Written by Rachel Stermer
The science of life, called Ayurveda, is a vast subject matter that incorporates highly intelligent methodology for healing ailments of the body, mind, and spirit. Because of Ayurveda’s incredibly far reaching and broad scope, it can be difficult for newcomers to grasp the simple ways in which Ayurveda addresses the many manifestations of illness. This article is dedicated to illuminating just a few of the commonly experienced human sufferings that Ayurveda can ease.
Nowadays, it is commonplace to find all types of dietary needs accommodated on a restaurant’s menu. Gluten free, Vegan, Paleo, Keto, are just a few of the diets people are reaching towards to not only aim for optimum health, but also alleviate suffering caused by a weak digestive system. The growing number of people who are afflicted by food sensitivities and digestive issues is, in part, due to food sources that have been contaminated by chemical and agricultural factors. However, weak digestion is also compounded by lifestyle choices and incompatible food combining that exacerbate an already weakened system.
Ayurveda teaches that proper digestion or balanced Agni, the digestive fire, is keystone for health. There are many individualized pathways Ayurveda takes to balancing this fire. Some of these might include eating compatible foods, utilizing the techniques of dipan and pachan (respectively kindling the digestive fire and burning toxicity out of the system with herbs or various lifestyle practices), properly managed fasting, and exercise, to name a few techniques. Ayurveda views food as medicine and when taken in the right quantity, at the right time, with a proper attitude, this food not only nourishes, but also heals the entire system. Anecdotally, I have personally seen Ayurvedic practices support many people to move beyond food sensitivities and digestive distress.
The average person spends one third of their lifetime sleeping! Naturally, sleep is foundational for us to function well during the other two thirds of our waking life. Just as digestive issues are widespread, sleep disorders are also commonly experienced and contribute to the degradation of so many aspects of human well being. Without proper sleep, digestion suffers, emotional balance is disturbed, elimination thrown off, and we miss our chance to rejuvenate in a world where we need that the most. As with digestion, causes for sleep disorders are inherent in the structure of modern society; the advent of electricity has disturbed circadian rhythms. While causes are many, Ayurveda addresses these root disturbances with a variety of effective ways to promote sound, healing sleep. Herbal drinks like Ashwaghanda Milk, body treatments such as Abhyanga and Shirodhara, and contemplative practices like meditation, are just a few of the ways Ayurveda directly addresses sleep issues. Many times when digestion is corrected through proper diet and lifestyle, sleep falls into place. And, when sleep is sound, digestion also improves!
Another widespread health concern is maintaining energy levels throughout the day. As with the root causes for imbalanced digestion and sleep, it could be argued that people are generally exhausted because of the Vata deranged society we exist within. This means that there are no regenerative pauses built into the daily grind. Sitting in traffic, rushing about, watching television, staring at a phone and sitting for hours every day are simply not energizing experiences. For many people, this is how the day is spent. Ayurveda offers much wisdom in the realm of energy cultivation. Inherent in improving digestion and sleep is the liberation of our life force energy, or prana. In this regard, all three of these facets influence and improve the other. Additionally, Ayurveda offers yogic techniques, breathing exercises, sleep/wake cycle habits, and lifestyle practices in combination with rejuvenative herbal substances to ameliorate energy.
As with the previously discussed tenants of health, emotional balance is paramount to living your best life. Feeling well emotionally is intricately connected to balanced energy, sleep, and digestion. Ayurveda addresses the health of body, mind, and spirit and says that these three are literally the tripod upon which a human being stands. Each leg of the three is essential to good health and we can look to Ayurvedic medicine as consistent, holistic scaffolding. While treating digestion, sleep, and energy will influence emotions, Ayurveda also offers techniques to directly address the mind and heart. Central to these techniques is meditation and yoga. Herbal substances, oils, exercise, and working with the body to clear trauma and negative imprinting can also support emotional health and are just a few examples from the vast materia medica Ayurveda uses to address emotions.
It is critical to emphasize that the issues highlighted in this article are some of the most commonly experienced imbalances that human’s face and are by no means exhaustive of the imbalances Ayurveda can treat. Digestion, sleep and energy are all key factors in the creation of emotional well being and likewise influence each other in steadying the tripod that a person stands upon. Ayurveda has much to offer and it is the intention of this article to share just a sampling of the ways that addressing just one of these facets of health may assist you in improving your life, as a whole.