Making Ayurveda Digestible (Pun Intended)
Pretty much everyone that knows me or has visited my website is aware that Ayurveda changed my life by helping me heal from fibromyalgia. It seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle that brought me to the finish line where I could raise my arms in victory and say
“The pain is gone!”
In typical fashion for me, I devoured everything I could get my hands on to read about this 5,000+-year-old mind/body/spirit system of health and longevity. Out of everything I had studied in my quest to heal, Ayurveda seemed to make the most sense. Living in harmony with Nature, the elements, the seasons. It seemed simple, yet profound.
But at the same time, it could get very heady. This is an ancient practice, after all. My head would spin from all of the strange words like abhyanga, doshas, gunas, kitchari, prakriti, chyawanprash (I still have to look up the spelling on that one), just to name a few.
I’d never cooked lentils, let alone eaten Indian food.
I grew up in a mashed potatoes, meatloaf, lasagna and green bean casserole kind of home.
The spices in my cupboard were common ones like cinnamon and oregano, and most of them were tired and probably expired.
In the beginning, I fully embraced everything my Ayurvedic practitioner recommended and later on, did the same with my studies. One of my favorite courses with Wise Earth Ayurveda was called “Food, Breath, and Sound”. It opened up a whole new world for me.
Like everything else in my life, I seem to fall head over heels learning something new, only to move on to the next interesting subject. The way of the Sagittarian/Vata-type. We tend to get bored easily.
Well, this hasn’t seemed to happen with Ayurveda (although I am presently and voraciously studying Western herbalism). Ayurveda crosses my mind dozens of times a day as I consciously strive to live a more balanced life.
You see, I finally figured out that Ayurveda can be simple or it can be complex.
It’s your choice. If you want to dive deep into it like I did (and still do), go for it. But you don’t have to know all the terminology. And guess what You don’t even have to like Indian food!
So many people say to me “I just don’t get Ayurveda”. They’re curious, but think that all of the dosha-specific food lists are intimidating (they are) and that they have to know without a shadow of a doubt what their constitution is in order to understand the concepts (they don’t).
When I started to see clients and to write about Ayurveda, I decided that I was going to try to keep it easy and digestible.
So, here are a dozen simple but important Ayurvedic teachings that can revolutionize your health like they have mine.
- Good health starts with good digestion. I don’t care what is ailing you – be it poor eyesight or cancer – an Ayurvedic practitioner will always ask first about your digestion. Roughly 80% of our immunity resides in our gut, and undigested food turns to sticky toxins (called ama) which wreak havoc on the body. So it makes perfect sense to fix poor digestion asap.
- The body loves routine. It wants to eat and sleep and eliminate and exercise and work at roughly the same time each day. So, as much as is humanly possible, try to stick to a daily routine. Especially with meals and sleep.
- Begin each day with a big glass of warm water with fresh lemon juice. You can change it up with lime or ginger. Or just drink it plain. This will help to rehydrate you from the night, flush toxins from the body, and stimulate elimination (which should happen for everyone, every morning upon awakening).
- Hydrate more efficiently by sipping hot or warm water every 15 minutes throughout the day, rather than gulping huge glasses of cold water. I keep a thermos of hot water on my desk. If this is too hard to stick to, at least do it for a two-week period. This is a great detoxification tip. Check out Staying Hydrated the Ayurvedic Way
- Stoke your digestive fire. We actually have a digestive fire, called agni which prepares our body for digestion. You should be hungry and literally have a warm belly before mealtime. Eating without an appetite (weak agni) can impair our ability to digest food. And cold water puts out this fire! Drinking a glass of warm water ½ hr. before meals will hydrate the stomach lining, allowing for necessary stomach acid to form. To rev up a sluggish appetite, chew a little slice of fresh ginger with lemon juice and sea salt fifteen minutes before a meal. Read this article about re-setting your digestive fire.
- Eat your biggest meal between noon-1:00 p.m. when our digestive fire is strongest. If you’re going to eat hard-to-digest foods, this is the time to do it – not late in the evening.
- Get to bed before 10:00 p.m. Yep. I see all of you Pitta-types rolling your eyes. You night owls you. Ayurveda breaks the day down into six four-hour periods. 10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. is Pitta time. Pitta dosha rules metabolism, the production of energy, digestion. Our body “wakes up” (especially the liver) and wants to get to work cleansing, repairing and doing all kinds of work that takes a lot of energy. If we’re awake – eating, reading, working, watching TV – that’s where our energy is going to go and we will miss out on the most restorative hours of the night. Plus, when 10:00 pm hits, we get our second wind and have a harder time falling asleep. Ayurveda’s Tough Love Recipe For A Good Night’s Sleep
- Exercise to only 50% of your capacity. Now doesn’t that sound nice? All Exercise is Not Created Equal
- Eat seasonally local foods. The way Mother Nature intended. Need protection from the summer sun? Berries are full of sun-protecting antioxidants. You have excess heat in your body from the summer months? Mother Nature provides apples in the fall which draw excess heat out of the body. And on and on. She is wise. Eat accordingly.
- Add meditation and yoga to your daily routine. Remember, Ayurveda is a mind/body/spirit practice and there is also such a thing as mental ama (toxins). Meditation was a huge component in my own healing. And yoga is the sister science of Ayurveda. One should not be without the other.
- Like increases like. This is a famous Ayurvedic saying and is nothing more than common sense. You run hot (Pitta)? Stay away from hot spicy foods, the hot sun, saunas, etc. Run cold (Vata & Kapha)? Eat gently cooked foods, avoid cold beverages/food, always dress warmly – especially around the head/neck. Think in terms of opposites.
- Tune into your body. Ayurveda teaches us awareness at a very deep level. Once you start to pay attention to the messages your body is giving you, you will intuitively know where to place your focus. Don’t panic. Just take note and then explore what healing options are out there.
I may no longer have fibromyalgia, but I still experience stress both from my inner and outer world. This is inevitable. And, as we know, stress leads to all kinds of physical and emotional challenges. Having the wisdom of Ayurveda in my back pocket has made my life so much easier.
Of course, each day I fall short of following a good number of my own tips. Hey, I’m only human. But I never stop trying. I hope these simple tips will help you, as well.
Barbara Sinclair is a visual artist and holistic health practitioner with a passion for Ayurveda, the ancient mind/body system of healing and longevity. Barbara was able to heal herself from years of fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, by adopting an Ayurvedic lifestyle. She is now pain-free and joyfully shares these methods with her readers and clients. Barbara received her Ayurveda training from Wise Earth Ayurveda, the first school of Ayurveda teachings in the US. She is also a certified holistic health counselor (Institute for Integrative Nutrition) and certified energy healer (Deborah King Center).You can contact Barbara HERE for an Ayurvedic consultation or energy healing session. To receive her monthly newsletters as well as weekly practical Ayurvedic tips click HERE.
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