Ayurveda for Modern Health: Ancient Wisdom Emphasizes Natural Rhythms
Jun 27, 2018 01:33AM
By Danielle Sullo
Depending on natural constitution, life circumstances, lifestyle choices and habits, the path to health and balance for one person is certainly not the way for all. The ancient holistic health system of Ayurveda was initially designed to help humans achieve balance, wellness and vitality through lifestyle and a regular connection with nature. With increasing validation from current research and modern science coupled with this timeless approach to health, Ayurveda is as relevant today as it was in India at its inception more than 5,000 years ago.
Jessica Serra, Ayurvedic Counselor and owner of Prima Wellness (PrimaWellness.com) in Watertown, explains that each person achieves not only balance, but wellness, through aligning individual biorhythms with those of one’s own ecology and environment. “In Ayurveda, balance involves psychological, physical and spiritual elements,” she explains. “It means cultivating body tissues, the proper elimination of waste, encouraging proper use of the five senses and nurturing a happy soul.”
Jaya Daptardar, of New Canaan’s Pryority Wellness (AyurBeautyAndLifestyle.com), describes the system as “the art of living”, and our guide to food and lifestyle management. Ayurveda translates literally as “life knowledge”, and is known as the science of life. Daptardar describes the timeless relevance of Ayurveda in terms of the alchemical connection of the human body and nature. “Ayurveda is made up of five elements: fire, water, earth, air and space (ether). Our body is made up of the same five elements,” she explains. Each person is made up of a particular combination of these five elements, and in Ayurveda, this is described as a person’s individual constitution, or dosha. The three doshas and their corresponding elements are Vata (air and ether), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (earth and water).
Supporting the Doshas
Each person has a dominant dosha which needs a regular “tune-up” through the use of particular herbs, lifestyle, yoga and meditation. In addition to our personal dosha, the seasons have corresponding doshas as well: Vata (late fall into late winter), Kapha (late winter into late spring) and Pitta (early summer into late fall). Daptardar says, “We have to be mindful of our dosha and the seasons or the dosha energy can build up and put us out of balance.”
Neeru Kaushik, a naturopathic physician and Ayurvedic practitioner at Fairfield’s Institute for Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Therapies (AyurvedicInstituteCT.com), says food and earth are the basis of treatments. Kaushik explains, “Let the body come into balance, and the body will heal itself with the help of nutrition and herbs.” In Ayurveda, it is the synergy of the dosha, ecology and the circadian rhythms where the power of healing and balancing potential resides.
For instance, Margaret Durbas, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor and the founder of Journey of Yoga (JourneyOfYoga.com) in Simsbury, says that since Vata is responsible for all moving energy in the body, during late fall into early winter, people who are predominantly Vata need to focus on becoming more grounded and centered, which is the opposite of Vata energy. If not, all the built up Vata energy due to the Vata dosha and its respective season may result in a scattered and unstable state of being. She goes on to say that similar buildups can occur with Kapha and Pitta during their corresponding seasons, and they too need to work on bringing balance by offsetting the energy of their dosha. This can typically be achieved through a regimen of herbs, food and lifestyle modifications.
Food and Lifestyle are the Pillars
The Ayurvedic paradigm calls us to consciously evaluate the very two factors that serve as the most consistent access points to our health: food and lifestyle choices. It is in this complementary union that Ayurveda honors both the art and science of humanity and holds an important key to wellness, healing and longevity.
Ayurveda is sometimes described
as the “sister science to yoga,” but Lisa Day-Lewis, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor and the owner of Ahimsa Ayurveda (AhimsaAyurvedaUS.com) in Storrs, clarifies. “Yoga is a part of Ayurveda and Ayurveda is the all-encompassing guide or the how to live A-Z”, she explains. Before her awareness of Ayurveda, it was the spiritual experience of Bhakti yoga that strongly appealed to Day-Lewis. After experiencing the transformative power of yoga, she was drawn further into the spiritual richness of Ayurvedic life. She wanted more tools to learn how to become and stay healthy and engage in life the way she wanted. Ayurveda answered her call.
