Still looking for gifts for the yogis and wellness-enthusiasts on your holiday list? Think Ayurveda: Āyurveda (the science of life) originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and is the oldest continuously practiced health-care system in the world. Āyurveda teaches us that humans are considered the microcosm of the macrocosm. Because the entire universe is comprised of the five elements and so are humans, we are all governed by the same laws of nature. When we step out of the daily and seasonal rhythms that nature provides, then imbalances will begin to appear.
Āyurveda focuses on living in harmony with the rhythms of nature. Each season presents its own qualities. One of the main principles of maintaining homeostasis is to treat with opposites. When it’s cold, dry and windy out we naturally put on a warm coat, moisturize our skin and eat warm cooked foods. When it is hot and humid we find shade, wear cool natural fabric clothes, and eat lighter foods. Practicing correct diet and lifestyle that is opposite to the seasons is a key principle in preventing imbalance.
One of the powerful tools of healing and change in Āyurveda is dinacharya (a healthy morning routine). Ayurveda recognizes that when we change our mornings, we change our days — and our lives change too!
Erin Casperson, from the Kripalu School of Āyurveda (KSA), shares her favorite budget-friendly Ayurvedic products that also make ideal stocking stuffers:
1. Nasya Oil ($11): ’Tis the season for dry and runny noses, as well as head colds. Avoid this with nasya oil, which lubricates the nasal passages during the dry months of winter. This is my favorite ayurvedic product for the winter. I keep it in my bag, in the office and at home. It is also phenomenal for travel in airplanes!
To use, place 1-2 drops of oil into the nose in the morning and before bed. Massage the inner nostrils with the fingers and then sniff the oil up into the nasal passages.
2. Tongue Scraper ($8): While sleeping the body goes through a detoxification process that leaves a coating of material on the tongue. If this coating is removed in the morning, it will not only freshen your breath and enhance your ability to taste, but also stimulate the organs of digestion and elimination.
To remove it, use a tongue scraper moving from back to front 3-5 times, rinsing between each scrape.
3. Abhyanga ($12): Winter is the cold and dry season. This leaves the skin — cold and dry. The solution is simple: massage oil into your body every day to thwart the onslaught of the winter weather.
Keep a small jar of oil in the shower and when you are done soaping your body, massage the oil into your skin. Perform long strokes on the long bones; circles on the joints, on the abdomen and low back. This will replace your daily lotion or moisturizer!
I recommend a high quality sesame oil (which is best in winter because of its warming quality) from the oil section of the your local health foods market, or online.
Consider giving thoughtfully this holiday season with Āyurveda’s healing power. We all benefit by helping others help themselves.
Erin Casperson is the Academic Coordinator for the Kripalu School of Ayurveda (KSA), as well as an Ayurvedic Health Counselor and 500-hour yoga teacher.
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Photo: Tara Aveilhe via Flickr