Living Well: Decreasing Physician Burnout for a More Fulfilling Practice and Life
Physicians working in the current healthcare environment are under an enormous amount of pressure and stress, and as a result, a condition commonly referred to as ‘physician burnout’ is becoming an ongoing concern in the medical field. Trying to manage the stress of patient cases and administrative tasks, on top of balancing the challenges of everyday life, are among the reasons why physicians are feeling the pressure.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 300-400 physicians die by suicide annually. That’s almost a doctor a day. As mentioned in the April 2016 issue of U.S. News & World Report, physicians have higher rates of depression, divorce, and substance addiction than the general population, and 50-70% of doctors suffer from ‘burnout syndrome’. A growing body of research shows that physician burnout and depression are linked to medical errors and to the kind of depersonalized care that is often both less effective and less palatable.
When the praise turns into stress
Health care professionals are inspired to serve their patients and profession. But in the process of caring for their patient’s needs, the care provider is subject to many stressors, and often neglects their own health. While putting their needs last may seem heroic and praiseworthy, this can compromise clinicians’ personal well-being, and may lead to:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Moral distress
- Compassion fatigue
- Poor clinical decisions
- Medical errors
- Loss of sense of self and purpose
- Lack of a sense of personal achievement
- Suicidal tendencies
Health and happiness start with you
By sacrificing their own well-being, health care providers are adversely compromising the quality of care they provide to their patients. As a doctor, you must remember that before you can take care of others, you must take care of yourself first.
Dr Susmitha Jasty, a practicing gastroenterologist in Brooklyn, New York, says, “One cannot serve from empty vessel. Historically, physicians are caregivers, but we don’t always take good care of ourselves. When we invest in self-care, we typically become better role models for our patients and our families and experience less stress and burnout. When we overlook these priorities, we might become wealthier, but may do so at the cost of our health and happiness.”
An interesting read in The Wall Street Journal mentions, “There’s a strong link between what doctors do themselves and what they tell their patients to do,” says Erica Frank, a professor of public health at the University of British Columbia who was the principal investigator on the Women Physician’s Health Study (WPHS) which surveyed the health practices of 4,500 women doctors in the 1990s, and has studied U.S. medical students and Canadian doctors as well. “If we pay more attention to physicians’ health, we’ll have a patient population that is healthier.”
Another interesting article in New York Times points out, “It has been shown in some studies that if the physician is exercising, if the physician are taking care of themselves, eating well, sleeping better, they have patients who have better clinical outcomes,” said Dr. Hilary McClafferty, a pediatrician who is an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.
In order to be truly effective in their work, physicians need to balance the demands of their work with self-care. This involves taking time off for introspection and self-care to replenish their personal reserve of adequate mental, emotional, and physical energy to stay clinically competent and present.
Caring for oneself to care for others: physicians and their self care
The famous Wellness Wheel refers to 6 types of wellness – physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social and occupational – and allows individuals to reflect on current life balance and self-care. Improving physicians’ wellness and implementing self-care strategies is a multifactorial process and includes attention to all these 6 types. Personal self-care refers to strategies for individual physicians to take better care of themselves.
According to a research study, strategies for personal self-care include prioritizing close relationships such as those with family; maintaining a healthy lifestyle by ensuring adequate sleep, regular exercise, and time for vacations; fostering recreational activities and hobbies; practicing yoga, deep breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation, as well as pursuing spiritual development.
Meditation over medication
According to the American Medical Association, burnout and ignoring the source of problems is not the way to wellness. Meditation can help to protect the mind, which can help healers to heal while they maintain personal well-being.
According to Psychology Today, 6.3 million Americans, or roughly 1 in 30 Americans, are being referred by doctors to practice activities like meditation. The high number of referrals shows that doctors are recognizing the benefits of meditation and yoga. A Harvard study shows that mind-body practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce your body’s stress response, and to have many health benefits, including improving heart health and helping relieve depression and anxiety.
The Living Well: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs
The Art of Living Foundation, a global pioneer in yoga and meditation for more than 35 years, offers the
“Living Well: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs” program for busy medical doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals seeking to build a proficient practice for self-care to enrich their quality of life and patient care. The tools and techniques taught in this retreat have been well researched and backed by many scientific studies at different universities world wide.
