciences, originating in India 5,000 years ago. It is thought to be the “Mother of All Healing,” and is based upon the understanding that all things in nature are made up of the 5 elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. According to Ayurveda, health is not just the absence of disease, but the alignment of the mind, body, and nature.
Ayurveda focuses on the individual as a whole and digs for the root cause when seeking answers. The foundation of Ayurveda is that each person is unique with a specific mind-body composition, known as dosha, composed of our genes, nutrition, environment, lived experiences, and lifestyle. It truly is the science of bio-individuality. The doshas are made up from a unique combination of three energy types: vata, pitta, and kapha. The vata dosha is a combination of the ether and air elements, the pitta dosha is a combination of the fire and water elements, and the kapha dosha is a combination of the water and earth elements. This blueprint known as the dosha is set at birth but can change over time.
Although Ayurveda rooted in ancient times, it is an ever-evolving science that is meant to keep up with the modern day. Ayurveda’s wisdom transcends time. In fact, living Ayurvedically, can help us maintain the intricate balance of the mind and body despite the rush of current lifestyles. Ayurveda teaches us how to listen to our bodies and adapt our lives in order to create an optimal internal and external environment for ourselves. With the focus being prevention of imbalance, its holistic approach to individual health complements modern day medicine very well.
Our physical health is a reflection of our internal state of being. Following Ayurvedic principles can help us live a more vibrant life through big and small actions. This ancient science is about adapting to our individual needs, and making gentle shifts in accordance to our dosha can have profound effects on how we look and feel.
Food As Medicine
Keeping our inner fire stoked by taking care of our gut health is at the core of Ayurveda, as the root cause of most disorders is due to poor gut health. Making sure that the digestive fire, also known as the gut microbiome, is strong and able to metabolize what we eat is very important. A diet that is varied and rich in plant sources is going to nourish our gut microbiome and keep the diversity of the microbiota thriving. Red carrots, yellow bell peppers, orange cauliflower, purple asparagus, watermelon radish, mixed lentils, sprouted nuts and seeds, and ancient grains are just a few of the foods that support gut health. Try one new whole food every day and include as many different flavors from herbs and spices to balance out the microbiota and keep the dosha in balance.
Ayurveda has certain principles to help aid digestion that can be utilized by anyone despite our specific dosha. These principals include eating seasonal foods, eating in a calm state of mind, avoiding beverages 30 minutes before and after meals, and having gratitude for the meal we are eating. These rituals transcend time, availability, and location, and are simple tips we can utilize daily to keep our digestive fire kindled.
Self-Awareness Through Massage
Touch can convey a whole range of emotions – happiness, pleasure, reassurance, empathy, comfort, love, compassion, and sadness. Loneliness is a modern-day epidemic, and our bodies understand the care we give ourselves in a similar way that they understand the care we get from others through physical touch. Abhyanga is a daily Ayurvedic self-massage with warm oil that is done before showering. It can give us the same benefits of physical touch, and can also help cultivate awareness about our own bodies. It is also a powerful way to detox, improve circulation, and calm down the nervous system. Say words of affirmation and show the body love and appreciation during the massage.
Follow The Circadian Rhythm
Having a set time for waking, eating, exercising, and sleeping is one of the best things we can do for our bodies because it gives us predictability. When we are erratic with our schedule, our cortisol rises increasing stress and inflammation. Following the circadian rhythm, the internal process that regulates the sleep–wake cycle, can make us feel more at ease. Our gut health is also dependent on consistency. Digestion, assimilation, and elimination actually improve when we stick to a schedule. Eating on a schedule will let our bodies know to prepare for digestion even before we eat.
The entire natural world works on a routine, every animal and plant. Aim to wake up, eat meals, exercise, sleep at the same time consistently for one week and notice how your body and mind feel. Setting an alarm or scheduling in these basic activities can help us work towards consistency.
Ayurveda is a practice meant to blend seamlessly into our daily life independent of current circumstances. Knowing our dosha and flowing with the principles of Ayurveda can give you the tools to continue the journey home to yourself and thrive in your community.
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