I'm An Ayurvedic Doctor: Here's How I'm Digesting The Lessons Of 2020
According to Ayurveda, every aspect of our lives—our relationships, career, daily routines, home environment, etc.—affects our health. It's from this place of connection that we can start to notice how everything that's outside of us sets off reactions within us.
By this logic, if we aren't processing our outer experiences, they can build up and lead to physical discomfort, illness, and even chronic disease.
This was especially true in 2020, a year like no other that was filled with so many new experiences...experiences most of us never dreamed we would have: wearing masks, social-distancing, carrying hand sanitizer everywhere, canceling travel, and postponing family celebrations. Virtual drinks, dates, coffee, work, and school.
And so as we move into a new year, I'm working to digest all the experiences that 2020 had in store. As I go, I'm considering what is worth keeping and integrating and what should be eliminated.
These five Ayurvedic lessons are definitely worth carrying forward into 2021 and beyond. I hope they serve you as you reflect, process, and plan:
Lesson No. 1: We are all connected.
Humans are made from the same five elements as the rest of the Universe: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Thus, we are connected to everything in nature. The essence of Ayurveda is that when we start to live in harmony with the natural world, we will have optimal health.
In this pandemic, Mother Earth told us she's had enough...that she needed to rest and heal. And so the entire world came to a stop, quite literally.
When we internalize this lesson that what we do affects everyone and everything, we can make choices that are good for our health, good for all living beings, and good for the planet.
Lesson No. 2: Relationships matter.
As I mentioned above, according to Ayurveda, every aspect of life—including our relationships—affects our health. And indeed, studies have shown that people who have supportive, close relationships tend to have lower levels of inflammation compared to people who don't.
In this new world of social distancing, many of us have had to contend with intense feelings of isolation and loneliness. But we've also been given an opportunity to reflect on all of the relationships we do have and consider which ones support our health. The pandemic has given us time and space to think about which relationships we want to keep and which ones we are ready to release.
Lesson No. 3: Nature is healing.
In 2020, nature was one of the few places we could go to get a breath of fresh air, bask in the sunlight, and feel the earth in our hands and between our toes. Many cultures throughout time have considered nature to be healing. In Ayurveda, air is thought to provide fresh prana, or life force energy, which is essential to health. The three main sources of prana are the air, the sun, and the earth, and this life force energy flows through our systems with every breath that we take outdoors.
Lesson No. 4: Breath is powerful medicine.
The breath and the nervous system are connected on many levels. In high school biology, you probably heard the example of a cave man running from a lion, which would activate the acute stress response or "fight-flight-freeze," which prepares the body to defend and protect itself by raising the breath and heart rate. When the threat is gone, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and creates the "rest-digest" or relaxation response. The breath and heart rates slow down and the body begins to repair and rejuvenate itself.
In other words, the nervous system has a direct effect on the breath. And the reverse is also true. By changing the pattern of your breath, you can affect your nervous system, which, in turn, changes the physiology of your body and your mind. And that is a powerful medicine that you can access anywhere, anytime, regardless of what's going on in the outside world.
Lesson No. 5: The real healer is within.
Ayurveda is first and foremost about relearning to listen to your inner wisdom. In a noisy world, it's not always easy to do this. But, now more than ever, it's important to set aside time to get quiet enough to hear the whispers coming from within you.
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