Practicing Ayurveda…What you may already be doing without even realizing it!
I’m frequently asked: How often does one have to practice Ayurveda to start receiving benefits?
Well, like Yoga, Ayurveda can be practiced for as little as a few choices a day to as much as virtually every moment of each day.
Ayurveda is all about making choices — when eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising, working, studying, cleansing, oiling, sunbathing, walking the dogs, and, yes, even when buying ice cream! All are choices that come with consequences. If I eat heavy foods, I may not be able to digest them. If I exercise outdoors at noon, my migraine headaches may worsen. If I eat right before bed, I may not sleep well and I’ll definitely wake up with stinky breath. If I go for a gentle stroll in nature, my mind may calm down.
Whenever possible, Ayurveda is about making choices while also factoring in the consequences that follow. You may not have time to cook, but eating homemade leftovers will still likely leave you feeling much better than eating a hamburger and fries at a restaurant (knowing that eating leftovers is frowned upon in Ayurveda, as is eating at restaurants). Ayurveda empowers us to make—and face—any decision that comes up, because life is never perfect and all we can do is our best to balance each challenge that comes our way.
Ayurveda is a guide toward living in sync with nature. If you look at which actions leave you feeling energetic, vibrant and happy versus those that leave you feeling a little more tired, unmotivated or just a bit “off”, you may already be in touch with what Ayurveda recommends. Since Ayurveda is au naturel—encompassing largely what is inherent to being human—you may already be practicing aspects of it without even knowing it!
So how do you know if you already might be practicing Ayurveda? I have put together the cheat sheet below, a basic checklist of sorts, so you can do a little digging and see how you’re doing!
You might be into Ayurveda if you have shelf-upon-shelf stacked with bottles of oils. Whether they are medicated oils (bala ashwagandha, pinda thailam, and bhrami oil, etc.), edible oils (ghee, sesame, coconut, sunflower, etc.) or beauty products and massage oils like bhringraj or castor oil, your cupboards are filled with them. I personally own bala ashwagandha and dhanvantari oils for abhyanga treatments in the morning. I have arimedadi oil for gums and teeth. I have nasya and anu thailam for oiling the nose which is good for everything above the shoulders. I have sesame, almond and coconut oil for random skin application after showers. I have bhringraj oil for my hair. It is so darn amazing. I always have ghee for cooking. One can never have too much ghee! And I have olive oil to apply to foods after they are cooked. So yes, lots of oils a sure sign that Ayurveda might already be a part of you!
You might be into Ayurveda if you go through a lot of spices. Ayurveda is all about home cooking and healing through the use of tastes and qualities of spices. Those of us who really practice Ayurveda go through a ton of spices—we don’t just decorate our shelves with them. Our seasonings are never crusty or dusty, i.e., tasteless! Some common Ayurvedic spices are ginger (it leads the pack for sure!), cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, mustard seed, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, clove, fenugreek, ajwain and hing (asafetida). Not as potent as herbs, spices are a great way to maintain good digestion and preventative care. Sometimes I will use them “medicinally” by mixing them as a tea and taking before a meal.
You might be into Ayurveda if you know what kitcheri is, and you eat it regularly. Kitcheri is a delicious, easy to digest meal of basmati rice and mung beans that is spiced and served with ghee. This is a good meal to have once a week to give your system a little break from the normal hard work of digesting so many different foods. I like to think of it as a casserole from India, I guess because I’m from Wisconsin and ate a lot of “hot dishes” growing up.
You might be into Ayurveda if you cook more at home than you eat out. In Ayurveda, we know that restaurant food is considered tamasic (this is a dulling quality of the mind). In reality, we don’t really know the quality of the food being prepared or how fresh it is, so it’s best to avoid too much restaurant food. Plus eating out can tempt us to eat things that aren’t as healthy, such as fried foods, sweets, processed foods and incompatible foods that may be prepared together (i.e., eggs and cheese). There is nothing more healing and nurturing than a homecooked meal. If you want to show somebody that you love them, cook for them.
You might be into Ayurveda if you go to bed before 10pm and wake with the birds singing. Ayurveda is about following the natural cycles of nature, so building routines based on the sun, the moon and the seasons can be very beneficial.
You might be into Ayurveda if you know what fruits and vegetables are in season. It’s hard to really know since these days the groceries, throughout the year, stock just about every type of produce on their shelves. But, by watching what the stores are selling a lot of, or by attending the local Farmers’ Markets, you can get a good idea and start to learn. There is great balance and rhythm found in nature, so you can count on Mother Earth to provide what is needed to even us out during certain seasons. She wants to heat us in the spring (bitter greens), cool us in the summer (watery melons, sweet fruits and bright vegetables) and stabilize us in the fall (heavy squashes). Again, trust the cycles of nature.
You might be into Ayurveda if you know a little bit of Sanskrit. Ayurveda was written in poetic Sanskrit verse by ancient sages. These verses are still learned by many Ayurvedic doctors today. The verses are sung (chanted) in order to enhance the retention of their knowledge. Sanskrit is a very powerful healing tool for the mind and I love to study Sanskrit to keep my mind sharp, focused and powerful. I also chant Sanskrit verses in order to calm my mind when I get stressed or emotionally upset. It can transform my mood like nothing else!
You might be into Ayurveda if you don’t own many beauty products, because in Ayurveda we would never put something on our skin that we can’t eat. There are excellent recipes for skin lotions, makeup, hair products, etc. that come from foods and oils. I use almond oil instead of any lotion for my skin every morning. At night, I also treat myself to warm sesame oil (or one of those luxurious medicated oils) on my head and feet to help me fall into a deeper sleep.
You might be into Ayurveda if you use home remedies. I use fresh lime juice or neem paste for bug bites. I use yogurt and ginger for better digestion. I use steams, tulsi and ginger for colds. I use warm milk to help me sleep (not that I never need any help with that!). I think every family has their secret stash of home remedies. I would love to hear what you use!
You might be into Ayurveda if you own a lot of jars. Many of our grains, dried fruits, beans and baking items come from the bulk section so we need a safe place to store them in our pantries. I save all of my glass jars – from biggest to the smallest, and all those in-between. I use glass jars to store leftover foods in, or foods that I give to people from a dinner that I may host. I hate to use plastic, so glass is a must.
You might be into Ayurveda if you have oil on your bathroom walls. As carefully as I apply warm oil before a shower, it still seems to get everywhere. I have no idea how it even gets up in some of those corners! But applying oil is a messy thing, so wiping walls and the tub down with soap is always a must if for anyone doing abhyanga. I swear, though, the clean-up is well worth the benefits of this nurturing oil treatment!
These are all great indications that you may already be practicing Ayurveda!
To learn more about this natural healing system, hit me up for either a consult or to find a time when I am teaching a workshop near you. Ayurveda will enhance your life with vitality, inspiration, clarity, calmness and a better sense of feeling healthy.
My wish is for everyone to experience as much health and happiness as possible, and Ayurveda is one of the best ways to achieve that. If you would like to learn more about ayurveda, please contact me to book an appointment or inquire about upcoming workshops.