ayurveda + YOGA
WHAT'S A HEALTHY DIET AND LIFESTYLE?
When there's so much information out there on just about everything, how do we discern what is good information and what's not? Ayurveda has opened my eyes to how much misinformation there is out there, especially when it comes to health and wellbeing. It can be confusing to say the least. What I've learnt from my own healing through Ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to nutrition and looking after our health. We are all human, but we are all different. As Hippocrates said "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. All food is a substance in Ayurveda and because we are not all created exactly the same, one person's medicine can be the next persons poison.
Reflecting on how I felt this time last year, I counted the symptoms I was experiencing and got to TWELVE! Yep, 12 symptoms including eczema, anxiety, low energy, insomnia, acne, aching joints, rage, hot flashes and erratic menstruation. The root cause for me was a shift in my hormones. Had I been in a balanced state as I entered the perimenopausal phase, I needn't have suffered at all. My oestrogen levels had dropped, FSH levels were high and symptoms started to appear 3 years ago when I was 45. Perimenopause/menopause is a natural process of womanhood and something to be embraced and celebrated as a rite of passage (but that's a whole other blog post) and can start as early as mid 30's and lasts until you reach menopause. The good news is, I've discovered that we don't need to suffer with all this discomfort! I've successfully resolved most of my symptoms (others are on/off and are minimised) and continue to support myself with diet/lifestyle changes and Ayurvedic herbs. I feel happy, balanced, energised, pain-free and back in my creative flow. BUT HERE'S THE THING! My diet/lifestyle was ALREADY what you'd consider healthy ...whole foods, veg, fruit, so-called "superfoods", largely plant-based diet with occasional organic animal protein, good fats, the odd coffee and glass of wine or 2 (!) alternative sugars and milks, yoga, running, meditation and I cleansed/detoxed once to twice a year. Looks pretty good on paper right? So how did I get so out of balance? Well it turns out that the root of all disorders start in the gut. So first thing to address is gut health and balancing digestive fire, or agni. and getting the metabolism, assimilation and absorption of nutrients to work efficiently. Every substance (food/drink) we consume creates a heating or cooling affect and in addition, it has a post-digestive effect. In my case, the shift in hormones naturally increase heat (pitta dosha), I was also favouring what I perceived to be innocent foods like tomatoes, root vegetables, raw veg smoothies and even lemons! All of these increase pitta dosha which increases inflammation and acidity in the body. Running and even the type of yoga I so loved were adding to my issues - more heat! So, with the help of an Ayurvedic Doctor I started to understand what foods, herbs and activities would calm the system, bring me back to my own unique balance and ultimately RESOLVE all those symptoms I was undergoing. I was amazed how some of the symptoms reduced almost immediately, others resolved completely after a few cycles. It was also a clear reminder that our bodies never lie and they tell us when things need addressing. So many of us live with niggles or dysfunctions and ignore the body giving us a red flag - because if we remain in a state of imbalance for too long, sooner or later disorder and disease will set in. We are not meant to live in discomfort - we are meant to feel good, have energy and be well. We should never blame our age for example for our ailments. We're designed to live happy, healthy lives, it's just that we live in an increasingly toxic environment where stress is the order of the day and quick fix solutions via western medicine are sought (often giving rise to side effects and more problems further down the line). Instead we could be looking at our habits and approaches to health to avoid getting sick and release ourselves from suffering the natural way. Adjusting our diet and lifestyle is taking responsibility for our health.
So how we go about our lives matters. From everything we consume (food/drink/what we read/watch) to the company we keep; from the type of work we do to the type of exercise we choose (or don't choose); from how we relate with ourselves emotionally to our relationships with family/friends; from how we prepare and cook foods to how we sleep; absolutely everything we do affects our ability to digest and alters the elements of the body, mind and spirit. Ayurveda very cleverly addresses this at an individual level, empowering us to live in tune with our core being, tuning into our very individual nature and allowing us to live truly healthful and happy lives. So, what IS a healthy diet and lifestyle then? It very much depends on the individuals unique constitution and possible imbalance. And that my friends, is a beautiful journey into the wisdom of this life science called Ayurveda! If you have a healthy gut, eliminate toxins efficiently, eat properly and in accordance with your own bodies needs, eliminate properly (you should be going once a day first thing in the morning), you sleep well and you have plenty of energy then you are living well! If symptoms are knocking on your door or you already have a disorder or disease, I recommend seeking out an Ayurvedic professional like myself for bespoke treatment.
Essentially, Ayurveda is like having a wise old Elder with us at all times, or a fantastic map guiding us deeper into truth, into a great relationship with ourselves. It connects us to our heart (there is literally science in Ayurveda to back this up, again, another post!). When we are in this place of balance, we are able to feel peace and this emanates to those around us. Needless to say I'm BEYOND GRATEFUL for Ayurveda!
Thanks for reading!
This post is dedicated to my wonderful teachers at The Ayurveda Institute UK, Dr Deepika Rodriguez B.A.M.S and Dr WashalaWijesinghe B.A.MS., MSC, M.D
STAY BALANCED IN AUTUMN - VATA SEASON
There's a frost on our wood cabin at the end of the garden this morning and a distinct nip in the air as I take my daughter off to school. Autumn is here and that means a shift in elements, so it makes sense that we need to make some shifts too to keep our balance and stay well.
Ayurveda considers all things in terms of their elemental characteristics - Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space/Ether. In Autumn the subtle energy which governs movement, Vata is predominant, the elements of Air + Space. So there is an increase in the dry, rough and cool qualities caused by the rise in the Air + Space elements. Harnessing the tools from this ancient health system, we can cultivate balance and equinimity through these seasonal changes for more harmonious living and vibrant wellbeing.
When the external elements of Air + Space increase, an excess of Vata dosha may leave you feeling worn out, brittle, and susceptible to illness. You may experience any of the following symptoms if you have a Vata imbalance:
To treat the imbalance, Ayurveda says we must reintroduce the opposite qualities back to the system. So oileation, warmth and grounded stability are key factors in balancing vata dosha. Warm oil self massage, eating cooked, heavier foods with warming spices like cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and ginger and slow and restorative yoga practices will all help calm and rejuvinate.
Depending on our own unique dosha (constitution) and our possible imbalance (vikruti), we will all be affected by the change in each season differently. Ayurveda is a wonderful wisdom to show us how we can return to our individual harmony and feel great whatever the season, whatever the weather and more able to deal with modern life.
This is a brief flavour - there is so much to this ancient art! For more information on Ayurveda and Yoga, please take a look around my website. If you would like an informal chat on how Ayurveda can help you, please contact me.
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