What the heck is Ayurveda?

Honestly, the first time I heard the word Ayurveda I was thinking hand cream. But nope, thatÔÇÖs Aloe Vera ­čśé. While Aloe Vera is a nice plant that contains gel with lots of healing benefits (e.g. anti-inflammatory and great for sunburn) Ayurveda is something else. It was developed a looong time ago in India and I like to think of it as the Indian medicine system, just like we have our Western medicine. However, compared with Western medicine, Ayurveda is completely different, if not actually quite the opposite. It is a back-to-basics and back to nature approach to living life. It is focused on how to live life in the best possible way so that you can feel and live your best self. In order to do so, there are some basic principles in Ayurveda that provide guidelines on how to take care of our bodies and minds to prevent any disease from actually developing. This is in opposition to Western medicine, where it is more about treating the issue or disease that has already appeared, which is why one does not exclude the other. In the following, I want to take a little glimpse into some of these principles to give you a first impression of what this Ayurveda thing is all about.

Food food food

We are what we eat, right? Ayurveda takes this saying quite seriously, and its teachings revolve a lot around the topic of food and digestion. Some things I learned about Ayurveda and food: Different to how we would logically classify food according to vitamins, calories, and minerals, in Ayurveda it is more about the holistic energy of food and its quality (is it fresh or old, hot or cold, hard or soft), and also its seasonality (is it a winter food, like squash and stews, or a summer food, like watermelon and coconut water). Picking the right food is essential for our overall health and well-being, and should always be dependent on the time as well as our personal constitution (weÔÇÖll get to that in a moment). Furthermore, there is nothing better we can do for our health than cooking by and for ourselves. It allows us to put all the right things in and to prepare them with love and consciousness. When we eat high-processed and fast foods, eat sugar and drink alcohol and coffee*, eat too much or too little, too late at night, or summer foods in the winter (or the other way round), our health and feeling of wellbeing suffers greatly, and there is no love coming in whatsoever. There is this Ayurvedic proverb: ÔÇťWhen diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.ÔÇŁ But in order to have the correct diet, according to Ayurveda, it is not only important what we eat, but also how we eat. If we eat on-the-go, hurridly, or under strong emotions like stress, we create anxiety for our body and force it to rush the digestive process. Therefore, taking the time to eat nourishing, self-prepared meals in a relaxed setting makes all the difference.

*A quick note to all coffee lovers: According to Ayurveda, drinking coffee is unfortunately really not that great. However, if there is no way around it, limiting coffee to one cup a day and sticking to organic coffee only is highly recommended!

Self-care routines

Ayurveda is a strong believer in regular, nature-inspired routines to enhance wellbeing. The small things we do every day have a tremendous effect on our health in the long-term. One of these routines is for example giving yourself an oil-massage in the morning (called Abhyanga). Massaging your whole body with warm oil is seen as one of the most important routines for total health, as it calms the nervous system and therefore relieves stress by lowering cortisol. It furthermore helps to detox and supports the lymphatic flow. Another routine is to eat meals at the same time every day, with consuming the last meal a minimum of three hours before going to bed, optimally at around 6pm. Regular mealtimes help the body to know when to expect food and therefore contributes to better digestion and hormonal balance. Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning is another ritual to take care of the body and the digestive fire. Drinking very cold water on the other hand extinguishes this fire and slows digestion down.

Individual constitution

The topic of constitutions is quite a complex one, but I will try to provide you with a basic understanding, as it is kind of at the core of Ayurveda. So, according to Ayurveda, every individual on this planet has their own personal constitution, consisting of the elements of fire, ether, water, air, and earth. Depending on which of these elements is the strongest in you, you can be classified as Vata (ether & air), Pitta (fire and water), or Kapha (water & earth). Knowing which constitution you are allows you to then take specific actions to balance it out because we shouldnÔÇÖt be in one of these constitutions too much, as that results in lower wellbeing (e.g. having constipation, headaches, insomnia, etc.). If you are for example primarily Vata (very light and airy) it is important to engage in more grounding kinds of exercise, like Yin Yoga, and eat warm and nourishing foods. If you are on the other hand more Kapha, it is suggested to practice more high intense forms of exercise and eat lighter foods. There are numerous online tests that you can take to see which constitution you are, which is definitely super interesting! If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda, Yoga, and health, head over to my Podcast Yoga by Nicole, or my Instagram @nicimvs. I would also be super happy if youÔÇÖd subscribe to my weekly newsletter, where I will keep you posted about my learnings and things happening. Enjoy your day and lots of love xx