Ayurveda 101: The Very Basics
We are passionate about the power of Ayurveda.
Our bodies, minds, and spirits are intimately interconnected. When the body is in good health, the mind and spirit thrive. We’ve seen the incredible ways in which practicing Ayurveda has changed lives over the years, and that’s why we’ve dedicated ourselves at Art of Living not only to nurturing your spiritual and emotional wellness, but your physical wellness, too.
Ayurveda isn’t as esoteric as it might seem at first glance. It’s actually a simple, logical system of health that you can easily incorporate into your day to day life. In this article, we’ll be exploring the basics of Ayurveda, demystifying this ancient way of life and bringing it home to the modern world. We want you to live your happiest, healthiest life, and through Ayurveda, you can!
So what is Ayurveda, anyway?
In the most basic of terms, Ayurveda is an ancient system of health and wellness, developed in India and practiced for thousands upon thousands of years. The word “Ayurveda” means “the knowledge of life”; “ayur” translates to “life,” and “veda” translates to “knowledge.” Unlike classical western medicine, Ayurveda seeks to help the practitioner achieve optimal wellness through balance and integration, and seeks to treat the root cause of illness, rather than the symptoms.
Ayurvedic philosophy doesn’t separate us from our environment, but celebrates and recognizes the importance of the cycles of the earth, the seasons, and the time of day. It places great importance on hygiene, plant-based medicine, and physical and mental wellness. Health, in Ayurvedic terms, is a state in which your thoughts, emotions, and body are in a state of thriving harmony with each other and with your environment.
The origins of Ayurveda
Ayurveda originated in India, and can be traced back to as early as the 4th century BCE; Ayurvedic wisdom was even included in the Vedas, which are the holy scriptures of Hinduism and the oldest surviving Sanskrit literature. Ayurveda has actually undergone very few changes over the centuries — advancements in medicine and science are often in line with what Ayurveda already knows.
How Ayurveda can improve your health
Ayurveda is all about balance. To start with Ayurveda, it’s important to understand what forces are at work within yourself and the world, and to learn how to bring those back into balance. Ayurveda focuses on streamlining treatment to every single individual, rather than prescribing certain things across the board. Through an Ayurvedic diet, living by an Ayurvedic clock, and developing a custom system of health for yourself, you can become the best you ever.
Stay tuned for posts on the doshas, elements, and other Ayurvedic wisdom!
Immerse yourself in Ayurvedic wisdom in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Take a look at our programs and retreats to see which one is right for you!
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
In House: Maria Alfaro on Neurogenic Yoga
I’ve been practicing yoga since 1986, and teaching it since 1997. I co-created Neurogenic Yoga™ in 2012, in collaboration with my yoga partner, Jennica Mills. Since then, I’ve taught hundreds of workshops in different states in the US, in Canada, in Europe, in Asia, and in the Middle East.
What is Neurogenic Yoga™?
I often get asked what this type of yoga is about. Well, first of all, Neurogenic Yoga™ is not a new “style” of yoga: it is a new approach to the practice of yoga which combines ANY yoga style that you like to practice (from restorative to very vigorous and everything in between) with the gentle neurophysiological body response called Neurogenic Tremors.
Those gentle involuntary tremors are our nervous system’s way to release pent-up tension and contractions caused by traumatic events and the stress of everyday life. Such tremors are natural for the body, and our body actually loves them, but our rational mind tends to repress them because it interprets them as a sign of weakness or disease and it doesn’t feel comfortable with them.
How does it work?
And so we start numbing this natural response at a very early age. But you’ve probably experienced it at least a few times in your life: maybe you were nervous about doing a speech, maybe you found yourself in a dangerous situation, maybe you were pulled over by the police or you had an accident or witnessed one. And, suddenly, you felt a vibration somewhere in your body that you immediately repressed.
