While it’s fun to try out the multitude of new diet fads, sometimes you just have to get back to the things that are tried and true. Enter Ayurveda, a 3000-year old tradition that has roots in Ancient India and that has been one of the most successful and lasting practices that persists even today. It has a hefty background and an interesting set of rules that are aimed at making you healthier and happier, but the core of it is quite simple—balance. Balance in all things, especially food and exercise, is what’s needed to keep a person’s wellbeing at an optimal level, and it’s easy to achieve it once you know what to do.
If you want to tap into the power of Ayurveda, here are a few small ways it can help you enhance your health.
Salute the sun
In Ayurveda, there are three different types of personal energies called doshas, and each person embraces one. If attuned to it, it can help you determine which diet will best suit you, and how to change your lifestyle in a way that’s unique to your body. These three energy types are: kapha, pitta, and vata. If you truly want to embrace Ayurveda, it’s a good idea to learn which dosha you are, and one of the ways you can get attuned to your own body and learn all you can from it is through something simple—yoga.
Physical activity is very important in Ayurveda, and yoga is the perfect way to build up your strength, stamina, and confidence until you can thrive and truly feel good in your own skin. If you haven’t already, start your journey with a simple sun salutation, or Surya Namaskār. Each morning, kick the day off by standing in front of your window or going outside in the garden and allowing the first morning rays to wash over you. Go through these poses and allow the energy to fill you up, to wake your mind, and to let your muscles stretch and become ready for what the day brings.
Going back to the roots—old, powerful herbs
Traditional Ayurvedic medicine is surprisingly simple. It relies on herbs and tinctures that have been around for thousands of years, so things like neem, holy basil, Indian frankincense, ashwagandha, curcumin, and triphala (which is a combination of three herbs) are often used in food preparation and to make medicines.
Curcumin is one of the most potent ones, and we use it mostly in the form of turmeric. The only tricky thing is that it can be a little difficult to ingest enough turmeric through our Western diets, to actually reap noticeable results. So, start cooking more Indian cuisine, or grab some daily curcumin tablets. Triphala is another potent one to try—basically, it consists of three different fruits and it combines powerful antioxidant and tissue-rejuvenating properties that are soothing to all three doshas. It’s usually used to make tea, and you can find triphala mixtures in most health food shops, especially if you look online. Stock up your pantry with Ayurvedic herbs, and combine them with hot water — all the healing properties are usually enhanced by it, so making simple teas is an easy way to incorporate them into your diet.
Breath by breath
Breathing exercises, or pranayama, are at the very core of Ayurveda. Slow, deep breaths where you inhale and exhale through your nose are aimed and clearing your lungs and filling you up with clean air, and this is often used in conjunction with meditation. Combining the two will bring you in touch with your inner self and soothe away stress—in other words, you’ll have an easier time becoming mindful and you’ll lower your cortisol levels. Mental health is inextricably tied to physical health, and you must work on both if you are to achieve that complete, all-encompassing equilibrium.
Fresh, hot meals to soothe the soul
Imagine your grandmother’s hot, fragrant vegetable soup on a cold winter day. The memory of it gave you instant comfort, didn’t it? Ayurveda knows that food is an essential part of health, and humans always respond well to fresh ingredients and warmth—it simply soothes them and makes them feel relaxed. Focus on warm, cooked foods that are good for your digestion, particularly green veggies and carrots.
The magic of oil
There are two practices related to oil in Ayurveda, and you can benefit from both. The first one is called oil-pulling and it’s an old dental trick that will help you clean your teeth and destroy the bacteria in your mouth. Simply swish a tablespoon of organic coconut oil around your mouth to get all the toxins out. Another benefit of using oils is, of course, for massage. Tense muscles that are constantly stiff with anxiety can significantly benefit from massage, and if you use jojoba or rosehip oil, you’ll also have smooth, soft skin that feels absolutely silky and magnificent.
Ayurveda is all about small steps—take it slow, try to incorporate some of these practices into your life, and you’ll already be on a good path. Do everything at your own pace because that’s the only way to truly benefit from it.
Do you incorporate Ayurvedic rituals into your daily life?
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Photo: Laura Marques on Unsplash; Zoey Greco; Molly Lansdowne; Ally Snead; Imola Toth