I am very excited to start this blog about Ayurveda, and how it has changed my life. This topic is one that I am passionate to share because so few people know anything about it. While yoga is making a wave across the country, and becoming wildly popular – it’s Sister Science – Ayurveda has planted its seeds all over the country in the West Coast, North Carolina, New Mexico, and parts of the East Coast, but it hasn’t quite made its way into the heartland of America yet.
My first blog will just be about my journey of discovering Ayurveda, but future blogs will be about Ayurveda and Ayurvedic practices. For years, I have been on a journey to “heal my life” from what most Western doctors say is non-reversible stenosis, and degeneration of my entire cervical spine. I was born with mild scoliosis which caused bone spurs, and I developed arthritis in my early 30’s that my pain doctor said looked like arthritis of someone in their 60’s or 70’s. At 37, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, thyroid problems, anemia, leaky gut, and many other nutritional deficiencies, and I felt like I was falling apart.
Going back in time to explain how this all happened at the ripe age of 27, I was in a traumatic car accident that changed my life forever. I thought I was invincible. I was pushing 80 hours a week working full time as the Director of Sister Cities of Louisville, a one staff office, and then getting my MPA at UofL at night. As my best friend described me, “I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.” I was hosting international visitors from abroad, training to run the pre-Derby mini-marathon, and I was at the top of my game, at least I thought I was. In one second, my life changed forever when I hit another car at the speed of about 45 to 50 miles per hour in Old Louisville. Bam! Life changed in second! When I slammed into another SUV, I was sure that I was going to die. My life did flash before my eyes. I was certain there was no way that I was going to live! That accident resulted in spinal injuries in my cervical, and lumbar spine, and I already had thoracic spine issues from birth.
Over a ten year period, I saw chiropractors, pain doctors, participated in prolotherapy, message therapy, cranial sacral therapy! You name it and if I thought it would cure me then I would do it. Then one day a message therapist said, “Have you ever considered that this might all be in your head? Have you ever done any mind body work?” I was pissed and interested at the same time! I knew I had physical symptoms (even though I didn’t yet have the science to prove from an MRI how bad the degeneration was). I then went on to get the testing done, the science based evidence that it wasn’t in fact all in my head, and that I wasn’t flipping crazy! My pain body was screaming at me, and I needed answers, and no Western treatment was taking that pain away. I came to one point in time where I wanted to throw in the towel and accept my pain as my life. In my early 30’s I was going to have to live in pain the rest of my life, and it was only going to get worse with age. Through tears and grief, I prayed that there must be a better way than drugs, epidurals, and even though not legal I had tried medical based marijuana, all of which had side effects mentally, physical and emotionally. I was getting weaker and weaker and more depressed, and then my Dad died. I felt like my whole world was crashing.
In grieving my dad’s death, my real healing journey began. Not the journey of taking drugs and accepting my diagnosis, but my journey of connecting my mind, body and spirit. Yes, it is true I cannot reverse the spinal degeneration that took over a decade to set in. However, I have learned to live a life that isn’t fully stricken with pain. For anyone who has or had chronic pain, it wears on you, living in chronic pain day in and day out is the most exhausting thing I can imagine for any human being. It is no way to live.
In trying to understand my dad’s degeneration and ultimate death, I began to understand the connection of the gut and the brain. We are literally what we eat. I also began to understand that we are our thoughts as well. What we digest in our mind, is what we digest medicinally in our body. What we take in through the five senses impacts us greatly, and Western Science is just now beginning to prove the Ancient Wisdom of Ayurveda – the gut brain connection, the heart brain connection, and that our mind and our thoughts affect our long-term health picture. Ayurveda, which developed roughly 5,000 years ago already understood this.
What is Ayurveda? It literally means the knowledge of life, and it has two principles: to keep the body healthy and free from disease, and to show us how to use health as the path to enlightenment. Two lofty goals, right? And what does that really mean? How the heck does someone remain free from disease and obtain enlightenment? And would you be shocked if I said that disease begins when we forget our true nature as spirit? And that divine essence resides within all of us? When we forget that we have a spirit and that we are just a mind and a body, then we only participate in the physical world. We eat whatever we want, drink whatever we want, stay up late, and treat our bodies however the heck we want to appease our ego. At the age of 27, I had lost my true nature as a spiritual being living in a mind and body that served my egos purposes, and from 27 to 37 my body was to serve me rather than me servicing my mind and body. Over the past two years, what does Ayurveda mean in my life: It is a daily practice of mindfulness. In future blogs, I cannot wait to share my Ayurvedic Journey! Namaste
Bear with me I am wordy, but please take the time to read how to get your metabolism in gear for the summer. In previous blogs, you have probably read that I have struggled with digestive problems my entire life. At an early age, I thought that feeling bloated and full all the time, and then starving the other half of the time was the norm, or at least it was in my family. The entire Pearman side of my family calls it the Pearman belly. My dad had these issues, my grandma did, and so I just assumed that feeling like crap after eating was the norm.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that my whole life I’ve been able to eat whatever I want. I am known to finish off my plate, my husband’s plate, and my kid’s dinner plates once I am done with my own dinner. It used to be my claim to fame – that I thought I had this kick ass metabolism. How wrong I was to think that my metabolism was on fire!
