Healthy Living Through Ayurveda

by Michael Russell

In Ayurveda, there are four crucial components to healthy and balanced living: eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and daily meditation.

For Ayurvedic healers, it is not just what you eat, but it's also how your body reacts to what you eat that is important. However, many people have become overweight because they have become "imbalanced" when it comes to their approach to food. Eating the right kind and the appropriate quantity of food is so important in Ayurvedic healing. One proverb states that "food is divine". How divine? Food even enjoys a higher status in Ayurveda than all other herbs and medicines!

As long as we continue to eat inappropriate and unhealthy foods or continue to have unpredictable eating routines and habits, our bodies will suffer serious consequences. We damage our energy level, mental well-being and emotional state by eating junk and chemical-laden food. These all seriously damage our general health and well-being and even cause irreversible damage to our organs, thereby shortening our life-span tremendously.

Ayurvedic practitioners, unlike many Western diet gurus, do not have a "one-size-fits-all" approach to eating and nutrition. We all have unique dietary needs and we all have to create a diet that fits us over time. However, Ayurveda suggests some general guidelines for healthy food choices and you can use the guidelines that work best for you. Remember to listen to your body carefully because it will guide you to the foods that can enhance your physical, mental and emotional balance. It is highly recommended that you eat raw, fresh, natural whole foods.

It is also encouraged that you follow an eating routine and treat eating times as sacred. Try not to take short meals or eat while working. Prepare and cook food with care and look for a place where you can eat in a pleasant atmosphere. When you take the time to eat, you give food the chance to turn into ojas - the substance that Ayurveda calls the essence of life and the best product of the eating and digesting process.

Another basic for good health and longevity is enough sleep. According to Ayurveda, sleep is important so our minds and bodies get to recharge. Lack of sleep hampers digestion, clouds the mental state and burdens many organs. Sleep deprivation is linked to high blood pressure and depression, among other things. Interestingly enough, Ayurveda does not think eight hours of sleep is for everyone. Because you are unique, you need to know your own sleep quota that is adequate and makes you function well. The quality of sleep is also important. Ayurveda says the best kind of sleep happens then when the mind is completely separate from all other senses. It is suggested that early sleep is more productive, try to go to bed early (before 10 pm). It is important to wake up early too, preferably before 6 am. Aromatherapy, a cup of herbal tea, deep breathing exercises and a bedtime massage can all help you enjoy a deeper slumber.

The third basic component of a healthy life is an adequate level of physical and mental activity. Along with diet and sleep, Ayurvedic healers say we need an exercise program that caters to our needs. For example, if you are trying to balance a Kapha dosha, go for more vigorous exercise like aerobics or tennis. If you are a Pitta, swimming is a good option. Walking and yoga are good for everyone because they are convenient and practical. They can also be done everyday alone or with a partner. It s recommended that you exercise early in the morning to sustain energy levels during the day and to sleep easier at night. Never exercise on an empty stomach or after a meal. Never continue the exercise if you feel pain or exhaustion. As with all other elements, moderation in exercise is crucial to physical and mental balance.

Finally, Ayurveda encourages daily meditation to recharge all the senses. Taking thirty minutes a day to meditate enhances the ability to manage stress. It also promotes mental focus and emotional equilibrium. Meditation also helps you get good sleep and reduces hypertension. Many tapes and books are available to get you started on this key Ayurvedic practice.

Michael Russell


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