- This retreat provides the health care provider an opportunity to learn yoga and meditation-based, simple hands-on self-care practices that
- Reduce stress, exhaustion and compassion fatigue
- Enchance physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being
- Enrich quality of life
- Improve ability for intuitive diagnosis, focus, concentration
- Help to navigate the challenges of personal as well as professional life with more tranquility and dynamism resulting in improved performance
- The retreat also provides physicians and allied health professionals with an update on the latest research in yoga, breathing practices, and meditation, as well as their therapeutic applications, including benefits and risks.
Earn CME/CNE credits while you learn
Recognizing the importance and essentiality of self-care for physicians, the NYU Post-Graduate Medical School designates this program 10-30 CME credits. By attending this program HCP not only learn excellent self-care tools, but also earns 10-30 CME / CNE credits as provided by NYU Post-Graduate Medical School.
This course, which is designed for physicians, medical students, residents, fellows, osteopath practitioners, nurses, nurse practitioners, allied HCPs and complementary and alternative medical practitioners, is offered in various locations in the USA throughout the year by the Art of Living Foundation.
— Dr. Bharti Verma, M.D.
This article first appeared on artofliving.org
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Exploring Wisdom: Chronic Pain & Yoga – A Physician’s Perspective
Pain is something we all feel at some time in our lives. If we are fortunate, the source of the pain is treated properly, and the pain goes away relatively quickly.
But sometimes, with pain that is difficult to manage, the discomfort can persist for months at a time. In those circumstances, pain comes to be seen as a disease in its own right. And often it can only be managed, not cured.
The true cost of chronic pain
Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, according to a fact sheet from the US National Institutes of Health. It is the most common reason Americans access the health care system. Pain is the leading cause of disability, and the most common cause of long term disability. It is a major contributor to health care costs.
The National Academy of Medicine estimates that pain affects more than 100 million people and costs $600 billion a year.
Taking all of this information into account, we can guess at the impact pain has on individuals. As French Physician Dr. Albert Schweitzer described it, back in 1931, “Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself.”
We know the scale of the problem: the numbers of people involved, and the cost of managing their discomfort.
The question is – can we reduce that terrible toll? Can we, the health provider and the patient, work together to find and deliver a better way of managing chronic pain? I believe we can.
Exploring solutions for chronic pain
In my practice as a family physician, I’ve discovered some low-cost, highly-effective remedies that can improve the lives of people living with chronic pain. These are solutions that I, as a family physician, am happy to share with my patients, and these remedies can be used in addition to the conventional strategies for managing chronic pain.
One of those conventional strategies is the prescription of opioids. Of course,we are all keen to see a reduction in the death toll from the overuse of opioids, but I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s go back to the root of the problem–pain.
How do we define and manage pain?
Acute pain is the body’s reaction to physical injury, infection or inflammation due to tissue damage. The International Association for Study of Pain, in 1994, defined pain as “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage”.
In medicine we talk about pathophysiology, a term used to explain the processes within the body that result in the signs and symptoms of a disease.
The pathophysiology of chronic pain is not well understood; nor is the significant impact of pain on the patient, and his or her physical, emotional, social and occupational wellbeing.
These factors, in turn, can have a significant impact on a patient’s ability to overcome chronic pain. The prognosis, the course and probable outcome of the condition, is influenced by many environmental factors: nutrition, social supports, socio-economic status, exposure to drugs and substances, the patient’s state of physical and mental health before the onset of the condition, the patient’s attitude, and even genetics.
The opiod issue
Traditionally, chronic pain is managed by the use of analgesics, physiotherapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, and psychotherapy.
Opioids have become the mainstay of drug-oriented treatment. Unfortunately, in Canada in 2016, there were 2,800 apparent opioid-related deaths. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, if this trend were to continue, up to 4,000 lives were expected to be lost for the same reason in 2017.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the US 63,600 deaths were related to opioid overuse in 2016, and the estimate is 66,000 in 2017.
As society, and health providers, we have to do a better job.
