Ayurveda: Ancient Healing for a Modern World
Healthy foods can change the physiology of the body, says Marc Halpern, DC, but often our senses are so inundated with junk that we ignore what’s best for us.
Bad food, violent TV, stress-inducing noise — “we’re so distracted by the party that the senses have thrown that we don’t listen to the soul. Your soul tells you what’s best,” says Dr. Halpern, founder of the California College of Ayurveda and organizer of the 2nd Annual Sivananda Ayurveda Conference, held at the ashram in January.
As the conference title suggests, Ayruveda is “Ancient Healing for a Modern World,” based on Vedic principles that are designed to balance the body. “Food is medicine; medicine is food,” says Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Oregon-based herbalist, teacher, author, and conference presenter. “The most important aspect of eating is choosing consciously,” and that includes making herbs part of your diet.
“The digestive tract is the gold standard of Ayurveda,” he says.
We have three doshas, defined as ”energies that circulate in the body and govern physiological activity, their differing proportions determining individual temperament and physical constitution and (when unbalanced) causing a disposition to particular physical and mental disorders.”
It is imperative then that the doshas are brought into balance. “When the dosha is in balance, you have good health,” Khalsa says.
And while Ayurveda’s forte is maintenance of good health, the practice also treats symptoms when doshas are out of balance. For instance, Vata leans to warming teas, cumin, astoefida. Pitta needs ghee, coconut, cucumber, sweet juices. Kapha is helped with mustard seed, garlic.
Ayurveda also supports other general food habits such as the use of healthy fats — ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil, sesame, flax, almond oil — and warming ginger and cardamom teas to aid digestion. Lemon water has curative powers, as does the practice of a bowel movement every morning, self massage, and teeth brushing. Turmeric, another essential herb to fight inflammation, can be taken daily in water or milk, Khalsa says.
Ginger is the medicine for the globe, says Avinash Lele, MD, Ayurvedic surgeon, panchakarma and marma therapy specialist, and the third conference presenter. And while it will wake up your organs, it’s also essential to oil your body, he says. “Use coconut oil in the summer, mustard oil in the winter. Three places: top of head, ears, and soles of feet.”
Digestion must take place in the body and in the mind, says Dr. Lele, who is also a visiting professor at schools around the world. “If the body is not well, the best medicine for digestion is hot water; it lets secretions help with digestion. Fast if the body is not well, then start with liquid or soupy rice.
What is constant is change, in the seasons, in our lives. We must pay attention to these changes to keep the balance in our bodies,” he suggests. “We must understand and follow the rules of nature.”