“EYE-yer-VEY-da” | The Science of Life
In my first yoga teacher training I was introduced to this beautiful, intuitive sister to yoga, Ayurveda. "Ayurveda is the indigenous health science of India, a way of understanding balance and imbalance in the body so that we can avoid the progression of disease by addressing the causes early on…. The foods we eat become the tissues of the body, and the attitudes we bring to the table contribute to the body’s ability to digest and integrate food nicely. Being aware of what the body needs as we choose our foods and wishing the body well as we prepare them go a long way toward helping us feeling good.” –Kate O’Donnell author of The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook. It's purpose: To restore balance when we lose our footing or shift, or to maintain health, vibrancy, and longevity. Ayurveda sees the person as a whole, mind, body and soul.
Ayurveda also sees the individual, and everything else in the Universe, as composed to the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether (space). It has this beautiful, intelligent, elegance of how the lens of Ayurveda sees that everything, and everyone is connected. Human Being is a microcosm (small part/reflection) of the macrocosm (big picture, universe). And then you have the magic of yoga. Yoga meaning: The union of the two.
That alone I'm blown away with! I've always been drawn to nature. I know I'm part of nature. And having it explained this way just felt right to me. As I learned more through my 200hr I fell more in love with the science. This is my personal story with it: I began seeing a Ayurveda Practitioner for what I call "stomach attacks" that western doctors haven't ever figured out. In 2 or 3 sessions, I was given a protocol, following my Prakriti, vikruti, and doshas (I'll explain more below), and I didn't have these "attacks" for 3+years. By far that longest I have gone EVER. I was less reactive. When I was off, I was able to find center again. This isn't just physical. This is emotional, mental, and on a soul level. Life happens, stress occurs, the seasons change. I began having the attacks again. I should mention this is pain that has sent me to the ER, and after having my baby, I can now say I know how I was able to deliver naturally, because the intensity is, well, horrific. I went into my yoga tool box, offer changes and get back on the path.
After having my baby, there was an understandable huge shift in all areas again: physically (lots of space sense baby isn't in belly anymore), profound transition into MOTHERHOOD, emotionally, mentally as anyone who's been through it sleep deprivation is no joke, and lack of knowledge around how specifically Ayurveda could have helped me postpartum, the attacks came back every 3 months or so. I went to the doctor, I shrugged off, I went to a Naturopath, she got my gut back to order and went a direction with my story. But, a voice said, "track down, Ronly." I did. I felt seen again. Heard. Validated. She once again, gave me simple life style changes and an amazing cookbook (the one quoted above). She got me back on the path to center again. I have been without an attack the longest since having the baby. It's magic. I'm a profound believer in Ayurveda.
Below I have some quick definitions and concepts for a foundation of Ayurveda.
Each element has it's own characteristics, energy and realm
Earth: grounding, stability, concentration
Water: fluidity, gracefulness, cooling, calming, feeling centered awarenesses
Fire: rhythmic movement and breathing, intensity, heating, external awareness
Air: movement, lightness, flexibility, sensation, sensitivity, memory
Space: awareness, expansiveness, witnessing consciousness
What makes you, YOU
Prakriti: Fixed Constitution, like DNA, does not change. "Sattva, Rajas and Tamas the qualities born of nature (Prakriti) bind the immortal soul in the body" - Bhagavad Gita.
Vikruti: Present moment constitution, affected by season, work, geolocation, stress, etc.
Doshas: In sanskrit = what spoils or causes decay - when out of balance these doshas serve to destroy normal condition. Or, another way, when your body is out of balance you form doshas. You are all the elements.
Vata: Air + Ether (kinetic energy)
Pitta: Fire + Water (digestion and transformation via metabolic and endocrine systems)
Kapha: Water + Earth (lubrication and stability)
Each of these Doshas have attributes, physical frame of a person, skin qualities, physical qualities (hair, eyes, etc), appetite, taste, functions, site in the body, elimination qualities, mental aspects, emotions, personality, memory associated, types of dreams, sleep, faith, and even financial status tied to each!! It's amazing when you get a group of folks together, take an assessment to see where you lie on the range and lo and behold groups of the alike are bundled together. It's fascinating! All is connected to the elements. The elements are present in everything around us. So food with it's own characteristics, elements and value can be used to bring those elements that are out of wack into balance by tending to it's opposites. This happens in the seasons too. Don't you feel off if you have a margarita in the winter? It's just not quite right. Or hot soup in the summer? Review the quote above: "The foods we eat become the tissues of the body.."
This is just the tip of the ice berg! Remember it's a science! Ayurveda also assesses and seeks to balance also the pranic flow in the body (vital energy/prana), the chakras, the vayus, nadis, gunas (which define Prakriti) and our nervous system. Don't know what I'm talking about, each can be it's own workshop. Yoga asana, and pranayama practices also impact all of this! Right, yogis?
Then, you take what you learn about yourself on a deep level of understanding and seek to use opposites to balance. Much of this relates to food as medicine and life style changes. I am leaving out a ton but, that's why there's retreats, workshops, physicians and practitioners, to assist you along your journey!
Be well out there!
Plug: I'll be teaching a Ayurveda 101 workshop during Longevita Pilates & Yoga studios first annual spring retreat to Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth, WA April 24th-26th 2020. Check out my event page for more details.