It seems we have always been told that if we want to be healthy, we should start the day with a big breakfast, drink 8 glasses of water, avoid eating fats, sleep longer on weekends and do vigorous exercise every day, without fail!
However, Ayurveda tells us differently, that we should have a light breakfast, drink water only when thirsty, eat certain fats, never sleep in on weekends and do exercise only when we don’t have any aches or PMS.
Who to believe? In today’s global society, we are constantly bombarded by online media, magazines, television and radio programs that all too often provide quite contradictory advice and it’s easy to become confused.
Research will tell us one thing, then that is negated by another report and so on and so on and we are left in a quandary as to what is healthy and what is harmful. At one time I, too, felt myself lost in the labyrinth of conflicting information related to our health. Then I came across Ayurveda, which I have since studied, practiced and taught and I am now sure in my knowledge of how to obtain and sustain health and wellbeing.
Ayurveda is a science that has stood the test of time
Ayurveda is ancient medical wisdom from India and has been in existence for around 5,000 years, as effective today as it was then, in contrast to modern medical systems which are relatively new and in a constant state of development. The reason we may not be familiar with Ayurveda is that for many years it was banned by the British colonists.
When other medical systems fail, Ayurveda often provides amazing results and that is why it is experiencing a resurgence. In my own experience, I am deeply convinced that only Ayurveda could have helped me overcome my anorexia nervosa. I believe Ayurveda’s four dimensional approach was the perfect (and only) approach to treat such a problem involving all four dimensions (mind, body, soul and senses)
Ayurveda promotes health equally at all levels
One of the best and most inspiring things about Ayurveda is that it teaches us, and actively promotes, how we can become and stay healthy equally at all levels. It is a whole medical system and Rishi Sushrut, one of the authors of the Ayurveda texts from ancient times, is actually considered the grandfather of modern surgery even in western medicine.
There is a complete sub branch of Ayurveda which is called Svasthavritta, Svastha meaning health, and Svasthvritta meaning the behavior, actions and habits which help to keep us healthy. These teachings tell us why some of the habits that modern media tells us are healthy, can in fact be harmful.
Start the day with a big breakfast
Ayurveda’s suggested daily routine (known as Dinacharya) tells us that we should have lighter meals at breakfast and dinner, and that lunch should be the biggest meal. This is because Ayurveda follows the natural circadian rhythm, believing that we should follow the course of the sun, being solar powered beings, in our everyday routines in order to be naturally healthy.
In Ayurveda, the state of our digestion is considered a reflection of overall health. Accordingly, since our greatest capacity for digestion is around noon, when the sun is fully risen, that’s the time we should have our biggest meal. After having eaten heavier breakfasts and dinners all my life, my digestion and overall health have definitely improved after making my biggest meal lunch.
Drink 8 glasses of water every day
According to Ayurveda, we should drink water (and any other liquids actually) only when we feel thirsty. When we drink more that our body needs, this excess water intake can, in fact, lead to problems with digestion, skin, obesity and other health issues. So, if your body signals thirst, drink 8 glasses, but if it doesn’t, then drink as much as you feel the need to.
Avoid eating fats
In a society where an unprecedented number of people are obese, it seems only normal to want to avoid eating fats altogether, although both Ayurveda and western medicine tell us that everybody needs fat, as long as it is the healthy kind of fat. So, no matter how fat you are, it is recommended that you do have healthy fat intake from sources such as nuts, avocados, coconut and mustard oils, and ghee (fat from clarified butter).
However, Ayurveda teaches us that fats are beneficial only to the extent that you are able to digest them, so those who are obese should have a fairly small amount of fat, ideally ghee, in their diets to be good for them.
My close friends can testify to my whole hearted enjoyment of ghee and I can say for myself that I definitely have greater satisfaction from eating after having overcome my fear of fat.
Sleep longer on weekends
Somehow there exists this idea that we can miss out on sleep during the work week and then make up for it on weekends by sleeping in. I was guilty of this pattern but now try to stick to a regular pattern of sleep, since Ayurveda tells us that following good sleep habits every day, is considered one of the three fundamental pillars of health. You will be surprised at the difference it makes when you go to bed at 10.30 every night at the latest and get up at 6 every morning at the latest.
Do vigorous exercise every day, without fail
I really fell hard for this supposedly healthy habit and put up with cracking joints and various aches and pains in the belief it was good for me. In Ayurveda, there is no one rule that fits everybody and the individual has to find out for him / herself when, how much, what kind of exercise, etc. is most beneficial, depending on strength and various other factors. According to Ayurveda, women should never exercise when they have their menstrual period, and both men and women shouldn’t do any strenuous exercise when they are infirm, ill or already exhausted from other activity.
The natural seasonal wisdom of Ayurveda teaches us we can do vigorous exercise when we are physically stronger such as in spring and winter months, whereas in summer and early fall, vigorous exercise in the heat and dryness will actually exhaust and deplete us and we need a gentler exercise routine.
My life has truly changed for the better in countless ways since I started following the teachings of Ayurveda but don’t just take me at my word. Try the Ayurveda way for yourself and feel and see the amazing difference it makes!