By Kamie Slegers
Courtesy of YOGA + Life magazine
The path toward optimal health is a journey to understanding true overall wellness. We learn to live in harmony with the world around us as we connect with our true nature to develop and evolve.
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The term for health in Ayurveda is svastha. Svastha means “to be established in the Self.” This means that harmony creates an integration of mind and body to obtain health and wellness. Ayurveda looks at the early signs of disease and reflects on how lifestyle choices create balance and harmony or imbalance and disease. Ayurveda recognizes that the symptoms of illness are the body’s way of communicating that we are living out of balance. These symptoms directly reveal our physical, mental and emotional state.
As humans, we often forget our true natures. We forfeit a life of balance and instead default to societal influences, fear and want for the things we perceive we lack. We are in constant pursuit of instant gratification and pleasure of the senses; we avoid pain and suffering at all costs only to reveal the detriment to long-term health. This default to survival instinct only brings more pain and suffering whether physical, mental or emotional. The process of healing is to learn from experiences and have the courage to overcome challenges. When we recognize our true natures, we make choices that produce balance and harmony.
Ayurveda has methods to create a foundation for health and recognizes that each person is unique. Ayurvedic wisdom uses many factors in obtaining or preserving health. A combination of what we are attracted to, what causes us to move out of balance and why we develop illnesses helps us understand what lifestyle changes, dietary needs, herbs and other tools can be used to regain health.
Although Ayurveda offers several approaches when illnesses do arise, there is a greater emphasis on preventative medicine. Ayurveda focuses on lifestyle choices and routine as foundational factors to providing health and wellness.
Many of the practices that are a part of the Four Pillars of Wellness have been adequately researched and documented. Many practitioners have different interpretations of the four pillars that reflect their styles of practice and clientele. With the wisdom of my teachers, I adjusted my perception to benefit my clients and feel it is manageable in our modern world. I know that all practitioners would agree on the Four Pillars, but each may have a different order of importance.
The Four Pillars of Ayurveda are:
- Lifestyle: routine.
- Nutrition: what we take in through our senses.
- Sleep: rest and digest.
- Energy Management: dealing with stress.
Deep healing and optimal health require time, connection to the rhythms of nature and living in harmony. Ayurvedic wisdom guides us to live a joyful and healthy life; we need to follow guides such as these.
Start with building the foundation:
- Lifestyle: the routine of habits and practices that make up one’s day and then flows into weeks, months and years.
- Dinacharya (daily Ayurvedic rituals): morning, evening and seasonal routines.
- Practices: meditation, yoga and self-care.
- Nutrition: refers to what is consumed through the mouth and what is consumed through the senses.
- Eat three meals a day at about the same time of the day.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Consume the most substantial meal in the middle of the day.
- Fresh and seasonal foods.
- Understand what foods and herbs keep the digestive fire (agni) consistent.
- Understand how too much or not enough sensory stimulation contributes to one’s overall health.
- Sleep: rest and digest.
- Sleep helps our bodies to digest stress and process what we take in through our senses.
- Get enough quality sleep. According to the CDC, sleep deprivation is a “public health epidemic.”
- Understand the importance of proper sleep hygiene.
- Energy/Stress Management: dealing with stress.
- Hormone mania: understand the link between hormone imbalance and mismanaged stress.
- The importance of spiritual practices.
- Practices to reduce stress like yoga, meditation, proper exercise and more.
Ayurveda provides practical guidance on what supports our lives and what needs to change. We can all make better decisions and change our habits, and we can trust that our changes can be permanent.