And, as health care providers, we are trying. The 2017 Canadian guidelines for managing non-cancer pain lists its number one recommendation as “optimization of non-opioid pharmacotherapy and non-pharmacological therapy, rather than a trial of opioids.”
It is well accepted that conventional management of chronic pain has limited success.
So, let’s explore an option that I know to be highly effective – which can help reduce pain and reliance on pain medications.
How yoga and meditation can help
Yoga and meditation can be helpful in managing not just pain, but also the associated depression and anxiety that comes along with chronic pain. More than that, it can improve cognitive function deficits associated with chronic pain. A recent research done at Stanford University suggests that meditation and breathing practices could be the solution to overcome the opioid crisis.
According to an official of the National Institutes of health, “There is compelling evidence that practicing mind-body techniques such as yoga and meditation can counteract the brain anatomy effects of chronic pain.”
Neuro-imaging studies have shown that chronic pain can reduce gray matter in the brain. Decreased gray matter can lead to memory impairment, emotional problems, and decreased cognitive functioning. The practice of yoga can actually increase gray matter in brain. If we can increase our gray matter, we increase our ability to handle pain.
Yoga practice may provide a protective effect in reducing the burden of depression and anxiety in these patients living with chronic pain.Yoga and meditation practice can also reduce pain sensitivity, leading to patients requiring less pain medication.
Bridging the gap to yoga
Often when I say ‘yoga’, many shy away. They worry that they need to be flexible, agile, and fit to practice yoga. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yoga practice can be tailored to an individual’s needs. Meditation practice can be taught to anyone willing to learn.
All you need to start yoga or meditation is the willingness to begin; a willingness to try something new. And let’s face it, if you’ve lived with chronic pain for any length of time, you probably know that conventional pain management is not always effective. So, what do you have to lose?
I believe we should be offering to teach yoga and meditation to our chronic pain patients, to improve their quality of life.
These practices are effective, and they can give us a low cost, highly effective way of improving the lives of people living with chronic pain and its associated problems.
A new option for health care providers
What is more heart warming that now yoga, breathing and meditation practices are widely accepted by medical fraternity? There are courses where the health care providers can learn these powerful ancient healing techniques and earn the Continuous Education Credits too.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Bharti Verma, MA, MD, FCFP
Dr. Bharti Verma is the President of Duffus Health Centre, and has varied experience in all aspects of family medicine, including long-term care, obstetrics, geriatrics, pediatrics, psychotherapy, and counselling. She is also a senior instructor in yoga and meditation with Art of Living Canada, and was Vice-President of AOLF Canada from 2010-2017.
This article first appeared on artofliving.org.
The world needs your voice! Join Dr. Verma and Medha Garud for their upcoming Women’s Wellness Retreat, where you’ll learn to identify and overcome the barriers for reaching your full potential, and approach health, wellness, and womanhood from an Ayurvedic perspective. Learn More Here!
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
The Practice: Creating a Home Meditation Space
Recharging your body and mind, improving your focus, and boosting clarity are all great reasons to meditate — but what if you could improve on what you’re already doing?
What if you could create the perfect meditation space in your home?
Carving out a private enclave for meditation doesn’t have to be tough, whether you’re living in a studio-sized condo or a spacious estate with a dozen spare rooms you’ve never used. With a few simple tips, you can transform any space into a private nook where you can disconnect from daily stresses, internal dialogue, and negative experiences.
What is a meditation space?
A meditation space is a sacred spot where you can release stress, find serenity, and center yourself. Sacred doesn’t necessarily mean religious or spiritual; in this context, it means you only use the area for meditation, yoga, rest, or stillness. It’s your own personal retreat within your home, and you can designate a corner, a partitioned space, or even an entire room to it as long as you feel good about your choice.
Exceptional spots for a meditation space in any home
This is your space, so there isn’t a one-size-fits all spot that works for everyone. Ideally, you’ll be able to walk through each room in your home and narrow down your choices to rooms you absolutely love — those that make you smile, relax you, and give you a sense of peace. As you search for your perfect meditation space, be mindful that:
- Facing a southeast corner will bathe you in early morning light, which may be perfect for dawn meditation.
Facing a northwest corner will let you bask in the sun’s waning rays, which ould be ideal if you’re an evening meditator.
