Ayurveda (eye-your-vayda) is one of the oldest wellness practices in the world. While it dates back thousands of years, it has experienced a recent surge of popularity as yoga has gone more mainstream. The general purpose of Ayurveda is to mindfully maintain a healthy and strong body through diet, exercise and overall lifestyle practices—with much emphasis put on maintaining a proper energy balance.
Ayurveda is considered a form of alternative medicine in the United States. It believes that health and wellness are dependent upon a balance between the mind, body, and spirit.
“Ayurveda is ‘the science of life,’” Larry Mangel, certified Ayurvedic practitioner at Shanti Yoga and Ayurveda in Philadelphia, explains to MyDomaine. “The traditional science of Ayurvedic medicine is designed to bring the body back into balance so it can heal itself,” he explains.
Meet the Expert
Larry Mangel is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner at Shanti Yoga and Ayurveda in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with over 12 years of experience. He is also a Professional Practitioner member of NAMA, the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and serves on the membership and fundraising committees.
Ayurveda believes that true health is adjusting for everything that modern life throws at us by bringing your body back to how it was when you were born, with the first line of defense in combating imbalances identifying and removing the cause of the imbalances. “Ayurveda also teaches that healthy digestive fire is the other key to sustained health,” Mangel continues. “It attributes 80% of all disease to imbalances of the digestive system and, therefore, much attention is given to its maintenance.”
To achieve the needed balance and healthy digestion, Mangel explains that Ayurveda encourages us to eat specific foods, herbs and spices which will bring our particular bodies into better balance. “It encourages walking in nature and breathing fresh air, easy yoga poses, and meditation,” he says, pointing out that oftentimes recommendations will be different for each person regarding which foods and which lifestyle they should follow in order to find balance.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to Ayurveda, as it looks at each individual as a unique combination of five elements: air, space, fire, water, and earth. It breaks everyone down into three body types: Vata dosha or winter, Pitta dosha or summer, and Kapha dosha or spring. To learn more about your constitution you can visit a NAMA certified Ayurvedic Practitioner or take a Constitution Quiz.
However, anyone can incorporate Ayurveda into their life. Here are 10 easy ways to do it:
Rinse Your Eyes With Cold Water Each Morning
Giving your eyes a splash of cold water when you wake up in the morning, is a refreshing and restorative way to start the day. Bhaswati Bhattacharya, MD, an Ayurvedic Expert, explains that because your eyes are made mostly of fat, the coldness will keep their shape, counter the heat from the light of the sun and computer screens, and will trap moisture to prevent dry eyes. “The cold water lowers (alochaka pitta) the heat that governs the transformation of light in the eyes,” she says.
Meet the Expert
Bhaswati Bhattacharya, MD, is an Ayurvedic Expert and Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University in New York.
Add ½ Teaspoon of Ghee to Hot Water in the Autumn
Dr. Bhattacharya also suggests starting your autumn mornings off with ghee water. “While sipping, massage sesame oil in spiral strokes from the knees to the toes, and from the elbows to the fingertips; then shower,” she says. “The oil lowers nervous system (vata), the microcosms of chaotic movement in the body that you cannot see but can feel as lack of perfect clarity and focus. The sheen of oil after the shower will keep the body moist and ground the monkey mind or anxiety.” Another interesting Ayurvedic belief? Drinking out of a copper cup helps balance the doshas, or energies.
Change Your Toothpastes for the Season
Many of us use the same toothpaste year round. However, Dr. Bhattacharya suggests switching them out by the season. “In the dry, cold, windy autumn, opt for a toothpaste with sweeter, warm flavors such as cinnamon, cardamom, and clove,” she says. If you suffer from bleeding gums, she suggests adding a dash of turmeric. “Rinse away the unneeded seeds of illness with these medicinal herbs,” she explains.
Start Each Day With Something Pleasing to the 5 Senses
Dr. Bhattacharya emphasizes the importance of invigorating your senses first thing in the morning. “Find something lovely to smell, such as incense or a scented candle; something sweet to the eyes, your favorite eye candy, a beautiful painting, or a photo of someone who warms your heart; something tasty, such as a cup of tea or a flavor you love; a sweet sound such as a chant, birds singing, or the sound of a young child; and something soft and sensual such as a warm towel, a silk scarf or a fluffy bathmat,” she explains. “When the senses begin on a high note, the day is framed for happiness.”
Eat Your Biggest Meal at Lunch, and Fulfill Your Food Cravings
If you want to eat the Ayurvedic way—eat your main meal midday. “When the sun is high in the sky, it is high in the belly,” Dr. Bhattacharya says. This gives your body ample time to digest your food before bedtime. As for the meal itself, Mangel suggests a balance of whole grains, cooked vegetables, beans, and salad with mild spices for your body type, avoiding cold drinks, and sipping on some warm herbal tea if possible. Also, he suggests taking 30 minutes to relax after your big meal.
Practice Deep Breathing
“Deep breath mindful breathing improves the flow of oxygen giving you an instant well-being,” explains Wellness Expert and certified Ayurvedic practitioner Denise Baron.
Try Oil Pulling
Baron suggests trying oil pulling, an ancient ayurvedic daily ritual that has gone mainstream over the last several years. “Gargling and swishing with sesame oil helps strengthen the teeth and gums while improving the sense of taste,” she explains. Oil pulling can be done with pretty much any oil—such as coconut, olive, or sesame—however Baron recommends a cinnamon inspired flavor by Banyan Botanicals called Daily Swish.
Create an Unwinding Bedtime Ritual
“Adopting a daily routine is very powerful and purposeful, providing you with an opportunity to prioritize your health and well-being,” explains Baron. She points out that self-care rituals can also help you balance your energy and boost your health. “When the sun goes down that is a signal to slow down reduce screen time on electrical devices,” she adds. Whether your unwind ritual involves mediation, lighting candles, taking a hot bath, or reading, make sure it is something that helps you relax and unwind from the stressors of your day.
Massage Your Feet
Slowing down the energy is an important concept in Ayurvedic medicine. An easy way to do this is by learning a simple foot massage technique. There are several acupressure points called "marma" at specific places on the foot that correspond to the body. “Massage your feet before bedtime,” Baron suggests, “and if you have kids massage their feet too.”
Try Scraping Your Tongue
Another common Ayurvedic practice is tongue scraping, believed to promote oral hygiene and stimulate digestion. “You can use a stainless steel scraper or even a spoon (no plastic!) to carefully remove bacteria and toxins from your tongue,” Baron says.