Perhaps you’ve run across Ayurveda from yoga class. Perhaps you have a fundamental understanding of the doshas (energies), and you know your constitution. When Ayurveda, the healing science or “people’s medicine” that co-evolved with yoga, came to the West, we adapted it to a more specific and less holistic approach. That is why you may know more about your constitutional type than these five big lessons from Ayurveda!
When we leave the doshas aside, Ayurveda has general guidelines for everyone. If you have a body, you qualify. And furthermore, you can’t be exempt. If you don’t live according to these five big lessons, you’ll suffer. The way you suffer may be specific and differentiated... but you’re breaking the laws of nature,.
1. You are nature.
You are a Homo sapien, an advanced primate that evolved on this sacred life-giving planet. You’re made of the same elements that are part of all the molecules in the cosmos. When you practice an objective, cosmo-centric relationship to your physiology and mind, you can better understand the nature of the Universe and your own Nature.
Forget this lesson, and you’ll get seduced by your ego and the disconnected desires of your senses. Remember this, and you’ll get great insight into your own elemental nature and how to optimize your physiology for a long and healthy life filled with inner joy and deep peace.
2. Go to bed early, wake up early.
As a primate, you have a diurnal, not nocturnal cycle. During the eons prior to electricity, our species consistently went to bed not long after the sun went down. The energy at this time of day is heavy, slow, and descending — all qualities excellent for sleep. Yet, past 10:00 pm, the energy shifts into an upward, stimulating flow — sometimes known as the second wind.
When we burn the midnight oil, we are drawing, not replenishing, energy from our organs — and if done over time, we will have issues with our vitality, immune system, and deep fatigue. When you go to bed early, you naturally wake up in the just-before-dawn time, when the birds chirp, and the gateway between the heavens and Earth is the most open. Insert a spiritual practice here, and you’ll get the most bang for your meditative buck.
3. Breathe big when you wake up.
Chances are when you wake up, you’re less flexible and alert than normal. This “tamasic” energy will influence your day and may create a barrier between you and your highest potential unless you clear it out. Many people use coffee or chai to do the trick, but these acidic substances don’t enhance your mind-body connection and when used to create alertness on a daily basis, they have deleterious side-effects.
Ayurveda teaches you to truly WAKE UP when you wake up. As a full-fledged path to enlightened living, or at the very least a healthful existence, Ayurveda advises you to move your breath in a bigger way when you wake up to aid the body in eliminating the dulling energy of sleep, and to refresh and inspire the subtle energetic channels of your physiology. A practice of Ujjayi breathing or alternate nostril breathing for 5-15 minutes will do the trick. If that’s out of your field, simply breathe deeply, slowly and calmly through your nose, and exercise very soon after arising.
4. Eat plants.
Perhaps you’ve noticed the more yoga you do, the fewer animals you eat. This is a natural progression of sourcing your energy and the fabric of your body from more conscious sources. Plants, especially those from your local ecosystem, create your outer ecosystem. When you primarily eat them, they become your inner ecosystem, transferring their natural immune and atmospheric intelligence.
When you eat plants, you get a transference of not only nutrients but also their life-force energy. As my favorite living foods Ayurvedic expert, Dr. Shantree Kacera, wrote, “The physical nutrients (of plants) nourish our physical body; the subtle energy of plants and herbs (bio-energy, force fields, chi, prana, name it what you will) nourishes our own life force.” And, we all know that nourishing our life force is the name of the game when it comes to countering the effects of the modern-day lifestyle and environmental toxicity.
5. Attune to the subtle.
As you might expect of the healthcare system that co-evolved with yoga, Ayurveda holds many layers of wisdom for you to experience. Remember your first downward dog, and recall what you knew of your body, from the inside out. Thousands of downward dogs later, you are aware that yoga integrates the parts of yourself into a seamless whole, moving you into an evolving experience of unity and integrity.
And, you can feel more! Yoga makes us more aware, and therefore more sensitive through our five senses and the energetic fabric of our body. The cost of this awareness is your old favorite foods now create havoc in your system. The prize of your earned awareness is you are discovering the blissful intricacies of your subtle body anatomy. As you discover your subtle body, you intrinsically learn to respect the subtle channels of your physiology which carry prana, the life force and intelligence that created the Universe. Which brings you back to number one (you are Nature, remember?).
In conclusion, I hope you’ve fallen in love with Ayurveda, with your own nature and with your potential. While it’s easy enough to read the five big lessons, the tapas (or spiritual friction) comes in making them your choice-less choices. I like Leo Babauta’s approach to lifestyle changes: choose only ONE, and do it EVERY DAY for 21 days. And, if you want support, friend me on Facebook.