- Facing due east emulates Buddha, who sat beneath the Bodhi tree and meditated directly toward the early morning sun.
Where to meditate in a small home
If you don’t have much room to spare, a terrace, patio or corner of a room in a condo or townhouse might be the perfect spot to set up your meditation space. Add a privacy screen or hang billowing curtains from a single point on the ceiling to shut out the world while you connect with your inner self, or clear out a closet for instant (and expense-free) privacy.
- Although it’s tough to find spare square footage in a condo, apartment or studio, you can make extra room by:
- Swapping out your sofa for comfy chairs
- Installing a loft bed in a room with high enough ceilings
- Storing non-essential accessories and furnishings rather than trying to cram them all into your space
- Using wall cabinets rather than freestanding bookshelves in your decor
Where to meditate in a more spacious home
Create your private paradise in a quiet corner, in an enclosed room or the garden to find your inner peace. One of the keys to successful meditation is carving out a distraction-free environment where you can get comfortable.
Spots to avoid
Steer clear of high-traffic areas or those where distractions are likely to pull you off the path to Nirvana. Try to avoid the kitchen, the living room, or anywhere too close to the lavatory, the front door, or a space that faces the street. Your home office may drag your mind toward work, and a place that makes you want to nap rather than meditate, like your bedroom, might be a little too relaxing.
Meditation room ideas
The more peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful your meditation room is, the more time you’ll want to spend there. you’ll feel it pulling you in before you start your day, each time you need a break, and when you wind down for the night.
The perfect room decor in a meditation space
Designing your Zen meditation space for self-help and personal development requires you to stick to a few principles:
- Keep your space clean and clutter-free.
- Only include items you love and that contribute to your happiness and peace.
- Add natural elements where possible, such as living plants and stones.
The bare essentials
You don’t have to dedicate an entire room and a month’s salary to creating your meditation space. The simplest — and sometimes most effective — meditation spaces feature only bare essentials, such as:
- Meditation cushions or a soft spot to sit
- Natural light
- Something with personal significance, like bells, crystals, or affirmation stones
- Fresh air
If you can, spring for a serene color palette in the room. Neutrals, which are the most popular (think earth tones and off-whites), are what you’ll find in monasteries and professionally designed meditation spaces, but here’s where you can make it interesting. Dark colors make a room feel smaller, which is ideal if you want to feel enveloped in your space, and pastels lend an airy, open feeling to any room, which could be perfect if you prefer a sense of freedom while you meditate. Bright, glossy white that produces glare is generally off-limits, though, because it’s too harsh for the serene environment you’re trying to create.
Pro tip: If natural sunlight hits the wall and makes you squint, the paint color is wrong for your meditation space.
Your meditation room can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be. A few carefully chosen elements can turn any space into a soul-nourishing haven. Consider adding decor such as:
- Attractive incense burners
- A fountain for the sight and sound combination
- Singing bowls
- Decorative cushions
- A Zen sand table
- Aromatherapy diffusers
- Adjustable lighting
- An altar
Bare wood floors can add a sense of authenticity to your meditation room, and they can make the room appear (and feel) larger – but they’re not necessary as long as you have the proper posture. A plush area rug or tatami mat on top of carpet can carve out a private space where you can meditate, practice yoga or rest without costing you a fortune.
The best plants for meditation spaces
Most people find that having at least one living plant makes a huge difference in the quality of a meditation space. They’re essential for pulling volatile organic chemicals out of the air and allowing you to commune with natural, earthy elements. Plants that thrive in low light and contribute to Zen include:
- Monstera Deliciosa
What not to put in your meditation space
Few things are more distracting than clutter, so your meditation room needs to be light on things that can counteract your Zen. Avoid electronics (the TV has to go!) except for music players or electronic aromatherapy diffusers, and banish toys, paperwork or other distractors that will prevent you from connecting with yourself.
Bonus tips for the perfect meditation room
- Buy plug protectors in case you’re tempted to bring in electronics (other than that music player). They serve as a gentle reminder that technology is unwelcome in your space.
- If your window has a bad view, use Japanese rice paper or privacy glass decals to shut out the world without compromising your natural light.