It is in the powerful work with biorhythms that Ayurveda’s balancing potential energy becomes realized. In deeply honoring the spiritual richness of life, Ayurveda also honors the healing process in the very foundation of our constitution: energy. Day-Lewis is excited for this time in history because “Ayurveda is catching.” As people are introduced to yoga, they are concurrently engaging in their own Ayurvedic beginning, which can just expand and deepen with awareness and knowledge.
Marma Techniques for Self-Care
Tanvi Gandhi is the owner of Shiva-Shakti Acupuncture and Ayurveda (DrTanviGandhi.com), and practices in Stamford and Fairfield. She trained in Ayurvedic marmic theory and pranic healing. She says working with Ayurvedic marma—energy points where prana (life force) flows—is healing the vital force through these points in the body. She began her training as a Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncturist, then integrated marma. She describes marma as a “full healing modality that first incorporates guided meditation to connect to the marma channels or points, which can then be activated in the body using acupuncture.”
Gandhi emphasizes the focus on self-care techniques in her work, which she says is always empowering since clients can do marmic meditation on their own. “The self-care techniques,” she says, “promote vitality and longevity.” Marma points channel the energy from the spine, meet at the vortex of the chakras, and flow energy into the organs. She says this works with the subtle energy of the chakras and channels. When meditation first activates the energy that may have remained otherwise stagnant, the healing is integrated and even more transformative.
With modern conveniences and the world at our fingertips, it is possible to live each day without even stepping outside. Ayurveda calls us to stop and ask, “Is this truly living?” Despite much advancement since the dawn of man, our basic constitution still consists of the same matter, the same five elements that we share with the rest of nature: earth, fire, water, air and ether. We transcend just living and begin thriving when we acknowledge that we have all we need to live conscious, fulfilling lives through coming into relationship with these elements and the biorhythms that surround us. The wisdom of Ayurveda calls us to stop chasing the balance, and provides us with ways to finally achieve it.
Danielle Sullo is an educator, therapeutic writing facilitator and contributor to Natural Awakenings in Connecticut. Connect with her at [email protected].
Jaya Daptardar, BAMS, MHA
New Canaan, Weston
Journey of Yoga
Tanvi Gandhi, ND, Lac
Shiva-Shakti Acupuncture and Ayurveda
Fairfield at Barefoot Living Arts
Stamford at Enjoy Community Wellness
Neeru N. Kaushik, ND, MS Acu, MS, MA
Institute for Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Therapies
Day by the Dosha
Circadian Rhythms in Ayurveda
Ayurveda tells us that doshas have their own signature times of day that repeat every 12 hours, helping us to align our daily activities with the energy of that particular time frame, explains Margaret Durbas of Journey of Yoga in Simsbury. Vata time is from 2am to 6am, and early morning is the best time to rise to meditate, reflect, set intention and perform calming and grounding activities.
From 6am to 10am is Kapha time, and even though this is a time when we may feel sluggish—especially if we sleep late—the best way to mitigate the effects of Kapha is to exercise and move.
Pitta hours are from 10am to 2pm—when the sun is strongest—and so is our agni, or digestive power and inner drive. At this time during the day, we should eat our biggest and most nutritious meal to utilize this powerful energy for digestion.
We move back into Vata hours from 2pm to 6pm. To balance Vata we are called to perform activities of stillness and intellectual, creative pursuit. The digestive power or agni is less strong now, so supper at 6pm should be light and easily digestible. Kapha time from 6pm to 10pm grounds us and naturally calls us to prepare for sleep which is why we may doze on the couch when watching television.
If we go to bed by about 10pm, when we enter Pitta evening hours (10pm to 2am), this is the time when the body is most actively restoring itself by detoxifying and cleansing the organs and tissues.