Ayurveda – An ancient wisdom for aging adults
Ayurveda (pronounced ayeyour-vay-duh) is understood to be one of the world’s oldest health systems, originating in India more than 5,000 years ago. When translated, Ayruveda means ‘knowledge of life’ and is a sister science of the more commonly known practice of Yoga. Ayurveda is now being recognized as a reputable approach to total health, complementing Western medicine with the wisdom of the East. The philosophy is simple – we are meant to live with our body and mind in their natural, balanced state.
What is balance?
Working symbolically with the elements of nature, including air, ether, water, fire and earth, Ayurvedic tradition understands that these forces manifest in the body as three energy systems (Doshas) – Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. A practitioner may recognize you as a Kapha if you’re naturally calm, patient and caring. As a Pitta, you are direct and like to get things done. As a Vata, you tend to be very energetic and creative.
Preserving your constitution leads to optimal health. Like the changing seasons, our energy systems evolve, and change, with time. When born, we were in need of developmental support, realized in the element of earth and the nurturing qualities of water (Kapha). The surge of growth and learning in adolescence is represented in fire (Pitta). In maturity, at a different pace of life, the air and ether around us challenge our bodies to stay nourished and vital (Vata). Our muscles become thirsty, our joints dry and our minds labour – begging us to take better care.
The vata years
Don’t over exert: Slow down and embrace activities that will encourage restoration, like yoga, swimming and leisurely walks. Balance high impact activities with gentle, intermittent movement.
Increase self-care: Give your body, and mind, some love and attention. Try massage, meditation, soaking and stretching.
Bring back a routine: Assess daily practices that you find enjoyable and work them into your routine. Maybe it’s that first cup of tea, a morning walk with the dog or a brain-teasing word puzzle.
Change your environment: If feasible, seek out warm, moisture-rich climates for revitalization, especially in the cold, dry winter months. Otherwise, get outside.
Eat with the seasons: Consuming fresh food cultivated in-season, aligns your body with the energy of the earth. Root vegetables, including potatoes, carrots and parsnips, ground you throughout the year.
Drink water: Replenish the natural moisture that is lacking as we age. Consume warm, or room-temperature, water throughout the day.
To help counter-balance aging, Ayurveda treats the root cause. You might be experiencing joint pain or inflammation, but treatment may be connected to your digestive system. Working with a practitioner, your daily routine would be reviewed, including the intake of food and drink (and expulsion), ritualistic tendencies, exercise regimes and environment, as well as hair and skin care. A personalized program would be developed as a result of an assessment, along with suggestions for daily self-care routines and lifestyle habits, in addition to a customized nutrition plan – all in an attempt to re-balance your body.
Kaely Bell is an Ayurvedic Counsellor and Yoga instructor.