- This room is your escape, so nothing that pulls you back into your everyday existence belongs there.
What’s your dream meditation space like?
With a little planning and a dash of inspiration, anyone can create a spectacular meditation space — and we’d love to hear about what you’ve already done. Share your story in the comments below!
by Alejandra Roca. This article first appeared on Redfin.com
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
The Practice: What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?
Increasingly, the practice of Asana, or the physical poses we understand as yoga, is being alienated from the very source of its conception; its moral, ethical, and philosophial raison d’être and foundation. Perhaps this is because the modern practice has separated the metaphorical wrapping paper from the gift itself, interchanging the two and taking the wrapping paper instead of the gift.
Most practitioners of Yoga have heard of the eight limbs of yoga: Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. These eight limbs are integral to one another: they are neither dispensable nor separable. Why, then, does Asana remain the centerpiece of the modern experience of yoga? Why are they understood as a progression on the path of yoga, when in fact they are a composite and part of an organic whole?
The five Yamas are as follows: Ahimsa, or non-violence, Satya, or truth, Asteya, or non-stealing, Brahmacharya, or moving in Brahman (infinity), and Aparigraha, or non-accumulation. These five principles are universal in nature, without exception. An intrinsic part of human values and an ethical code of conduct. The understanding of, and more importantly, incorporation of them, changes the entire texture of our physical practice.
Niyamas can be understood as the cultivation of the self. There are five Niyamas: Shaucha, or physical purity, Santosha, or contentment, Tapas, or endurace, Swaadhyaaya, or self-study, and Ishwara Pranidhaana, or devotion to the Divine.
Asana is widely understood as the totality of yoga. The Yoga Sutras define Asana as that which is steady and comfortable. Again, in the words of Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Feeling the body, letting go of the effort, and experiencing the infinity is Asana.”
In Pranayama, we understand the dimension of the breath. Various Pranayama techniques are outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. At a fundamental level, the inhalations and exhalations are controlled in a certain rhythm or pattern. A good example of this is the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique taught by Art of Living that has helped bring a greater mental clarity and physical well-being to millions around the world. Patanjali has stressed that Pranayam should be explored with proper guidance, as they thin down the curtain around the light – prakash avanaram.
Pratyahara is the inner canvas, the reference of the inner world and the coaxing of the senses to withdraw inward. It is fundamental to cultivating a practice that is not thrown off by the external fluctuations of the body, the senses, and the circumstances. Various guided meditations are helpful to invite the mind to dive inwards.
Dharana and Dhyana
Dharana and Dhyana are sometimes thought of as interchangeable. While meditation has become popular even outside the realm of yoga, the concept of Dharana, which is the singular pointed attention of meditation, was prescribed by a teacher in accordance with the needs of the individual and his or her progress on the path of yoga. Dharana and Dhyana are intimately tied to Pranayama, a good example of why no limb of yoga is separate from the other.
Samadhi, or the state of ultimate bliss, as long been considered too lofty a goal for the common man. This eliminates the opportunity for us to blossom on the path of yoga. Every moment that we feel one with the infinite self is one of Samhadi.
What is truly profound is astoundingly simple. When our experience is clouded, our understand is blurry as well. If your only experience of yoga is sweating in a hot room, then the opportunity for a deeper experience and understanding diminishes. The gift of yoga is the opportunity to experience the whole being, not just the body. Why settle for less?
According to Yogi Krishan Verma, director of Sri Sri Yoga Trainings at the Art of Living Retreat Center, “You are more than just the body.”
While this may sound like a lofty goal, in experience, it is simple, and brings a seismic shift to the way we practice. At the basic level, when the emotions are clouded or the mind is scattered, the body reflects that as well. The body and the physical practice is just one limb of yoga. Why would we take the part as the whole?
When we move through the eight limbs of yoga as a dynamic whole, the practice parts to reveal our true self. All conflict and duality shifts to illuminate the light that we are. As explained by Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “When a body develops, the whole body develops together. Simultaneously all the aspects, all the limbs of the body develop.” The eight limbs of yoga are just that – limbs in the body of yoga. This realization is a gift that we unwrap with a sense of awe and wonder!
by Shalini Parekh
5 Reasons to Plan a Spa Retreat
When it comes to pampering yourself, it’s hard to beat a couple of days at a high-quality spa. But some spa experiences go above and beyond, offering a retreat that is about so much more than merely spoiling yourself.
