You did it! You survived winter, some powerful full moons, the equinox and the intense solar storms. Now that we are out on the other side of hibernation-mode, we can begin turning our faces towards the sun and give our bodies some much-needed spring nurturing. Since I discovered the Eastern medicine system of Ayurveda and started applying the practices in my daily life, it has become a transformative force for my own well-being and energy, and well as how I engage in the sustainable development of the world around me. Maybe it can also inspire you!
Extending the goal of health to embrace the health of our environment
A lot of people are practicing yoga, and have touched the surface of its essence, but less attention is given to Ayurveda, yoga’s system of healing. Practiced for over 5000 years by the sages and seers of ancient India, Ayurveda is an equally important branch of the yogic tradition’s tree of knowledge and extends even further into the realm of health and disease treatment. And if we start listening, it can teach us age-old lessons on how to tune into the subtle indicators of improved health in our inner and outer environment.
First of all, in the Ayurvedic medicine system, ‘health’ goes much further than the body, mind, and spirit, but also includes the health of our relationships to our surrounding ecosystems. Because everything is interconnected, what happens in one part of the system, will, in turn, affect another. This means that if we take care of our personal ecology while reaching for our highest collective potential, we also contribute to creating more harmony and sustainability in the system as a whole. And all we have to do is ask is – what would Nature do?
“And all we have to do is ask is – what would Nature do?”
Learning to know your Nature, and how to care for it
We like to think that we are in control of everything in our lives, and tend to forget that we are also part of a much larger flow, the universal river of Mother Nature. This river is in continuous movement, flushing away any sign of stagnation. The same goes for our bodies. In Ayurvedic theory, every human being has a unique constitution, as if each of us represents an entirely unique solar system or cascading river.
This individual nature is called the Prakriti. If there is an imbalance in our Prakriti over time, this will cause disease. To explain the balance between the different constitutions of our bodies, Ayurveda uses the three doshas – the elemental constitutions of vata, pitta, and kapha. If there is an imbalance in either of these, meaning too little or too much of either, your body and mind will also be out of balance. Following the Ayurvedic guidelines for your individual dosha will help awaken and reinvigorate the inner intelligence that supports your natural healing process.
“Following the Ayurvedic guidelines for your individual dosha will help awaken and reinvigorate the inner intelligence that supports your natural healing process.”
When everything flows freely – from blood and lymph to water and air – the waste will leave the body as it should, and be recycled back into our environment. In the body, this waste (called ama in Sanskrit) can come from many different sources, such as environmental toxins, processed foods, unresolved emotions, or psychological stress. When ama accumulates in the body over time, the vital energy (prana) cannot flow freely. Blockages and resistance appear and become foundations for ‘dis-ease’, manifesting as anything from anxiety and intolerances to allergies and in the worst case – chronic illness. These internal conflicts also prevent us from living to our fullest and brightest extent.
Time to clean our inner and outer ecosystems and choose the right fuel source for our progress?
There are many things we can change in our personal lifestyles to clear ama and speed up our internal waste management (read Radical Broccoli’s advice for a Spring Clean here). For a deep-rooted cleanse and detox, however, we have to go to the very core of our system, to make sure that the forces that are responsible for removing waste function in the most energy-elegant way. The more we can do to help this process, the better our body can recuperate, repair and revitalize itself.
Our Prakriti (individual nature) also undergoes seasonal changes, and in the transition to spring, the body works even harder to shed build-up of waste that has accumulated during winter. We clean the house, our backyards, and beaches every spring, but when did we forget to clean the most sacred temples of all – our bodies?
The first step in a spring clean begins with directing awareness to the fuel we choose to put in our bodies. In Ayurveda, the one component that influences our health more than anything is the metabolic fire, called agni. Agni drives the process of our physical transformation, drawing out nutrition, governing the digestion and turning the food into consciousness. What we choose to eat, to fuel the sacred fire, will, in turn, affect the balance of our internal ecology. In Ayurvedic practice, we say that the closer to its natural condition your food is, the less likely it is to cause waste and eruption of disease. It sounds simple, but very few of us actually take time to design a life and a diet that complement our own ‘biological blueprint’.
The more I study and practice Ayurveda, the more I realize the power of this inheritance and its connection to overcome some of the most complex challenges of our time. As in nature, everything you need for your own healing is already within you-you just have to start paying attention and then act on the signs. Leaving only one question to answer – what would Nature do?
Inspiration for an Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse – it begins with YOU!
• Start with asking yourself some simple questions – How is your soil? Are you getting enough water? Where are your nutrients coming from? Are you stretching towards the light? If not, what is blocking your energy? What are the barriers that prevent our natural energy from flowing freely?
• Take a dosha-test to find out more about your constitution, and make the necessary adjustments to your diet and lifestyle. NB. achieving the best results requires committing to an ever deeper dialogue with your own body, in consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner.
• It’s all about the fuel. You become what you eat. Increase your intake of fluids, such as herbal teas and tempered water, try a juice cleanse, and switch to a lighter, detoxifying diet. More fruit, herbs and greens, less heavy, oily foods, and no animal products. I can also recommend reading The Detox Miracle Sourcebook: Raw Foods and Herbs for Complete Cellular Regeneration by Dr. R. Morse.
• Consider adding Ayurvedic supplements to your diet, for detoxing and strengthening the system after winter. I am currently using shilajit (detox, strength), ashwagandha (immune system) and triphala (balanced stomach).
• BREATHE. Deep, conscious breathing (pranayama) can bring you closer to your inner nature – and towards the realization that you are your own medicine, and that life is an endless celebration.
• Create daily routines for taking care of your body. I recommend dry brushing, tongue scraping, drinking hot lemon water before breakfast, daily yoga, meditation, and self-massage.
• Replace your hygiene products with natural products that are good for both people, animals, and the planet – from cosmetics and clothes to containers and cleaning products.
• Spend time re-connecting to nature as she wakes up from the winter sleep. Go forest-bathing, clean your local beaches, or make sure to connect to the sun if you can’t get out of the city.
• Consider taking the next step and participating in a panchakarma retreat – an intensive, individualized detox led by skilled Ayurvedic therapists. We also have an upcoming yoga-retreat in Norway, where attention will also be given to Ayurveda see Nordic SATYA – Yoga, Tantra and Ayurveda Intensive with Uma Inder.
About the author
Caroline has a Master in Humanitarian Emergencies and International Development from London School of Economics. She is also a certified raja yoga teacher and Reiki practitioner. While working as a diplomat for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nepal, she has immersed herself in the wisdom of Eastern medicine, focusing on the Ayurvedic system of healing. Caroline is the co-author of Growing A New Economy, advocating for the emergence of economics in accordance with nature. You can read more about her on Norwegian Sage and on her Instagram.