The question I get most often is “what is ayurveda?” And while the “what” is important to understand the concepts presented, I think the deeper question is “Why does this matter? Why should I care?” So for the next few weeks I’ll be answering these questions.
Let’s start with pronunciation. Ayurveda is pronounced eye-your-vay-duh. It’s the combination of two Sanskrit words: ayur meaning science, veda meaning life. So the direct translation is the science of life. And this science teaches us how to live in harmony with the cycles, seasons, and patterns occurring in our own lives. The idea being you can get further if you work WITH nature. Like paddling a raft downstream, you use the current to help push you along, only needing to use the oars here and there to straighten yourself out. If you try to paddle upstream, against the current, a) you won’t make nearly any progress but you’ll have exerted far more energy, b) you’ll be tired and exhausted, and c) you remain stagnant by yearning for what’s behind you, not trusting the bounty that’s ahead downstream.
I’ve been studying ayurveda for four years. I learned it about it in my yoga teacher training and was immediately captivated by it. The way the elements play a role in everything, from our bodies, our minds, our relationships, to the food we eat, the seasons, the phases of life, the times of day, all of it made so much sense to me. However, I started to notice people’s eyes glaze over when I spoke about it. So the last four years, I’ve not only been studying how to apply this 5,000+ year old practice to my own life, but I’ve also been thinking and learning how to present it in an approachable and digestible manner that gets people curious and engaged so they can apply it to their own lives.
Lately, I’ve really been into sticky notes. I have them around my computer screen displaying the various goals I have for the next few years; my hopes, dreams, and wishes that feel too lofty to put a date on yet; phrases that randomly pop into my head, and more. Several months ago I wrote “why ayurveda” on a sticky note. I’ve seen it almost everyday since. I would think about it for a few minutes, then let it go and allow my subconscious to do its work bringing it to life. So this series is yet another manifestation of my sticky note shrine and is part of yet a larger goal I have for next year to launch an 8 week course about self care and ayurveda.
Yesterday, I asked several questions on Instagram. One of which was “are you interested in ayurveda? / want to know what it is in the first place?” The overwhelming majority answered yes. So I sat down with a blank piece of paper and, several pads of, you guessed it, sticky notes. I started writing out what ayurveda is, why it matters, how it’s used, and how it’s changed my life. There’s a lot of overlap and yet, I could teach workshops on each one individually. My sticky notes revealed the following:
the science of life
work WITH nature
cycles, seasons, patterns,
gets to the root
made to order
The Four Desires
ultimate self care
held, supported, loved
simple, but not easy
the three pillars of health
sees me as WHOLE
Call me presumptuous, but aren’t we all wondering how to paddle further downstream with less effort and feeling empowered to do so?? Paddling downstream is simple but not necessarily easy. You may experience rapids along the way, or a drastic change in weather, or a back eddy that has you spinning in circles for a bit, but that’s all part of it, don’t you see? When you bring awareness to the present, you notice the different patterns of the water’s surface, or the shifting of the clouds, or the changing of the seasons, then you make the necessary adjustments. You say to yourself “Oh here come those rapids” or “Here comes a thunderstorm” and you know what adjustments to make because you’ve experienced something similar before; it’s not the same storm, but it’s still a storm nonetheless. You make those adjustments BEFORE the situation arises. When you learn to brace for those changes, you learn how to support your own self; you aren’t frantically looking for someone else’s validation saying, yes, you are indeed in the middle of a long set of whitewater rapids with, what seems to be from that angle, no end in sight. And the most important part is that you learn to trust yourself first. Not only, but first.
And that, above all else, is why I’m most grateful for Ayurveda: I’ve learned to trust the wisdom within me to not only weather the storm but to embrace it, learn from it, thank it, then watch it pass on as better weather moves in. And when the better weather moves in, I’ve learned that it won’t last so I embrace it, learn from it, thank it, then watch another storm roll in. Because the weather of my life is not who or what I am, it’s simply an experience. One of my favorite quotes is by Pema Chodron. She says, “you are the sky—everything else is just weather.” And this is what Ayurveda believes too. There is a part of you that is never changing, it’s beyond the limitations of space, time, age, race, gender, and sexual orientation; it’s beyond any label you could ever place on yourself. You learn to pay attention to the subtle and the grandiose, to the pain and the pleasure. And by doing so, you experience the depth of life calling to you, inviting you into deeper relationship with your Self. So my hope for you is that by the end of this series you’ll be intrigued enough to incorporate into your life at least one practice that ayurveda offers so you can experience more pleasure, purpose, freedom, and even prosperity. You’ll learn how to get more done by doing less work. You’ll learn how to work WITH nature. And I pray that you’ll learn how to trust yourself first.