Are you tired to the core? Overwhelmed? Feeling that you simply don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish everything that you need to accomplish? Struggling to balance all your seemingly insurmountable responsibilities? Well, you may not think that a spa retreat could be the answer to your problems. But you’ve never had an experience like the Shankara Ayurveda Spa at The Art of Living Retreat Center.
Still wondering if it’s a right time for a trip to the spa? Just consider that a high quality wellness spa can help you do all of the following:
Overcome the effects of stress and fatigue
Like all spas, a wellness spa is a great place to treat yourself to some much needed rest and TLC. But unlike the benefits of a mere “pampering” spa, the effects of a visit to a wellness spa can last long beyond the few days that you spend there.
Connect with yourself
It’s extremely difficult to “find yourself” when you’re lost in the grind of your daily routine. A spa retreat can not only help you to get away from it all, it can help you get in touch with your long buried thoughts and emotions. Give yourself some “me time” in the most profound meaning of the term.
Try something new
If you’re intrigued by a esoteric type of massage or a spa treatment that is largely unknown to the general public, seek out an organization that provides that particular service and give it a try. Better yet, find a quality comprehensive wellness spa and explore everything that they have to offer.
Learn something new
Interested in being gluten-free? Wonder about the benefits of a vegetarian or Ayurvedic diet? A good full-service wellness spa will not only pamper but educate, giving you the information that you need to understand a wide variety of health topics and the tools that you need to incorporate them into your life.
Start the New Year with a new you
The time has come for New Year’s resolutions. Want to explore a path to health and wellness? A spa retreat can help you develop a personalized plan to get you on that path and keep you there.
Providing so much more than your ordinary spa retreat, the Shankara Ayurveda Spa at The Art of Living Retreat Center can help you do all of these things and so much more. We’d love to support you, giving you the break that you need during your visit to our facilities and the tools that you need to build a healthier and happier you for years to come. Discover the benefits that await you at The Art of Living Retreat Center.
The Practice: Sri Sri on the Nature of the Yogi
Yoga is so much more than exercise — it’s a way of being. Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shares his thoughts on the far-reaching impact of yoga on the body, mind, and spirit, and the true nature of the Yogi.
A disease-free body, a violence-free society, a confusion-free mind, a inhibition-free intellect, a trauma-free memory, a sorrow-free soul and a quiver-free breath is the impact that Yoga can make on your life.
More than the body
If you claim that you are a Yogi, then you should have an undying smile on your face. I would say, that is the sign of a Yogi. Yoga makes your emotions softer and more peaceful, and you blossom in your emotions. It brings freedom in your expression and your thought patterns. These are the real signs of Yoga. It is not just to do with the flexibility of the body. Of course, that too is a part of Yoga. The body becomes flexible, and the mind grows in faith and conviction. If all this happens, know that it is the gift of Yoga, and consider yourself as a Yogi.
The path of the Yogi
Many people think of the eight limbs of Yoga as a step-wise process to go level by level. They think that one has to strive to become proficient in one level before ascending to the next. This is not really so. I would say that all these eight limbs or aspects of Yoga are woven together and happen simultaneously.
When a child is conceived in the womb, then all its organs are formed together. It is not that first the feet are formed and then the arms take shape. No, it is not so. All the limbs and organs develop together. This is why we must take all these eight aspects or limbs of Yoga together at every step. Only then can we experience the fullness and totality of Yoga, and can bring about an extraordinary transformation and experience in our life.
Join one of our upcoming yoga retreats and feel for yourself the power and light of the eight-limbed path.
This article first appeared on srisriravishankar.org.
The Practice: Sarajean Rudman on the Power of Yoga and Ayurveda
Yoga and Ayurveda, to the new practitioner, might seem complicated, but although both practices are deeply rooted in the traditional spiritual wisdom and practices of India, you don’t have to overhaul your entire life to make room for them. Incorporating even the smallest concepts from yoga and Ayurveda into your routine can have far-reaching effects both your health and your happiness.