Neurogenic Yoga helps re-activate this natural neurophysiological response in the body in a safe environment, often with great results both at the physical and emotional level. A lot of our problems are caused or worsened by stress and, by diminishing our level of stress and contraction, many aspect of our lives appear to improve. People report experiencing better sleep, less pain, less anxiety, more energy, increased flexibility, and more.
An effort towards worldwide healing
Neurogenic Yoga is a sister method of TRE® (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises®), which was created in the 80’s by an American bio-energetic therapist, Dr. David Berceli. Dr. Berceli worked for two decades with traumatized populations in the Middle East and in Africa and taught hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Presently TRE is taught in over 60 countries and I am honored, as a TRE Certification Trainer for almost a decade, to have been instrumental in introducing it to some of these countries, such as Belgium, Holland, Jordan and Palestine.
Wherever I go, people seem to appreciate this gentle approach towards a healthier and happier life.
I am very excited about teaching at the Art of Living in June and I look forward to meeting you there.
Maria is a senior TRE® (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises®) Certification Trainer and the co-creator of Neurogenic Yoga™, a sister method of TRE®. Maria believes that TRE® and Neurogenic Yoga™ are extraordinary tools for healing ourselves and the planet and that each person can benefit from them in a deep way. You can learn more at NeurogenicYoga.com.
Join Maria at the Art of Living Retreat Center from June 8th – 10th, 2018, for her Neurogenic Yoga™ Immersion Workshop.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Articles We Love: A Return to Nature in April
At the Art of Living Retreat Center, we know that one of the most profound pillars of healing and wellness is the natural world. Nature is a wise teacher, a gentle and fierce guide, and a way back into ourselves. We’re incredibly lucky to hold a space nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, where our guests can breathe in the cool, sweet mountain air, explore the gorgeous forests, and let the beauty of the wild sink deeply in.
In celebration of the Mountains returning to life this spring, our favourite articles this month remind us of the deep medicine available through nature.
Emma Loewe for MindBodyGreen
Death is a subject that causes many of us in the West intense discomfort. The cultural avoidance and fear of death has even affected our burial practices — we have a tradition of preserving the bodies of our deceased loved ones as best as science knows how. Unfortunately, these burial practices can be harmful to the environment. Recompose founder Katrina Spade aims to provide a more nature-friendly option. Emma Loewe speaks to Katrina for MindBodyGreen.
“In U.S. cemeteries, we bury enough metal each year to build the Golden Gate Bridge all over again, enough wood to build 1,800 single-family homes. Cremation takes its toll too, emitting 600 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually in the United States. Considering that 10,000 people are turning 65 every day in this country, these figures aren’t likely to go down anytime soon. As Spade puts it, “The awful truth is that the very last thing that most of us will do on this earth is poison it. I want to push back against these defaults that aren’t aligned with our ideals and interests as people.”
Brian Stanton for Elephant Journal
Brian Stanton shares how nature can cure our “addiction to doing”, how it centers us and cures us of our stress, and how it helps us slip into an effortless meditation.
“It turns out that when you cure stress, you cure other things too. Researchers from Japan, in fact, have shown that lingering in the woods might even prevent cancer by boosting natural killer cell activity. This Japanese practice, called “forest bathing,” also results in lower blood pressure and cortisol levels.”
Alex Chong Do Thompson for Rebelle Society
Alex Chong Do Thompson writes about his encounters with watery wisdom during his time as a U.S. Marine and beyond.
“The amount of ocean life that exists is fantastic, but what’s even more interesting is why it exists. We must remember that there are no magical incantations or preternatural powers being used to create all of this abundance. Rather, the ocean is simply the perfect container for different forms of life to manifest.
It provides the right salt content for tuna, the right temperatures for jellyfish, the right pH levels for seaweed, etc. And then the Universe takes care of the rest.
Over the years, I’ve learned that this is also true of human interaction. For example, we have no control over what people say to us throughout the day. Conversations may be pleasant, or they may be absolutely dreadful. It’s completely out of our hands. But like the ocean, we can create a container that encourages good things to happen.”
