Health is a very personal concept that will mean different things to each individual. It also may change as we reach certain phases of our life. Health is a moving target, something we need to consciously strive to maintain, and we often don’t notice the state of our health until an illness strikes or we simply feel off. Finding health does not mean finding perfection, healing, or immortality. Healing is a life’s journey and perfection does not exist - if it does, perhaps that is what we will find in an afterlife.
Ayurveda is a subject I was first exposed to in my yoga teacher training and I received a very baseline understanding of the discipline. Ayurveda is an ancient science and the medical limb of Yoga translating to the “knowledge of life”. For me, this changed the way I looked at food. For instance, Ayurveda gives you basic parameters for your diet: eating what’s in season, saving your raw/cold food for the summer months, and your warm/cooked foods for the winter. Another basic rule of thumb in Ayurveda is to have 3 meals a day, with NO snacking. By practicing these simple guidelines, I lost around 10 pounds within months of finishing my yoga teacher training (I was adding in more yoga of course, which helped!) However, Ayurveda is not simply a diet, but for me, following Ayurvedic principles in how I ate and what I ate, transformed my relationship with food. It broke old patterns of turning to food for comfort, out of boredom, or the oh-so-famous emotional eating habit!
This past weekend in school we had a highly trained Ayurvedic Practitioner and Western Naturopathic Doctor teach Ayurveda. I feel that the more I learn, the less I know. In Ayurveda there are different constitutions or primary elements that dictate your body type, and how you function physically, mentally, and emotionally. For instance, if you are primarily fire (pitta) you will most likely love spicy foods and hot weather, but if you're imbalanced, these things will aggravate you. So, I found out that my constitution, which is called a "dosha", which I determined through a basic “what’s my dosha” quiz, was incorrect. Taking such an intricate discipline and trying to boil it down to a few short questions in a quiz isn't always the most effective. This practitioner took one look at me and noticed how I talk, walk, and present myself and instantly knew my dosha. You want to take a quiz now, don’t you? There’s no shame in it! My caution is, if you are really interested in learning more, seek out a practitioner. I’ve been living for the past 2 years thinking I was something different, avoiding certain foods, when really, it probably threw me more out of balance. John Douillard has a wonderful newsletter with tons of free resources, and trusted products, I highly recommend you check out his site: https://lifespa.com/ayurvedic-health-quizzes/body-type-quiz/
I left this weekend feeling awakened to a new version of myself and slightly frustrated I had identified with an incorrect diet/guideline for my body type. There has been no harm done, but my entire cohort left the weekend learning we all are in need of some major detoxing. How can a group of Integrative Health students be loaded with toxins!? That’s when it occurred to me, we need to of course use discretion and notice how we feel. Eating the "wrong" foods for my dosha didn't totally derail my health. Health is personal and entirely dependent on one's tolerance of pain, discomfort, and awareness of their body. For some, fitting into the same pair of jeans is a sign of health, for others it is running a marathon, but most importantly - for us all, health should mean we feel alive - with a beating heart, fresh oxygen coming into our lungs, and gratitude for the beauty of life.