Ayurveda and Living in Harmony with Mother Earth
I recently completed Module 8 (Embodying the Principles of Ayurveda) of my Yoga therapy training at Kripalu. This module's focus is Yoga and Ayurveda. "Ayurveda" is often called the "sister science" of yoga. It is loosely translated as "the science of life", or as Dr. John Douillard says, "Ayurveda unveils the truth of your life". The principles of Ayurveda basically teach us to live in harmony with the cycles of nature in order to restore health and balance in our own life. To me, Ayurvedic teachings mirror the ways Indigenous people have always lived. It is only with industrialization that we have moved away from our natural circadian rhythms and have moved out of balance with earth cycles. Eating foods out of season is one way we become imbalanced. Nature provides us with the foods we need in every season - Bitters and greens grow in the Spring when everything is wet. Some of us suffer from Spring allergies and colds and an excess of mucous in our bodies. Nature offers us bitters and greens and astringent plants in the Spring to dry up mucous and balance our sluggish digestion after a long winter. In summer, when it's hot and we generally feel like eating and cooking less, Nature offers us a bounty of delicious cooling vegetables and fruits - high in water content to cool the heat of summer. Our bodies sweat in summer, releasing heat, and these cooling foods help to nourish us and replenish the water in our bodies so we don't get dehydrated. In Fall and Winter, Nature provides us richer, fattier foods to help us get through times when food is not plentiful. This is the time to eat more root vegetables, tubers, dried beans, nuts and seeds. These foods that are generally higher in carbs and fat content help to strengthen our digestive system and prevent us from "drying out" in the dry season of wind and cold. Of course, I am speaking generally of a 3-4 season climate in the bulk of the United States. But wherever you live, Nature traditionally provides the foods you need for that climate and area - when not destroyed or altered by mankind. As an herbalist, my training is very similar to the concepts of Ayurveda. I trained as a "simplest" - basically believing that all the medicine you need also grows around you - probably right in your own backyard if you have one and it's not cement and concrete. A "simplest" also generally uses the whole plant to treat a person - possibly using different parts of the plant for different things - but seldom is any part of the plant discarded (there are exceptions to this and in some plants - the seeds which are highly concentrated can be toxic. You should always know your plants before using them!). For instance, I make an antibiotic medicine called "YEGG" (Yellow dock, Echinacea, Goldenseal, and Siberian Ginseng). It is made from the dried and powdered root of these plants where the medicine is concentrated, but in general, you can use other parts of the plant as well. The young leaves of Yellow or Curly Dock are edible as bitters in the spring and help to detoxify your digestion and strengthen your immune system. The root used in the pills also helps support the immune system as a blood cleanser/detoxifier. We have the keys to become healthier in our bodies and minds and to create a healthier planet if but look around us at what Nature has provided us. Everything we need is already here if we do not destroy it with pesticides and chemicals, or tear it down and "pave paradise to put up a parking lot" (- Joni Mitchell). In fact, many of our modern day medicines contain highly concentrated constituents first derived from common plants. They say that the Rain forest we are destroying may hold the keys to medicines we have not even discovered yet. If only we valued the plants as much as the land they grow upon. I look forward to offering Native plant workshops in the near future to teach folks how to identify local edible and medicinal plants and how to use them in teas, tinctures, pills and recipes! To find out more, please sign up for my mailing list! Namaste.