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Articles We Love: Happiness in March
Spring is here, and what better time to refresh your outlook, brush the dust out of the corners of your mind and heart, and refocus yourself and your goals? The UN’s International Day of Happiness falls on March 20th this year, and we think it’s a perfect opportunity to spend some time in reflection on how to become your happiest, healthiest self.
The articles we love this month focus on digging into that inner well of happiness within yourself, and opening up the windows of the soul and letting in some fresh air.
Monique Serbu for MindBodyGreen
Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be limited to your physical environment. Monique Serbu shares four great tips on how to clear out your digital life so you’re feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to leap into the new season.
“Spring is steadily approaching, and that means spring cleaning is on the horizon. While many of us dread this annual ritual, it doesn’t have to be such a pain. Think of it more like an opportunity to clear any excess from your life—an exercise in releasing that which no longer serves you.”
Nicola Albini for Sivana Spirit
With the International Day of Happiness on the horizon, you might be inclined to focus on external ways to find satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. In this article, Nicola Albini details a few ways in which happiness actually comes from within, and shares affirmations and strategies for a pursuit of happiness that is drawn from your own mind, body, and spirit.
“[I] could no longer blame my parents, girlfriend, teachers, friends or anyone else for my own unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Underneath my complaints about what others were “doing to me” was a need to accept myself. I needed to take full responsibility for my experience and change my life from the inside out.”
Dakota Steyn for Thought Catalog
Real happiness is within your grasp. Dakota Steyn shares her thoughts on why happiness is a choice and a result of your actions, not a carrot on a stick to be chased.
“Let me share with you the secret to life: there is no “dummies guide to life,” there’s no one telling what to do or how to feel- at the end of the day life is made up of choices, the choices that you make. How your whole life goes; that’s up to you. You can choose to be negative about everything or you can make the most out of every second of what you do.”
Articles We Love: A Love-Filled February
Ah, love. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the world, and something we all crave at a cellular level. Connecting with others and feeling loved and cherished nourishes our soul and gives us purpose. But love is so much more than something that you receive from others. It’s something that you can actively put into the world, and something that you can use to heal and grow within yourself.
As much as we adore love in all forms, we think that self-love is perhaps one of the most important and revolutionary practices you can cultivate. Which is why our favourite articles this month focus on how to make the choice to love yourself.
Kelly Douglas for Thought Catalog
Kelly Douglas shares her thoughts on learning to loving herself, and how this journey has transformed her life from a painful existence full of self-deception to one that is brimming with light.
“Amid the thick fog of my self-deception, I could vaguely make out a glimmer of the truth. I chased that spark of unconditional self-love with a sense of reckless abandon, steadfastly determined to capture it and forever hold it close. The light slowly grew more powerful, stripping my soul of self-imposed deception and filling my heart with truth. As I basked in the warmth of self-love, I resolved to never again habitually deprive myself of the love I deserve. At long last, I discovered I am always enough, despite the feverishly conniving taunts of my mind attempting to convince me otherwise.”
Samantha Lahonen for Sivana East
Yoga isn’t just a physical practice, but a mental and emotional one as well. Samantha Lahonen guides us through four transformative yoga poses that foster self-love.
“Sometimes, it doesn’t feel so easy to love yourself, yet having a negative self-image sets you up for illnesses such as anxiety and depression. You may notice that you put the needs of others before yourself; as the “people pleaser,” you often compare yourself to others, or you avoid certain situations or opportunities for fear of failure. This is where yoga comes in. Yoga puts you in a state of meditation, helping you to let go of the thoughts that whisper you are not good enough and keep you in a state of low self-esteem. Yoga replaces them with positive thoughts such as the feelings of strength, stability, and energy that come with practicing yoga.”
Kelly Ann Matuskiewicz for Absolute Awareness
Kelly Ann Matuskiewicz shares her thoughts on self-love as a spiritual practice, and how she incorporated self-love techniques into her own life to bring forth a more meaningful, fulfilling way of existing in the world.
