Author: Rianne Chittenden
I said it. The H word. Health. What does it mean to be truly healthy? The narrative I enrolled in growing up was "health is hard.":
-To be healthy meant being in a constant battle between the right choice and what I really wanted to do.
-If there is dis-ease in the body, it is due to uncontrollable circumstances.
When I joined Susan Bass’ Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy Program I was more interested in the yoga aspect. I had never heard of Ayurveda and honestly glossed right over the word. Yet, through slowly incorporating Ayurvedic practices into my life, I have healed from chronic pain that had been controlling my every decision. The simplicity of this deep ancient system of medicine had grabbed my attention.
It is not a set of rules that must be strictly followed. It is about living with the rhythms and cycles of nature. Any species untouched by human intervention does not struggle with disease; They change their habits and the foods they eat based on the time of day and seasons. Humans and any species touched by Western Civilization struggle with disease (dis-ease in the body). This is not to suggest going off into the woods and disconnecting from society. My intent is to stir up curiosity around how we are living. Can we perhaps live in a way where we don’t have to recover from the way we live?
Ayurveda is a guide to help one come back to the self, again and again. It is time-tested, having been practiced for thousands of years. To be seated in the self, to be embodied is called Svastha in the Sanskrit language. If true health is about being established in the body, how does one know they are in their body?
It is a birthright to be able to attain Svastha. To feel joy and ease on a daily basis. Yet, many do struggle to feel either in these current times, especially now approaching mid-winter. Ayurveda follows this simple rule: like attracts like and opposites balance. This time of year the qualities of dry, light, cold, rough, and mobile are rising. In addition to this natural increase, the stress of the Holiday season and high electronic use further provoke these qualities.
When these qualities get out of balance one may experience anxiety, inability to organize thoughts, fatigue, insomnia, and overwhelm to name a few. I share to bring awareness to the truth we are currently in. I hope to empower you with the knowledge to be able to bring balance to these qualities. This is what Svastha is all about: Being able to pause and check-in with the sensations of the body and then addressing any imbalance.
The opposite of dry, light, cold, rough, and mobile is oily, heavy, hot, slimy, and static. We can bring in these qualities through shifts in our daily choices, routine, and foods we eat.
Below are some recommendations to bring balance to this time of year. You are more likely to integrate these habits if you start small, one or two at a time. Feel what tips you are drawn to and start there (buzzkill side-note: sometimes what you feel the most resistance towards is what you need the most).
Tips to Find Balance this Winter
I know everyone has heard this, but are you properly hydrating? Minerals are what bring water inside the cells. Your water is not hydrating you if it isn’t clean and has minerals for your body to actually incorporate the water at a cellular level. A simple and cost-effective solution is to add a pinch of pink Himalayan salt to your water. Other options are mineral supplements that can be added to your water. When you pee, it should be a light yellow color.
First, SLOW DOWN. You are worthy to take a pause from everything that needs to be done in order to create a structure that supports you. When you have a routine, your body doesn’t have to guess when it is going to receive the nourishment it needs.
- 2-3 warm meals a day at the same time
- Electronics off after 9 pm to give the eyes and nervous system a rest
- In bed no later than 10:30 pm
- Daily 20 minute walk outside
- Grounding and Restorative Yoga
This can be applied to anything in life, but especially yoga, if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. For this time of year, favor slow-moving and low to the ground or balancing poses:
Tree Pose, Goddess Pose, Knee to chest pose, Thread the Needle, Bridge, Happy Baby, Bird Dog, Crocodile, Makarasana, Restorative Butterfly, Restorative Child’s pose
- Eye Exercises
Your eyes work so hard constantly processing external information. Tend to your eyes before bed or whenever they feel strained. Come to a comfortable, seated position and do the following eye exercises:
Three rounds clockwise, three rounds counterclockwise:
-Look up, to the side, down, other side and then back up.
-Look diagonally in all 4 directions
-Smooth eye rotation (be slow, feeling the eye move in a full circle)
Next, gaze at the tip of the nose and then up towards the center of the forehead a couple of times. End with a lovely technique called palming:
Vigorously rub the palms of the hands together to build heat. Close the eyes and gently place the base of the palms on the tips of the eyelashes. With the eyes still closed, have your gaze towards the center of the forehead and slightly above the horizon. Do for as long and as many times as your feel. This is wonderfully nourishing for the eyes.
All food has varying chemical compositions that your body responds to. Once ingested and broken down, it has a specific post digestive effect which can either balance or throw off the qualities within the body. The power of choosing the right foods for your body should not be underestimated. For this time of year, hearty stews and soups are wonderful. Suggested foods to incorporate: Our delicious Ghee (add a tsp to every meal, healthy fat is crucial this time of year!), coconut oil, homemade applesauce, steel-cut oats, chia seeds, dates, home-made almond milk, root vegetables, bone broth, mushrooms, cooked garlic, sweet potatoes and animal welfare approved/truly grass-fed meat.
- STAY WARM
This may sound like a silly tip but it is crucial. It’s cold here in the Pacific Northwest. Do not normalize being cold. When you don’t properly dress for the weather, your body spends its precious resources trying to keep you warm. Wear enough layers and always keep your neck and ears/head covered. This last tip will be a hard one for many to swallow: drink you water room temperature or warm/hot. Cold water takes energy away from your digestive fire.
Health is not a stagnant, one-size-fits-all list of do’s and don’ts. It is dynamic based on each unique person and current season. This requires accountability. You are the only one who knows your internal world. Ayurveda provides the tools to navigate and put a language to this internal experience. If you are new to this language, be patient with yourself. It takes time and courage. You are worthy of whatever you need to do in order to find ease, joy and health within your body.
Nothing in this article should be construed to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or prescribing, or a substitute for such activity. I am not a medical doctor or other licensed healthcare practitioner or provider. I do not provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or prescribing, or a substitute for such activity. I make no promise of benefit, claim of cure, legal warranty, or guarantee of results to be achieved. Do not disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information provided by or through me in this article or otherwise, or because of any information provided through my services, or available on or through my social media platforms. Consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner before altering or discontinuing any current medications, treatment or care, or starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, or if you have or suspect you might have a health condition that requires medical attention.