In Ayurveda, the Vata constitution has a lot of movement in their digestion. They go from having zero appetite, and then the next minute they could eat a 5 course meal. Vatas are the Ectomorphs of the population with skinny lanky frames. The Pittas are the Mesomorph’s with a medium body build, and the Kapha’s are the Endomorphs with the stockier frame. Actually, it is the Pitta’s with the medium build that are blessed with the digestive fire. I fall into the Vata category.
So what is Ama, it is the toxic gunk (mostly undigested food) that is plugging up the channels of your body. Agni is the digestive fire that burns away the ama, the polar opposite of ama. That coating on your tongue when you wake up in the morning is the ama that is plugging up the channels of your body. What you see on your tongue is a window into what is clogging you up inside. Even if you eat a stellar diet, we are all exposed to ama in a modern society through pesticides, pharmaceuticals in our water supply, skincare products, or in essence unmetabolized waste! In Ayurveda, ama is the root cause of all disease. It has a massive impact on how we age. If our agni isn’t balanced and strong, then ama accumulates and agni takes a dive.
So what are some of the other symptoms of ama in our body from an Ayurvedic perspective? Prime examples would be bad breath, fatigue, headaches, constipation, acne, foul body odor, congestion, lymph congestion, water bloating, water retention, joint and muscle pain, etc.
Avoid ice in your beverages
Here are some of the tips that I have to start to digest and reduce ama that I practice in my own body. The first one, which wasn’t terribly hard for me is to avoid drinking cold beverages. In Ayurveda, you want to drink warm liquids like tea to keep the digestive fire alive. Putting ice cubes in your water is a sure way to put out the digestive flame.
Eat until you’re 75% full
The one that has changed my digestion the most lately is eating until I am ¾ full. I have a secret that will change how you digest food. When you eat, you will notice two bubbles of air come up at different times during your meal. The second bubble of air means that you are ¾ full. I never noticed this until I started studying Ayurveda. Once I started tuning into my meals, I notice this phenomenon every meal, and I never even knew I was doing it. It isn’t a bulch, and it isn’t anything that anyone else will notice, but it is just a real subtle action happening within your body.
Reduce alcohol consumption
The third tip I have is to reduce alcohol consumption. I grew up around French food and wine, and admiring the French way of eating and drinking. For a long time, I thought that there wasn’t anything wrong with having a glass of wine at dinner. However, after doing my first elimination diet, I noticed that the joint and muscle, neck and back pain went away after eliminating alcohol from my diet. In the United States, it has become so commonplace and acceptable to have a drink with your dinner meal. However, I have learned that while we are told one glass of red wine is good for us, it still dehydrates the body and causes inflammation because it isn’t alkaline.
Eat your biggest meal at lunch when the digestive fire is at it’s prime!
My fourth tip that is changing my digestion, bloating and constipation is eating my biggest meal at lunch. When we go to bed at night, our body is cleansing itself. The liver, or the night janitor, needs to have the time to do its job, and if we are full and have had alcohol then we are putting extra work on the night janitor to clean house. Again, changing from eating my biggest meal from dinner to lunch has been hard because that is the time when my family comes together to share in our day, but I am decreasing our portion sizes or not making as many side dishes.
Hydrate in the morning
And finally, drinking water until you eliminate in the morning, preferably warm tea and or water with lemon or lemon oil. I cannot tell you how much more rejuvenated I am starting my day fully hydrated. While I haven’t quit my caffeine addiction, I am making sure that I push fluids in the morning because as my day gets going, it is harder and harder for me to remember to take the time to drink and hydrate.
Get your digestive fire roaring in the morning hours
Okay, I have one more tip that is my latest, while I have been waking up and doing yoga stretches for some time now, I am now waking up to do some cardio work in the last week. Again, I am trying to start my day with my digestive fire ramping up, so that I can metabolize my food the rest of the day. This isn’t easy with the kiddos, so my goal is to start waking up at 5:30 am when my hubby gets up to get my juices flowing both mentally and physically. I’ll let you know how it goes as I am not a morning person!!!
If you are interested in accelerating your digestive fire, Thrive Yoga Health and Wellness will be starting a 10 week book club and Thrive program to get you started on your own Body Thrive. Message us for details, and or we will be posting them on our Facebook and webpage soon.
Breathe, Eat, Flow, Grow, Thrive.
Breathe, Eat, Flow, Grow, Thrive!