“When I started to practice radical self love, my entire life experience shifted to more positive interactions and outcomes. I felt more confident, self assured, I trusted myself. Who and what I attracted into my life felt better and I was more in the flow. Unfortunately, not many of us know how to truly love ourselves. This is a key piece preventing us from manifesting our dreams and creating the lives we desire.”
Articles We Love: A Very Merry December
No matter how you celebrate, this is the time of year when we have endless opportunities to come together to experience love, friendship, connection, generosity, spiritual growth, and peace. Our favourite articles this month will guide you through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and help you keep yourself grounded and focused on the true gifts of the season.
Sally Kempton shares her experiences on learning to accept life’s gifts. During the holiday season, we so often focus on expressing generosity, but rarely do we take the opportunity to practice the art and the yoga of receiving.
“Receiving is a yoga in itself—one that demands a high degree of sensitivity, awareness, and even skillfulness. For one thing, we need to recognize that we’re being given a gift—whether it’s a birthday present, a compliment, a teaching, a helpful piece of feedback, a genuine service, a loving gesture, or a blessing from the invisible realms. Second, we need to cultivate enough stillness and openness to take it in. Third, we need to appreciate it, to value it, or, at the very least, to value the giver’s intention. Fourth, we need to feel that we deserve it—that the gift is neither too much, too little, or too out of line with who we are. In fact, the word “receive” comes from the Latin word recipere, which means “to take back.” This implies that what we receive is already ours in the sense that we do, indeed, deserve it, that it completes something within us, or simply that we’ve attracted it by the nature of our being.”
This quick mindfulness practice will help alleviate the stress and pressure that inevitably piles up around the holidays.
“Instead of aiming for perfection and letting every detail cast us into bouts of worry, we can use the holidays to actively appreciate people around us and our good fortune wherever we find it. Even when things fall apart, there’s often more to see. Often, when you let go of hard-and-fast expectations, you open yourself up to more opportunities for connection and joy.”
There are many wonderful things about technology. It connects us and makes our lives easier and more organized, but it also has the effect of taking us out of the moment. Leah Pellegrini shares her thoughts on the benefits of a low-tech holiday.
“The holidays are intended as a cherished time of coming together: joining in revelry, gathering around sacred rituals, and laughing, lounging, and luxuriating with loved ones. As tempting as it is to tune out Uncle Abe’s long-winded stories, or to take a breather from the chaos of full house, when you use technology for a ‘break’ it prevents making the genuine connections (good, bad or indifferent) that comprise the fabric of family relationships.”
Articles We Love: A Peaceful November
As the autumn wanes and the cold winter winds begin to blow in, our schedules pick up and stress tends to skyrocket. Our favourite articles this month are all about finding peace and tranquility in the midst of the pre-holiday bustle.
Kalia Kelmenson for Spirituality & Health
Kalia Kelmenson delves into three coping techniques we can use to find the calm amidst the chaos, consulting authors and wellness experts Carolyn Daitch and Lissah Lorberbaum.
“There is nothing wrong with strong emotions, but when anxiety, fear, anger or sadness are extreme in the face of relatively minor instances, you may be at the mercy of an emotional “flood.” This type of flooding occurs when communication between brain regions, especially the forebrain, (or “voice of reason”) and the midbrain—known as the home of your emotions—is not functioning optimally.”
Jaime Wolfe for Rebelle Society
In this poetic, honest piece, Jaime Wolfe reminds us that success is sometimes born from the little things, and to celebrate and appreciate the small, healthy decisions we make for ourselves every single day.
“We are wrapped up in a very unique time. Our new personas are full of filters and masks. We project lives we don’t even recognize because we are too busy trying to capture them to see what is actually happening. This does not allow us to be comfortable with all the days I will now call the in-betweens, the seemingly mundane days that build upon one another to guide us to our biggest achievements.”
Jillian Pransky for mindbodygreen
Jillian Pransky outlines two different easy techniques we can use to ground ourselves in times of chaos and stress.
