Mind and Body

Fit For You: Ayurveda | WUWM

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“The first time someone hears the word ‘Ayurveda,’ they say, ‘Ayuer-what?'” jokes Carol Nace, Ayurveda practitioner and founder of Bodhi Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is a wellness system that originated in India thousands of years ago, well before modern medicine supplied evidence for the mind-body connection, Nace says.

“It is broken down as a Sanskrit word into two words: ‘ayur’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘veda’ being ‘knowledge.’ Coming together this is about life knowledge and how do we manage our daily life into maintaining good balance and good health,” she explains.

Although the Ayurvedic practices have many components, its ultimate goal is to find people’s true nature. 

Ayurveda’s three pillars of health include:

  • Food: Food in Ayurvedic practices is not simply about what a person eats, “but it’s how, where, when, why do we eat as well.”
  • Sleep: “There’s a lot of research on how quality sleep is important to us. How much sleep we need can vary from person to person, but I think we all know that we feel our best when we’ve had a good night of rest.”
  • Soul-centered conduct: This involves our daily routines, the choices we make and the exercises we incorporate into our lives – such as meditation, yoga, and other practices.

Nace says that even without any knowledge of Ayurveda, one can practice and incorporate these three pillars of health into their lives. For starters, she says self care is incredibly important. “Just be more mindful and aware of what are we doing on a day to day basis. How does that effect us, how does that make us feel?”

Ayurveda stresses the mind and body connection, particularly with what we ingest. Nace says this goes beyond the types of food we eat, but what nutrition it supplies and how we ingest all of the sensory information our body and mind receives throughout the day.

“One of the best answers you can get from any Ayurvedic practitioner when it comes to what should I eat? How much of something should I do? It really should come back as ‘well it depends,'” she says. “Where are you today? How are you feeling? What are some of your habits and how are those contributing to how you feel today and what’s your true nature? We’ve got to unravel a lot of that before we do so.”

Ayurvedic diets aim to be balanced and blissful in nature, something that creates a sense of ease within ourselves, Nace explains. The food should be flavorful; easy to digest; properly cooked; and eaten at the right time, in the right amount, with the right energy. “It does relate to having a whole food diet. Making sure that it’s fresh foods over left-overs or processed foods, organic whenever possible and seasonal.”

She notes that this practice also includes trying to incorporate the proper combination of the six Ayurvedic  tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. “It’s an ebbing and flowing environment that we’re working within.”

In addition to the three health pillars, Ayurveda includes the concept of doshas. “Ironically the term ‘dosha’ actually means ‘fault,’ or always out of ‘balance,'” Nace says.

“As one’s rising, the others are there to try and support it to create balance so it doesn’t go too far out of balance, and that’s when we would start seeing unrest in our digestive system, possibly in our emotions,” she explains. “Eventually if we let these doshas get too far out of balance, we start seeing diseases that we have names for.”

The three doshas are made up of the five elements that nature is composed of: space, air, fire, water, and Earth, Nace explains:

  • Vata: Known as “the king of doshas,” Vata is associated with air and space, or governing movement. “The fact that I can think thoughts and have those move towards my extremities…that is Vata governing. It’s also our inner intelligence, so it’s a very very important Dosha for us to maintain.”
  • Pitta: Dosha of fire and water, it is our fuel for transformation. “Everything we experience, everything we eat, everything we ingest uses Pitta to transform it into memories, recall, and a new self.”
  • Kapha: Made of water and Earth, it governs our stability. “It’s really what we see and what we touch – it’s our physical being.”

“(Doshas) are affected by our choices, so when they get too far out of balance…that’s how we start identifying what are those imbalances happen.” She adds that symptoms can be in our digestive systems, in our emotions, in our physical presentation (over or underweight, skin health, etc.) and bodily functions. “All of those are those clues to figuring out that difference between our true nature and our imbalance.”

While Ayurvedic practices was the officially recognized standard of medicinal practice in India, western medicine has yet to largely integrate functional approaches to treatments. But just as Chinese acupuncture practices have been certified over time in the United States, Nace says Ayurveda is on the same path.

“I definitely have to take the medical care of that individual is under when they come to see me at the utmost regard and respecting that needs to still be maintained as the protocol for their main care,” she says. “If they’re looking for ways to use their lifestyle and diet and things of that nature to help bring about better results to that protocol, that’s where I can really fit in.”


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