In a nutshell, they are simple words that have an amazing impact on your life and take you from a life of just going through the day to day motions to living a life of vitality. I have begun this journey, and it is one that is unstoppable. Every day I wake up, I want to know how to Thrive more in my own being. Ayurveda means “ayus” life and “veda” knowledge, but ultimately it means living in tune with nature and with your mind, body, and soul. The only way to truly know the soul is through meditation – to hear the whispers of the heart. If we go through our day to day motions without listening to our heart then we are missing out on the true meaning of life.
Meditation, taking the time to just breathe, doesn’t come easy to me by any means. In fact, to take the time to sit with myself in silence is one of the hardest things to take the time to do. I recently set a timer on my phone after lunch to meditate because without this set time, I will skip it and run onto the next thing. Mornings are too rushed and hectic in the household trying to get the kids out the door. By evening I am so exhausted from the day that some nights I just want to crawl in bed, or finally read the book or article that I have been dying to read all day. It’s a time when I create stillness of the mind through my other Ayurvedic practices, which include sometimes a few yoga stretches and Abhyanga, a daily massage used with Ayurvedic oils. And if I am lucky, I can have some time with Evan, my husband, to recap on the events of the day. As a Vata constitution, I want to stay on the move and sitting down and grounding is the opposite of my nature, which craves movement, but grounding is what I need the most.
It has taken me a lifetime of digestive issues to find a practice that is just beginning to help me heal. In Ayurveda, what we eat matters as it is the building block of our entire body. If you think about our body as an ecosystem then it matters what you put into it. And how we eat matters just as much as what we eat. If we dump Frankenstein foods into our body, then we are plugging up the channels of our body. If we eat too fast, then our body is under stress, if we over eat our body is under stress, if we are in the wrong state of mind whether it be sadness, anger, frustration, etc. then we will digest our food poorly. Being the youngest in my family, everyone cooked for me. I never had to cook for myself, and my mother never taught me although through osmosis her love of food is probably what planted the seeds in me to be on the journey I am on today. Taking the time to plan meals is not my forte. However, when I play and dream up a wonderful dish, I feel so much love because I know that I am nourishing the heart and soul of my family, and there is nothing more beautiful then knowing that it is an act of pure love.
And what is flow, well you can find flow through your yoga practice, but your yoga practice should be symbolic for the rest of your life. My high school sweet heart once said to me, “Paige you cannot fight the waves of the ocean, they will always knock you down, rather you have to learn to swim with the waves.” Sadly, these words were spoken when we broke up, but he knew I was in college and I shouldn’t spend my college years holding onto a relationship of the past as we were trying to sustain a long-distance relationship on different coasts. Those simple words are a reminder that if I am not flowing with the rhythms of my life then I am working against myself. When we are in a state of flow, then everything comes naturally to us. The universe provides for us, and while we might have a plan that we think is the right plan, the universe will bring us what we need. In the book, “The Universe Has Your Back,” Gabrielle Bernstein teaches to transform your life from a state of fear to faith. In confession, I am an anxious person, but it is my faith in God and a greater power that guides me to be in the flow of life – not always but when I am at my best. Honestly, most of my life I have fought this flow, and it is through daily reminders bringing me back to my faith that I am exactly where my life should be and where my life is going because this is the journey that will bring me to higher states of consciousness.
Around 18 or so we quit physically growing, but our whole life we should strive to grow internally. When my dad died 2.5 years ago, I came to the realization that we are either growing or we are dying. If we are not living our life to the fullest, then we are slowly dying inside. There is a Harvard study that has proven that we age or grow old based on our mental picture of how old we are. If you are say 40, but you mentally feel older than your body will age as if you are older. My dad was a ticking time bomb. He always said he didn’t want to live past 70, and he died just after he turned 68. He said he never wanted to grow old and see his body waste away, and yet he did nothing to stay young like exercise, eat mindfully, and know that his physical age didn’t have to age him to the point that he truly wasted away. I so wish that my dad had a different mental image of his life as he would be around today to see my children grow older. His last words to me the day before he died was, “I would like to live 5 more years to see my grandchildren grow up.” He died of a massive stroke the next morning.
What does it mean to Thrive? I believe the ultimate form of Thriving is living a life of pure bliss – “Satchitananda.” This is a compounded word in Sanskrit. Sat meaning being, lasting, enduring, true, and wise. Chit meaning to understand, comprehend, know be conscious of, and reflect on. Ananda means happiness and joy. I cannot say that I have fully comprehended Satchitananda. I know that one day I’ll look back on my life and that it won’t matter what I owned or even did day in and day out that will matter. What will matter the most is the love in my heart and the love that I give. For me this very morning, my moment of bliss was watching my daughter walk up to her friends at school and smile. I have no idea what put a smile on her face, but the love I have for her, my darling Sugs, will fuel the smile on my face the rest of the day. I felt a moment of pure love and bliss for this darling angel in my life.
Breathe. Eat. Flow. Grow. Thrive.