I didn’t choose Ayurveda—it chose me. After years of working in the higher education field, I was burnt out. I was stressed, my weight was up, my joints hurt, and I wasn’t sleeping well. I developed digestive problems, headaches, sinus infections, and asthma. My moods were up and down; I was forgetful and irritable. I relied on caffeine to get me going in the morning, and wine to de-stress and unwind. My days were filled with trying to get everything done, and my weekends were filled with catch-up.
I spent years being diagnosed with a myriad of diseases, including fibromyalgia, depression, Lyme disease, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I was taking numerous medications for all those diagnosed illnesses. I’d go to the doctor and be prescribed the latest drug for my latest symptoms. No one tried to understand the underlying cause of my health problems.
I was eventually introduced to alternative healing and then restorative yoga and Ayurveda. My vitality improved and my energy gradually increased. It was amazing! I made the decision to help others discover how this avenue of health can improve their lives as it did mine. With just a gut feeling telling me that it was the right thing to do, I applied to the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. I chose Kripalu because I had heard such wonderful things about it, and because the format of the Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant training fit my life and schedule. A Kripalu Scholarship enabled me to attend.
From the first moment I drove up the driveway to Shadowbrook, I felt myself exhale and relax. I was amazed at the diversity of my class—all ages, all stages in life and all nationalities.
The program was rigorous and exacting, blending Western anatomical science with the ancient wisdom of the East. I loved the format: After a 10-day intensive on-site, we had a month at home to assimilate all the information. We were exposed to teachers from all over the world—accomplished and gifted leaders in the field of Ayurveda.
Armed with the basic tools of Ayurveda and the support and encouragement of new friends from my Kripalu graduating class (we have a class Facebook page and a reunion event in the works), I launched my business in my new hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (I’m originally from London, England). I was amazed—people really wanted to hear about Ayurveda! My clients come to me because they’re tired of not feeling 100 percent, and they want to be heard and try something that makes sense. I help people balance their health through diet, lifestyle, and herbs. I help them get to the root cause of their problems, and educate them so they have the tools necessary to maintain their health. I have taken my passion for teaching and combined it with my love of holistic health.
Just six months after I launched the business, my husband was offered a job opportunity in Pittsburgh. I started from scratch again, and I’m finding that Pittsburgh is very open to Ayurveda. My business is thriving, with more clients coming every week. I taught six Fall Cleanse workshops in September. And I continue to teach and see clients back in Harrisburg.
I credit my success to partnering with other organizations, including gyms, yoga studios, and wellness centers. I’ve been invited to join the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical Schools Center for Integrative Medicine, and I’m exploring the possibility of setting up an Ayurvedic Sanctuary next year with Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s Holistic Healing Center in Farmington, Pennsylvania. I also chair the National Ayurvedic Medical Association’s Ayurveda Exam subcommittee.
I find it tremendously rewarding to see people overcome their health challenges and regain that lust for life that comes from being full of energy and vitality. When you feel healthy and happy, it has a ripple effect, touching every aspect of your life and igniting your passion for everything that life has to offer.
Ayurveda promotes mental well-being by bringing the body and mind back into balance through following the rhythms of nature.
“When the body becomes exhausted from living again the stream, we don’t have the energy, so we become anxious,” says Kripalu presenter and Ayurveda expert John Douillard. “And when we become totally exhausted, we become depressed.”
From an Ayurvedic perspective, depression and anxiety are symptoms of a system that is overtaxed and out of whack. Massage, nasal breathing, meditation, resetting our internal clock, doing yoga, and even eating warm foods can help us get out of that state of chronic imbalance.
Here are eight simple Ayurvedic practices to help reset your system.
Abhyanga, daily self-massage with oil, calms the nervous system and boosts immunity by removing toxins that have traveled from our organs to the skin. As part of a daily routine, it also helps to lubricate muscles, tissues, and joints. Place oil in your nose and ears to help prevent sore throats, sinus congestion, and allergies.
Nasal breathing while walking or exercising activates a calming vagal response and drives oxygen more efficiently into the lower lobes of the lungs, compared to mouth breathing.
Try to move snack food to meal times and eat three meals a day.
Get to bed before 10:00 pm. The longer you stay up past 10:00 pm, the more wired and exhausted you become.
Eat warm cooked foods slowly and calmly to balance the nervous system.
Do Sun Salutations slowly with deep nasal breathing to open the diaphragm. Just 10 minutes in the morning can have a dramatic impact.
Do 30 seconds of Bhastrika, or Bellows Breath, followed by 30 seconds of sitting still with your eyes closed. Repeat up to 10 times a day to reset your nervous system. Bhastrika is a forceful breath in and out of the nose that fills the lungs. A study from the Department of Physiology at Nepal College concluded that slow-paced Bhastrika pranayama resulted in a significant decrease in blood pressure and a slight drop in heart rate in study participants.
Consider bacopa, an herb that supports mood and emotional stability. Bacopa monnierihas been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat a host of ailments, including memory loss, depression, and poor concentration. According to Ayurveda, the inability to focus is connected to our energy levels because the mind and body require a certain amount of energy to settle down and focus. A 2002 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found using Bacopa monnieri may improve memory. After three months, 76 participants ages 40 to 65 were better able to retain new information and didn’t forget it as quickly as the placebo group.
