Ayurveda is a collected wisdom of ages and sages, and is extremely relevant to today’s
woman. Ayurveda is, first and foremost, a science of preventative living through the
application of accrued wisdom. Traditionally, women are the first teachers of preventative
living; often, however, modern women do not care for themselves first, even though they
must—for a healthy self, family and community.
Physically, digestion is the principle focus of health; psychologically, one’s life
philosophy is the primary focus of health; spiritually, meditation and selfless service are the
primary focus of health. Observing these together produces health and happiness for a
woman and beyond.
Transformation through Digestion
“Agni,” (meaning metabolic fire in Sanskrit) implies transformation—the food
transforms into you, the image transforms into a name, the experience transforms into
wisdom. These parallel digestive processes involve heat (tapas), which implies austerity.
Restraint is necessary to choose suitable foods to be eaten at a suitable time. Serve the main
meal at noon and a lighter meal in the evening.
Food science in Ayurveda is based on the “Law of the Six Tastes” rather than on the
relationship between proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, which are isolated
food components. Today’s woman would do well to simplify food fads and to move toward
classical concepts of nourishing herself and her family by considering the taste on the tongue
of foods served daily.
“Shad rasa” (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) describes the global effects
of substances at all four stages of digestion. While Western science does not yet discuss the
post-digestive effect of foods, Ayurveda talked about sub-atomic assimilation (the emotional
interface of mind and body) thousands of years ago.
The process of eating is meant to both cure and prevent disease. Most disease can be
cured or managed by adjusting the food habits passed down from time immemorial through
mothers and grandmothers, who taught their children good food choices and healthful lifestyle habits to help prevent illness. Herbs to take and observances to remember were
passed down from generation to generation in the kitchen.
An experienced Ayurvedic practitioner can offer advice on specific food choices for
individual women and their family members. Herbal supplements may, from time to time,
be needed for unresponsive symptoms to help maintain balance.
Ayurvedic medical science is based mostly in the Sankhiya philosophy of creation, as
expounded by the great sage Kapila, who taught that the soul is eternal and takes on various
transiting “coverings” (koshas). These soul coverings include the acculturalization body,
which nourishes itself through mental repetition; the respiratory covering, which nourishes
itself from oxygen in the air (prana); and the physical body, which nourishes itself from daily
One’s thoughts are generated by a precipitation of qualitative tendencies and repeated
choices, which in turn generate the secretion of a fluid neuro-transmitter. This
communication then enters the general circulation to nourish and form our bodily tissues.
Qualitative mental influences have a greater impact on well-being than food choices, and
therefore are more important in the prevention and healing of disease. It’s best to maintain
one’s focus on emotional balance. A mother is the first guide to restrain the child from –
potentially harmful practices, and she teaches by example. So, once again, a woman must
care for the self first to best care for others.
Providing rest to the mind is critical to maintaining mental and emotional equilibrium.
Joy comes from the contentment of everyday satisfactions such as appropriate food,
meaningful work, loving relationships and opportunities to serve in the world.
A woman needs to take time to withdraw from worldly life in order to re-charge and discharge her “batteries,” which can be unduly affected by stress. Taking 20 to 60 minutes daily
in the morning and evening for quiet introspection refreshes the consciousness and restores
creative enthusiasm to the mind. Sit facing east for ease in receptivity to the inner light of
gladness. Sit with the back straight and relax the body deeply, gradually. Focus the attention
in the third eye (located approximately behind and between the eyebrows) and return the focus
there if the mind wanders. Follow the breath until the mind become quiet behind the
root of the eyebrows. Let the mind rest between respiratory phases.
Morning meditation supports the day to unfold with grace and alignment, while evening
meditation supports preparation for deep rest and repair of the body’s cells. If you awaken
early in the early morning, sit in meditation, which will to help provide deeper restoration to
your body than will fitful sleep.
Seva (Selfless Service)
In Ayurveda, the spiritual priorities used to guide difficult decision-making are:
God/Goddess first, family second and community third. “God” (cultivating love) is first by
giving priority to meditation and the remembrance of our divine nature, according to one’s
personal style and beliefs. Secondly, decisions are made in favour of the family’s needs.
Ayurvedic teaching is to put oneself in the first position of family, that is, to put one’s own
self-care first. Next in priority is the spouse’s needs, then the parents’ or children’s,
depending on the ages and stages of need, and then other family members.
If energy or resources such as time or money remain, up to half can be given away to the
community as selfless service. To give hidden donations with no consideration for return is
meritorious and helps ensure enduring spiritual health and strength. If only one-tenth or
one-fortieth can be spared, this is still very effective in cleansing spiritual imbalances such as
fear or judgment while strengthening faith and tolerance. With loving kindness, such as
volunteering or many daily kind acts for the family or community, happiness, freshness and
creativity return to the mind, heart and body.
Once again, it is common for women to take the last place in the priority chain, but
really they need to put themselves first. Only then can excellent care of self and others be
created and sustained.
Women and Public Health
Throughout history, women have upheld family and community health. Nowadays, the
responsibilities of women have further increased and stress has grown as a result. However,
practice of the basic principles of food science, herbology and loving kindness is enough to
sustain individual health even in today’s busy lifestyle. Still, the realization of the importance
of self-care is absolute. Taking time to rest while menstruating, for example, is a single
important gesture to make each month for self-care. The consequences of not observing rest during the flow are costly for society. The consequences of hormonal replacement therapy
for birth control and menopause management are also costly for women and their society, as
are the consequences of imbalance, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Ayurveda is a universal science of everyday living, brought to us through an ancient oral
tradition of living principles of ancient wisdom. Living includes eating, sleeping, thinking,
relating, working and, indeed, all of life. When a woman accepts that her life is of the utmost
importance, the balance and health that results benefits not only her but those she loves as
of Events” at http://www.hans.org for her upcoming lectures, classes and appearances.
Jaisri can be reached at (604) 290-8201 (Canada) or (408) 378-2880 (US).
Her website is http://ayurveda-seminars.com
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