“The same way animals prepare for winter by stocking up on on everything they’ll need to stay healthy, we should prepare for this quiet, reflective season by nourishing our roots and building our inner resources. As the seasons change and the leaves fall, reconnect to the earth by doing some grounding work to help you preserve your energy and keep your immune system healthy. Come winter, you’ll be glad you did.”
Articles We Love: A Mindful September
September is a month of new beginnings and opportunities, and in the spirit of the season, the Art of Living Retreat Center blog is excited to share our new series: Articles We Love. We’ve combed the web so you don’t have to, finding nuggets of wisdom, empowerment, and motivation for your mid-month boost. The articles we love this month address activism, aging, and rewiring our thoughts for a more mindful approach to health and wellness.
Kathleen Trotter for Huffington Post
As the year begins to wane, it’s easy to lose steam on your health and wellness routine.
In this wonderful article, Kathleen Trotter talks about how to overcome ‘brain propaganda’, or the self-defeating thoughts that are keeping us from following through with our health resolutions.
“Create a life in which you are loyal to yourself. Become your compassionate best friend — someone who wants you to become the best version of yourself that you can be. Someone who encourages you to learn from your experiences, but also does not fan feelings of body shame, self-hate, and brain propaganda.”
Larissa Hall Carlson for Yoga Journal
The world is a tumultuous place right now, and sometimes it feels as though balancing self-care and care for others is an impossible task to take on. Larissa Hall speaks on the beauty and necessity of shifting our personal yoga practice and sankalpa to a more community-minded focus.
“Able, dedicated yogis are taking action: maintaining enough yoga practice for daily self-care, stress reduction, mental clarity, and overall health, then getting off the mat and serving society directly.
Michelle Hather for The Guardian
It’s never too late to take control of your health. Michelle Hather began her yoga practice after 50, and shares her story on how it transformed her health, her mind, and her outlook.
“I can slide my hands under the soles of my feet without bending my knees. I can hold a plank for more than a minute, run for a bus (and catch it), stand on my head – and very, very nearly do the splits. And yet 18 months ago, I couldn’t paint my own toenails.”
In House: Medha Garud on Ayurveda and Spinal Care
In her work as a physical therapist, Medha Garud has witnessed first-hand the empowering effects of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Through the practice of Ayurveda, we have the ability to heal our bodies, rewire our minds, and extend our lives. Read on to hear Medha’s thoughts on spinal care, pain management, and holistic health.
Health from an Ayurvedic Perspective
The top three ways in which we encourage health from an Ayurvedic perspective are through diet, lifestyle, and environment. Ayurveda doesn’t prescribe a one-size-fits-all diet, but rather an individualized diet plan based on our specific body type. Following this plan keeps us in balance.
We try to live our lives as a yogi might. Yogis are often able to live for a hundred years, but we don’t see many non-yogis living that long. This is because we are so often out of sync with nature. Ayurveda teaches us how to be as close to nature as possible, and how to align our lifestyle with the natural cycles of the seasons.
Living with mindfulness in our environment doesn’t necessarily mean that if it’s cold outside, we eat warm food, or if it’s warm outside, we eat cooling foods. It means that our mental and emotional environments are healthy as well. Ayurveda teaches us how to build strength to deal with challenges, or it empowers us to move away from things that are not healthy in our lives.
Spinal Care & Ayurveda
I’m a physical therapist, and I’ve been treating patients with spinal health issues for 20 years. Before I incorporated Ayurveda into my practice, I never felt that I was reaching for the root cause of these problems that my patients were dealing with. I’d be able to give them short-term relief and advice, but then they’d be in my office again a few months later, dealing with the same issues that brought them in in the first place.
I feel that Ayurveda and yoga hold the answer to long-term wellness, because they address the root cause of these problems, rather than just soothing the symptoms.
