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November 14, 2014

Ask The Expert: What Is Ayurveda & How Can Spas Work It Into Treatments?

By Julie Rutherford, Yoga Instructor, RYT-500

“We see so many clients suffering from the effects of stress these days and would love to be able to offer them more help. I’ve heard good things about Ayurveda, but I don’t know much about it. I would love to learn more about it and about how to work into our spa menu. Can you help?” – Sarah B., Phoenix, AZ

It is easy to allow ourselves to slip into the cycle of being “tired and wired.” As a yoga instructor, I work first hand with students that are on the edge of burnout every day. It’s a true stress epidemic! But I find it fascinating that in this modern world we can look to ancient wisdom to find relief and help others live with ease in our busy world.

Ayurveda is a powerful but lesser known “sister science” of yoga that teaches how to restore balance in our minds, bodies, and spirits. This 5,000-year-old Eastern Indian medicinal philosophy literally translates as "science of life" from the ancient Sanskrit "ayur" (life) and "veda" (knowledge or science). In Ayurveda, health is defined as a state of balance between body, mind, and consciousness.

Luxurious Spa Treatments

Ayurveda acknowledges that deep relaxation promotes healing and removes toxins. Here are just a few of the many holistic therapies that can be used in a spa setting:

    Ayurvedic warm oil massage

    Ayurvedic acupressure

    Full body herbal steam therapy

    Ayurvedic hot stone massage

    Ayurvedic herbal dusting and scrubs

Shirodhara or Ayurvedic bliss therapy is a treatment that consists of pouring warm oil in a slow, steady stream on your forehead. It nourishes the nervous system, promoting relaxation and tranquility, and improves mental clarity and comprehension. When done in a series, it is believed to help with certain neurological and mental imbalances as well. Because of the profound effects it has upon the consciousness, it has often been called “bliss therapy.”

The Importance of Self-Care

In Ayurveda as well as in yoga, we know that self-care is a necessary practice that allows us to in turn take care of others. Daily stresses can lead us to overeating, mental and emotional strain, and a whole host of physical issues—all of which deplete vitality. Ayurveda says cultivating your “ojas” (pronounced oh-jus) or inner spark—your true beauty—requires just the opposite: self-nurture, stress management, and keeping your energy levels replenished.

When replenished regularly, ojas manifests outwardly and inwardly:

  • Results in glowing skin, bright eyes, and silky hair

  • Helps your reproductive, nervous, and immune systems thrive

  • Promotes peaceful emotions, such as gratitude and contentment

  • Supports stable moods and helps us to handle stress with grace and ease

I look for a yoga student’s energetic presence—the full effect of their mental and physical energy being in balance. This is a wonderful way to define beauty. When someone has abundant energy bubbling over—when they have patience, attention, and energy to share—now that’s beautiful.

Ayurveda is easy to understand if we know to work toward cultivating balance by using the concept of opposites. Stress, lack of sleep, worrying, rushing, overstimulation, they all burn us up. Building quiet, calming practices and moments into every day to allow our bodies and minds to settle down and process our experiences will restore our balance.

Meditation and Yoga Nidra

So how can you incorporate Ayurveda into your own life, as well as your clients’ lives? There are a couple of easy ways to begin to live the Ayurvedic lifestyle and regain your vitality. Begin with meditation. Meditation is a self trainer that trains your mind to lead a serene life. It is not difficult to learn but it is a skill that becomes easier with practice. Meditation allows our bodies to drop into a state of “rest and digest,” allowing for a soothing effect on our nervous system. Just a few minutes per day of quiet time can help. Begin by carving out five minutes in the morning to sit in stillness. Simple techniques such as watching the breath or repeating a positive phrase (mantra) can help you to stay present.

Ayurveda also recommends Yoga Nidra. This meditation technique is quickly gaining popularity in the US. Yoga Nidra, translated as “yogic sleep,” is a guided meditation lead by an instructor. Yoga Nidra allows practitioners to drop into a state of deep relaxation by scanning the body to release tension. Yoga Nidra is great for a beginner because it is practiced in a passive position, usually lying down with comfortable pillows for support. Scientific studies have supported that this style of meditation is particularly effective in treating PTSD, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Nurturing yourself on a deeper level with some of these techniques can be life changing. In addition, surround yourself with loved ones, and live with an “attitude of gratitude.” Let go of judgment and expectations, take time to appreciate unique aspects of yourself and find the humor in tough situations. These are all keys to living the Ayurvedic life. Give thanks for who you are and what you have and remember to care for yourself. Most of all, give yourself permission to press the pause button on life often. You are worth it.

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