According to Ayurveda, every food can be both a medicine or a poison depending on how and when it is consumed and who is consuming it. The basic rule of thumb in most ancient healing traditions is that like increases like, and opposites balance. Green smoothies are not inherently bad or good. They do however have certain qualities that can be helpful or harmful depending on each person. In general, green smoothies are heavy, cold, sweet, sticky, smooth, and liquid in nature. If a person has a weak digestive capacity, then a green smoothie might not be the best choice for them. Also, we must take into consideration the season, time of day the smoothie is consumed, and the overall current state of health of the person consuming the smoothie. For example, if a person who is Kapha dominant drinks a smoothie in Spring Time when Kapha is naturally higher than usual it has a potential to create further disturbance in the body. However if a person with a strong digestive capacity consumes the same smoothie in the proper season, it can be beneficial.
If you are one of those people who is addicted to your green smoothie, I would like to offer a few tips on how to make it more digestible and balanced.
Adding ginger, honey, turmeric and cinnamon will help by adding a bit of heat to the smoothie and making it more digestible.
Never use frozen fruits and vegetables. Try switching to fresh fruits and vegetables instead.
Don’t make it too thick. If it is on the thinner side, it is easier for your body to digest.
According to Ayurveda, children have a natural predominancy ofKapha Dosha until they are at least 20 years old (some ancient texts say up to 30 years old). Healthy Kapha is necessary for healthy growth and development, however if the Kapha is poor in quality, or too much in quantity, disease can occur. Excess Kapha can lead to the formation of toxins in the body and this creates a swampy environment that acts as a lovely host for unwanted bacteria and virus’s and can also lead to digestive issues such as poor appetite, indigestion, obesity and skin issues such as eczema. When there is an excess of kapha and/or toxins in the body, there will naturally be less hunger. If your child is not hungry, their natural internal regulation system may be taking over. All children are different, some need more food and some need less. If you have a picky eater, I would suggest allowing your child to let your child get slightly hungry before chasing them around with a spoonful of their food favorite food just so they eat something. Also, when they are hungry they are more likely to enjoy new foods that they might not try otherwise. It’s perfectly okay for your child to get a little bit hungry. If we keep feeding our children snack after snack without allowing the previous meal to digest, we are not letting their digestive fire complete it’s job. It’s like adding wet logs on a dying flame. I would recommend having your child eat 3 square meals a day. If they are hungry in between, try offering them a healthy light snack such as seasonal fruit or a rice cake. Another wonderful thing you can do to help boost your child’s health is to oil them up! Warmed unrefined sesame oil is wonderful for improving digestion, circulation, metabolism and immunity, and decreasing stress. It is recommended to oil them all over their entire body before bath time at least once a week. This is a wonderful way for you to connect to your children and spend some extra time loving them up!
Here are some common ailments that children suffer from, and home remedies you can give them to help.
Tummy ache- Bishops weed (ajwain seed) and Cumin with warm water or mixed with honey.
Constipation- 1 teaspoon of Ghee at night or 10-15 raisins or dates.
Gas/Bloating- Mix 1 pinch of Asafetida (also known as hing) with a spoonfull of ghee and rub around the belly area in circular motions. Try a small test patch on the arm first to make sure the skin does not react. (If your child has extremely sensitive skin there is a possibility of redness or rash occurring)
Cold/Allergies – 1 teaspoon of Raw Honey with Turmeric and Black pepper mixed in.
Raw honey is a wonderful natural medicine to help prevent springtime allergies! According to Ayurveda, excess kapha (earth and water) and Ama (toxicity) in the body are the two main contributing factors to seasonal allergies. Just a spoonful of honey in the morning can help to remove excess kapha and ama because honey has specific qualities that have mild scraping action on the body. Just make sure you are not heating the honey by adding it to tea or hot water. According to Ayurveda, honey that has been heated becomes mildly toxic because it creates a sticky glue like substance in the body. Raw honey can be found at your local Natural Foods store or Farmer’s Market. (Please note: Honey should never be given to infants under the age of 12 months old.)
Ever notice that grapes look just like alveoli? Interestingly enough, it is written in the Ancient Ayurvedic texts that grapes are good for strengthening the respiratory system, especially good for treating patients with asthma and bronchitis. Like many Ayurvedic theories, modern research has since proven this to be true, they have discovered that resveratrol, found in the skins of red grapes can help treat Athsma and COPD. This is just one example of the many foods that have an uncanny resemblance to the human body parts they nourish. Have you ever really looked at a walnut? It looks exactly like a human brain! It is no surprise that walnuts have also been mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts as beneficial for the brain tissue. Next time you peel that banana, or slice open that avocado, think about what body part it might benefit and do some research, you’ll be amazed at what you find!
I used to think I needed to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day! I would carry around an enormous bottle of cold water with me and chug it throughout the day. Of course, I was just trying to do what I thought was best for my body. I thought I was flushing out the toxins in my body with every trip I took to the bathroom ( which by the way was almost hourly). I had no concept of Ayurveda at this time in my life, however, now I can see why the digestive disease I had suffered from for so many years was just being aggravated by my excessive water intake. I was literally drowning in all of the water I was drinking. Now I understand that in order to destroy ama (toxicity), one must kindle the agni (digestive fire). Toxicity cannot be flushed out, it needs to burn. By drinking cold water, I was unknowingly dousing out my digestive fire, because of this my food was not digesting properly and the toxins were floating around in my body. Now that I understand the Ayurvedic perspective on water, I am no longer perpetuating this cycle. Instead, I use only charcoal filtered tap water which I boil every morning. Not only does the boiling kill any remaining bacteria in the water, it also makes the water easier to digest because of the fact that we are adding the element of fire. Throughout the day, I carry a double insulated with me, and only drink warm water or herbal tea, and only when I am thirsty. I have stopped drinking ice cold water entirely, and have seen dramatic improvements in my digestion.