Research suggests that different people feel pain in different ways based on their perception of it. When our perception of pain changes, reported levels of pain actually go down. With this workshop, we use the principles put forth in yoga and Ayurveda to help people manage their pain by changing their perspective on it. We’re building new neural pathways in the brain, and building confidence and body autonomy through yoga postures.
We also talk a lot about how Ayurvedic principles can contribute to pain management. An Ayurvedic lifestyle not only remedies the physical presence of pain, but the mental and emotional presence of it as well. We provide anti-inflammatory recipes, and teach meditation and Ayurvedic lifestyle guidelines to promote a holistic approach to a pain-free life. Each person comes away from the workshop with an individualized plan, because, as practitioners of Ayurveda know, every person is different and has different needs. As one of our participants, B. Saccone, said: “I feel more calm, but more importantly, looking forward to using these Ayurvedic techniques to maintain balance.”
Living a Pain-Free Life
So many people have been able to move more freely now, without pain. They’ve learned a more healthy way of life, how to eat correctly, and how to live according to nature. They also come away from the workshop with a new knowledge of yoga postures and mudras. “I am at peace with my body and my mind is calm,” said Michelle, another participant of the Ayurveda and Spine Care program. To change your pain, you must change your life, and through Ayurvedic principles, a long, healthy, pain-free life is possible.
Medha Garud is a physical therapist, yoga therapist, Ayurvedic practitioner, and RYT 500. Join Medha at the Art of Living Retreat Center for Ayurveda Awareness & Spinal Care from Oct 20-22.
In House: Dian Killian on Living in Full Authenticity
Most people value authenticity in their lives—being honest, genuine and real—true to their values and their vision. If we want love and depth of connection in our lives—and most people want this too— we want that love and connection based on who we “really” are–our authentic selves.
Authenticity in the Workplace
We may see authenticity as important in intimate relationships at home but it also plays a key role in the workplace. Often, when coaching executives, I am coaching them on being more authentic—turning up more fully in their work lives and encouraging their reports to do the same. Why?
…”the more authentic you are, the more effective you are. …Authenticity is really nothing more than making sure that people are fully expressing what they think and feel. … if people are not expressing themselves fully in what they think and feel within the context of the work they are accountable to produce then the enterprise or organization is editing out data. This impairs good decision making and follow-through…and ultimately undermines success. … When you have a group that is authentic and rigorous in their dialogues, you will have a high performing team.” –from The Yoga of Leadership, Kripalu Magazine, 2009
Authenticity in Relationships
What is interesting to me is how that last line also applies to couples and families. When you have a couple that is authentic– or a family that is authentic-and rigorous in their dialogues–you will find the greatest trust, connection, and intimacy: a “high performing” relationship or family.
The practice of Nonviolent Communication is all about authenticity. What is my genuine experience-what I am seeing or hearing (rather than my story or interpretation about what’s happening)? What is my genuine response–my feelings and needs? This is our true aliveness.
And authenticity is key within ourselves. We all long for our essence— to know who we truly are, and to live true to that being. When we are triggered or acting habitually we have, in effect, in that moment, lost our authenticity.
In effect, NVC gives us practical tools to be authentic—and to live with rigor around our authenticity.
Bring Your Full Power into the World
I have three questions I’d love for you to consider:
How are you connecting authentically with yourself?
How are you connecting authentically with others?
And how are you bringing your full power and authenticity into the world?
In asking the last question, I think of that old Bible verse—about not putting your light under a bushel. Each of us is an authentic being. That authenticity can be shrouded or lost via fear. By being true to our authenticity, we can illuminate situations that otherwise can be clouded or disconnecting. By being our authentic ourselves—discovering– who am I really? What do I value? What brings me most alive? What matters to me? —we bring our full power into the world.
I hope you will sit with the questions above and if you value greater authenticity in your life see what do-able request you can make. What will support greater authenticity with yourself—and with others? What does greater authenticity look like for you, in the world? What is one step you can take this week, this month?
Join Dian for Nonviolent Communication for Better Living from August 11 – August 13.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
This article originally appeared on workcollaboratively.com.