At 47, I've felt the rumblings of aging unease over the past few years.
If I don’t exercise for a few days, there is an unexpected stiffness in my joints. In certain light, I have noticed that those lines on my face that I used to consider cute now seem etched in stone. And what I eat now affects everything from my sleep and energy to unexpected trips to the bathroom and nasal congestion. What the heck is going on?
Aging is inevitable, and in our Western culture it's treated like something to fight. We prepare for the worst by putting on our battle armor and try to give it hell until our last Botoxed, overmedicated breath is expelled from our surgically enhanced body.
But what if it were possible to accept the aging process and travel more peacefully through our years? I decided to investigate how another culture and science, Ayurveda, deals with aging.
The word Ayurveda literally means "the knowledge of life." Developed thousands of years ago, Ayurveda focuses not only on the number of years we live but also on our ability to reach our full potential regardless of where we are in our lives.
There are three Ayurvedic types, or constitutions, to which we may identify: vata, pitta, and kapha. Known as doshas, they are responsible for the entirety of our being:
- Vata is known as the force of movement. According to experts from the Art of Living Retreat Center, a vata living to her full potential means getting along with others and feeling grounded, happy, loving, and caring while spending time following the arts.
- Those with a stronger Pitta, which is my dosha, experience a hotter disposition than vata, resulting in a dynamic personality that often possesses leadership qualities and a fiery temper.
- Cool, calm, and collected people may identify more with a Kapha constitution. According to the Science of Ayurveda, kaphas are the happiest of all types because they are cheerful most of the time.
After figuring out your dosha, there are simple ways to balance it for smoother aging. “A person with constant worries gets old very fast, and the person who is joyful is more young and dynamic,” says Lokesh Raturi, an Ayurveda health practitioner at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, N.C.
Here are some other great ways to balance the doshas for smoother aging:
Meditation gives deep rest to both the body and mind. It helps you relax, which reduces the anxiety and tension often associated with early aging.
2. Use oil massages.
Abhyanga is the practice of self-oil massage, which should be done daily. In Ayurveda, oil massage and steam are two of the best ways to balance vata. Oil massage and steam work together to warm, moisturize, and ground the body.
3. Practice pranayama.
This is the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises. Pranayama leads the mind to naturally become more peaceful and calm, countering tendencies toward sharpness or restlessness.
4. Eat fresh and seasonal.
From a food perspective, the most important principle in the Ayurvedic diet is that your food is fresh — with little processing, pesticides, and additives or other chemicals — and is aligned with your personal constitution. It's even better when it's seasonal and, as often as possible, local.
5. Stay active.
Physical activity is an important part of staying youthful. “Activities that can be done alone — such as nature walks — help to establish comfort in self, which is the purpose of the science of Ayurveda,” Raturi suggests.
Volunteer service and random acts of kindness, dancing, exercise, and being with people who uplift you also help with aging gracefully.
As the host of The Journey into Wellbeing series on PBS, Debra K. uncovers the secrets to living a high-energy, vibrant life. She hopes the stories highlighted will inspire your health transformation. Debra is also the author of the text, “Success from the Start", and co-founder of iMassage, Inc. If you want healthy recipes from some of the nation's top chefs, follow the Recipe Redo Blog. More about Debra's Journey can be found on Facebook at The Journey into Wellbeing with Debra K and watch great short videos on YouTube and find her on Twitter.