Nowadays holistic medicine is becoming ever more popular. Western cultures have realized that Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Homeopathy are natural ways of taking care of the body and mind without the need of consuming chemically induced medication to feel better.
Finding it appealing, especially during these times, I decided to try it out and bought The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook by Sarah Kucera. This manual not only explains what Ayurveda is but also points out holistic healing rituals for every day and season.
We believe that during this difficult period, everyone needs some stability to make isolation less monotonous. Thus, the aim of this blog post is not to convert someone to Ayurveda but suggest some simple rituals to experiment with that can guide you, hopefully, to better take care of yourself.
This form of natural medicine takes into consideration elements, qualities and constitutions to analyse what type of person you are and what you uniquely need to reach optimal health. However, I won’t get into that as it would take a considerable amount of time to do so. But, instead, I will summarize some general points and rituals that you can use to take care of yourself. Let’s get started!
Ayurveda was born in India 5,000 years ago – so long ago! The word literally means the ‘the science of life’ as Ayur means ‘life’ and Veda means ‘science of’ or ‘knowledge’.
This practice uses nature as medicine by utilising herbal therapies, food, spices and lifestyle changes to create conditions for optimal health. Also, Ayurveda knows how to treat every person individually by placing them in one (or more) of the three constitutions; this is why it’s so efficient and also why Indians have been using it for millennia.
Keeping in Balance with Nature
Increase in imbalances happens when an individual doesn’t stay in balance with nature. At first, when I read this, I was sceptical myself but thinking about it, it does make sense.
We are part of this world, not separate from it. Like any other animal, insect or plant, we use the resources and life-supporting systems of the earth to survive (food, sun, air, water etc.). Thus, our body and mind are connected with nature and all the rhythms that come with it. Yes, we are more evolved than any other specie but, at the same time, we are as dependent as anything else that inhabits it.
Five factors influence our wellness according to Ayurveda. These are
- Physical energy
- Mental and emotional energy
When all of these are in sync, then optimal health is reached.
The Ayurvedic Clock
6 am to 10 am
At this time, we should feel grounded and more connected to the earth. This is why Ayurveda feels it’s the perfect moment to participate in physical movement and manual labour.
However, the later we wake up in this time frame, the less energy we’ll have. This is because the energy that we should be using during the morning is locked in our sleeping body, which creates heaviness and excess tiredness. That’s why so many feel extremely tired during the weekend.
10 am to 2 pm
With the peak of the sun in the sky, we have more ‘fire’ in our body. This means that our digestion is stronger too, which in Ayurveda, is the right time to have the heaviest meal of the day. This time frame is also ideal for analytical work and concentration as we are thinking more with our head and can focus for a longer period.
2 pm to 6 pm
During this time, after lunch, we should feel a peak in energy. Most of us, however, after an imbalanced lunch, feel the need to reenergise with coffee, a sugary snack or other caffeine stimulants. Yet, this may cause excessive tiredness after some time, making us unfocused and mentally/physically weak; the ‘crash’. Ayurveda, on the other hand, suggests to meditate, take a walk or have a ten-minute break which surprisingly can help us deal with the rest of the working day.
6 pm to 10 pm
This time is perfect for exercise or hygienic tasks as we are going back to the ‘earth’ energy (see how the time is the same but PM). At the same time, as our body gets ready for sleep, our digestion also slows down. Therefore, try to have an early supper and avoid stimulating activities after 8 pm.
Rituals to Follow on a Daily Basis
I do apologize for the long explanation but, as everything is connected, we need to understand how our body clock functions with nature’s rhythms to comprehend why it’s so important to follow Ayurvedic rituals.
Wake Up and Go to Sleep at Specific Times
Waking up with the sun (from 5-7 am) will bring an increase in energy to both mind and body as this is considered a ‘grounding’ time. Also, having more time for self-care and getting ready without feelings of stress will positively affect our day. Of course, this changes depending on the season- during winter we’ll be able to sleep more and vice versa.
Ayurveda also suggests to go to bed around 10 pm, this is because our body at this time automatically goes into restoration mode, starting detoxification of the liver and digestion. However, this only happens when we’re asleep.
Try it out and see how you feel in the morning, maybe start with a few days a week. Also, it’s OK to have a long night once in a while, but just remember that it’s also important to take care of our body.
Switch Off Devices
Most of us use electronic devices until we head to bed, but this causes our brain to think it’s still daylight due to the blue light emitted. This is why it’s sometimes so hard for us to fall asleep as our mind is racing with things to do.
Try to switch off devices before heading to bed. Ayurveda recommends before 8 pm but honestly, living in this day and age, it sounds a bit unrealistic. I suggest to progressively do it; half an hour before bed, an hour before bed and so on- see how you feel and sleep. As stated before, this also gives our body the chance to restore itself.
Prayer, meditation, mental hygiene or however you want to call it. Mindful stillness comes easier in the morning as our mind hasn’t had much chance to start racing as it does during the rest of the day.
You don’t necessarily have to sit in the specific meditation pose, just sitting up in bed is perfectly fine. This moment should be about you- if you need a tutorial for some initial help or if you just prefer to breathe deeply for some minutes, it’s up to you. The practice is what counts, not the method.
Drink Warm Water
This may sound a bit weird but before having a coffee or eating breakfast, drink some warm water (alone or with a splash of lemon). Here are some benefits:
- Improve digestion and congestion
- Prepares your gut for the rest of the day
- Clears intestine
- Prevents bloating
- Improves blood circulation
- Flushes out the toxins from the body accumulated in the restoration period when asleep
Seasonal Rituals: Spring
During winter our body accumulates heaviness and dampness due to the weather and limited mobility. As spring arrives, with the warm sun, a feeling of stagnation, congestion, excess mucus and allergies emerge. As the sun melts the snow from the ground, this element also melts the excess water accumulated during winter in our body.
Ayurveda combats this with the opposite qualities such as dryness, light and mobility.
Nature supplies us with just that. Local produce growing in spring can help us during this transition. Some of these are: Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Asparagus, Berries, Leeks, Garlic and Leafy Greens. If you’re meat eater, try to eat more white than red meat and lighter fish.
As spring arrives, our body is waking up from a long hibernation.
The best way to ‘melt that snow’ is then to do some physical activities; have a walk, go for a run, do some exercise/yoga at home or go on a bike ride – use your daily exercise to move your legs and keep your body fit.
Spring is known for its rebirth; flowers begin blooming, the sun shines again and everything around us comes to life. This is why in Ayurveda, this is the perfect time for exploration and growth.
Our Body is Wonderful!
Our planet is incredible; all its life-supporting systems work together making it the perfect habitat for everything that lives within it. Our body is the same, all the systems within it dependently work to keep us healthy and well. However, our body also needs our help to do so. That’s why we must listen, observe and give our body and mind a hand so we can reach optimal health and happiness.
Have a go at some of the rituals listed above, and if they work, it means we’ve done our job!
Next week we’ll publish another blog post about Ayurveda specifically for Coronavirus, giving you tips on how to strengthen your immune system and the reasons behind it.
Kucera, S. and Kshirsagar, S., 2019. The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook. New York: Experiment LLC.
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