The (Very) Beginners Guide to Ayurveda

What is Ayurveda?

Ayu what? Ayurveda (pronounced eye-you-vayda) is the world’s oldest health system that literally translates to ‘wisdom of life’ or the ‘knowledge of longevity.’ With over 5000 years to back it up (this is not a fad ladies & gents), it may help to think of Ayurveda as  Indian naturopathy. It is often referred to as the sister science to Yoga, which is why Yoga and Ayurveda are so inextricably linked, and why most yogis follow Ayurvedic principles! Think of Yoga as the spiritual science and Ayurveda the physical science. That mind-body connection, the concept that you cannot function or operate at your optimum without the health of both, is deeply rooted in Ayurveda. Health, therefor is not simply the absence of disease. It’s not just about ‘not being sick’, it’s about a total alignment and balance that has everything in your body working like clockwork (yes that includes number 2’s) with a sense of grace, clarity and calm. In other words – yo’ body is singing!

An individualised approach

Perhaps, what I love most about this complete health system, is that there is no cookie cutter approach here. The one-size-fits all notion is left at the door and Ayurvedic practitioners believe that we are all born with a unique constitution (Prakriti) and when the elements of this constitution are in balance – we achieve vibrant levels of health – when they aren’t in balance, we don’t. Not only is your personal constitution taken into consideration, but your environment and the current season as well. See what I mean about peronalised? You’re not just a number in Ayurvedic medicine. Your constitution shows up in your physical form (how you look on the outside), your digestion, your personality and even your dreams. No two are ever exactly the same.

You are not what you eat, you are what you digest.

Ever wondered why sometimes seemingly healthy food choices, like a carrot or green juice can have you running to the bathroom at a moment’s notice? Or how a bowl of quinoa can have you doubled over in pain within a few minutes? It doesn’t matter how healthy the foods are that you are putting into your body, if you aren’t digesting them properly – they are literally going in one end and out the other. If your agni , the Sanskrit term for digestive fire isn’t burning brightly you simply will not be able to break down the foods you eat and obtain the nutrients from them. This was certainly the case for me.

The classic sign I was NOT absorbing properly


Totes embarrassed I am showing you this, but these are my nails. See those long ridges that run all the way from the top to the bottom? They’re not supposed to be there. Notice how you can’t see any ‘moons’, the crescent shape at the bottom? You are supposed to see those. My nails have been like this for years – at least 5, at the very least. Although is some cases it can just be a simple genetic attribute, traditionally speaking these vertical ridges are a warning sign for malabsorption (not absorbing and assimilating the nutrients from my food) and a slow, sluggish digestive system. Well hello, that’s me to a tee! I’ve had digestive issues easily for again, at least 5 years or so. Double up in pain, running to the bathroom, you name it!

Fixing my Digestion

First and foremost, this was on the agenda and this is the very first thing the doctors at Vibrant Ayurveda picked up. I actually went in there because I wanted to have more energy and find out what dosha (the energy types that define our constitution) I was. He was pretty much like, don’t worry about that so much right now, we need to fix your digestion, or more realistically, get it going again! I’ll chat more about the doshas next week, but in the mean time if you’re interested I would recommend doing this quiz here. It’s the more comprehensive one that I have seen online and it matches up perfectly with what the Doctor told me. (I am Pitta-Vata)

Panchakarma

 

Panchakarma is an intense cellular cleansing program that has been used by Ayurvedic practitioners for thousands of years. It includes removing the accumulated toxins from the digestive tract which is where most diseases are born from. You can read more about it here, but in a nutshell this is what I did for almost 3 weeks:

  • ate only warm, cooked foods that included porridge for breakfast and a combination of mung dahl, white basmati rice, vegetables + spices (kitachri) for lunch and dinner
  • only snacked on cooked apples + pears and soaked nuts
  • coffee, alcohol and anything else not on the above list was out
  • drank medicated ghee for the first 5 mornings
  • purged on day 7 (involved me drinking special herbs that then had me the near the bathroom for several hours) A flush in every sense of the word!
  • 10 in-clinic treatments all up including Sirodhara (warm medicated oil poured on the forehead to help the release of neurotoxins), Abhyanga (Ayurvedic Therapeutic Massage) Urdvatana (Herbal Paste Massage and the BEST massage I have ever received!)
  • I sat in a steam box after everyone one of these and after the last 5 I also had enemas. YES, that is someone sticking something up your butt! BUT (no pun intended) think about it, if the root of all disease is in the digestive tract and you have been suffering from digestive complaints for a long time (like me) the best way to get straight up in there is through that little place. And what they’re putting up there is a customised blend of nourishing herbs to start healing ASAP. Taking medication for something that then has to be digested (which I wasn’t doing really well!) seemed like a poor alternative. So I rolled over and …
  • I canned vigorous exercise too and really focused on yoga and meditation at home

And the results are in

I have NEVER in my almost 36 years of life felt so f*cking AMAZING! I bound out of bed, I don’t have a slump at all during the day, I am full of energy, I’ve dropped fluid I was carrying, my skin is glowing and I literally am in love with my life. No tummy aches and no digestive complaints at all! All working like clockwork 😉 Check out my raw, unfiltered images from my Instagram stories.

 

Of course, I am no expert and everyone has a different experience, but this all makes so much sense you know? If you have tried everything and aren’t seeing results, I highly recommend checking Ayurveda out! I will continue by beginner series next week with the elements and doshas.

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