We sat down Sarajean Rudman, accomplished yogini and AoLRC host, to discuss how to begin to integrate yoga and Ayurveda into your routine for your healthiest, most vibrant life.
Yoga and Ayurveda: The Sister Sciences
Yoga and Ayurveda are all about self-care and self-love. So much else in life takes us out of ourselves, but yoga and Ayurveda take us back into ourselves. Blending the two practices has given me permission to be kind, to love, to nourish, to rest, to refuel and to listen.
At the very seat of the practices of yoga and Ayurveda, there is an element of taking back authority over yourself and listening to the innate, intuitive knowledge you already possess – when you wake up in the morning and feel that something is weird or off in your body, yoga and Ayurveda empower you to know that it’s okay to feel those things, to explore them, and to try to understand why.
I like to think of Ayurveda as the science that heals the vessel physically, and yoga as the science that heals the vessel spiritually and emotionally. It might seem like an intimidating system, but at the end of the day, it’s the simple things that have the most profound effect on your life. Even one single element of the practice, something as simple as drinking warm water, can propel propel you into a new world of self-care.
So much of our lives are lived as cerebral beings – we can think ourselves into and out of any situation. Yoga connects the body and breath back to the mind, and we stop conceiving of ourselves as a ‘severed head’. We begin to notice things that are out of balance in the way we feel, and Ayurveda is a medicinal practice that we can turn to when we do notice these things.
The Basics of Ayurveda
Ayurveda focuses on the five elements and the three doshas, or bodily humors. These are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each of these doshas describes everything on earth, and everything on earth has a certain balance of these energies within it. The doshas, each of which encompass different qualities, rule the hours of the day, the seasons of a year, and the different phases of life we go through.
For example, the Kapha time of day is around 6AM – 10AM. Qualities associated with Kapha are heaviness, coldness, denseness, so it’s recommended that your practice is mobile and energetic in the morning to balance out that energy.
In the Vata time of day, which is anywhere from 2AM – 6AM, you might want to do a more contemplative practice, because Vata is immobile, erratic, rough, expansive, and ethereal. Timing the different elements of your practice to the appropriate hours can really work to balance the different dosha energies within yourself.
A First Step into Ayurveda
One of the most powerful ways to start balancing your own internal dosha energies is to go to bed before 10PM, because after 10PM, those fiery Pitta energies kick back in. The Pitta time of night is when you hit your second wind. It’s easy to work and work and work, when what your body really needs is rest.
For most people, this resets your circadian rhythms and balances your hormones, and you begin to feel more energized in the morning. You will experience less lethargy in the middle of the morning, your skin and hair will benefit, and your digestion will improve.
All of the cells in our body have been demonstrated to follow our circadian rhythms, even our digestive tract. There are certain times of the day when we should be eating, sleeping, moving, etc, and acting against those rhythms can be detrimental to your health.
Of course, technology and culture have a huge part to play in why we find it difficult to intuit these rhythms. My 94-year-old grandmother wasn’t up at 11PM scrolling through Facebook in 1945! Ayurveda is a great tool to help you get back to the natural cycles of the earth and your body.
Get Started Today!
Yoga and Ayurveda are accessible for everybody. You don’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel or chant – yoga can be a walk in the woods. Yoga can by lying on your back and breathing. Ayurveda is the same! You don’t have to eat exclusively Indian food or completely give up things that you love to benefit from the principles and practices we teach. You can pick and choose what works best for you and your body.
The Art of Living Retreat Center is a great place to begin your journey. The Center has the most beautiful view, and there’s this undeniable spiritual potency here. When I arrived, I immediately wanted to slow down, which was pretty cool for me, because that rarely happens in a physical space.
There’s this settled energy here. It’s outrageously beautiful, and I find communing with nature to be epically healing for myself and others. The core of like-minded people at the Center has also been really healing and reaffirming.
Ayurveda has taught me to take care of myself. I’m a Vata-Pitta person, who gets very stuck in accomplishments and doing and moving and acheiving, and Ayurveda has really taught me to slow down, check in with myself, and never sacrifice my own well-being at the altar of success.
Anger, Laughter, and the Practice
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.