What is Ayurveda & How Can I Work it into Treatments?
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 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 it into our spa menu. Can you help?"
- — Sarah B. | Phoenix, Arizona, USA
It's easy to allow ourselves to slip into the cycle of being "tired and wired." As a yoga instructor, I work firsthand 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 lessor 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 / 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 onto the forehead in a slow, steady stream. It nourishes the body, promoting relaxation and tranquility. When done in a series, many believe that it can help with certain neurological and mental imbalances as well. Because of the profound effects it has upon the spirit and consciousness, it's often referred to as "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 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 that 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, it is believed that ojas manifest outwardly and inwardly, resulting in a glowing complexion and peaceful existence.
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—it's true beauty.
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, and overstimulation 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 & Yoga Nidra
So how can you incorporate Ayurveda into your own life, as well as your client's? There are a couple of easy ways to begin living the Ayurvedic lifestyle and regain vitality.
Begin with meditation. Meditation is a self trainer that assists your mind in leading a serene life. It's 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 mind and spirit. 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 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's practiced in a passive position, usually lying down with comfortable pillows for support. Studies show that this style of meditation is useful in treatments targeting 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 judgement and expectations, take time to appreciate unique aspects of yourself and find 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're worth it.
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