8 Ayurvedic Lifestyle Tips to Make You Feel Your Best

By: 
Jennifer Willams-Fields, E-RYT 200

As a strong Pitta-Kapha dosha type, my red hair, thick build and somewhat aggressive temperament lead me to seek out a more cooling yoga practice and cooler temperatures.

Yet, a few winters ago when I was at a weeklong yoga training, I took every opportunity available to run outside and bask in the lovely Southern California sunshine. My fellow training classmates didn’t understand why as a Pitta, and already a bit fiery, I was seeking out further heat to stoke my inner fire.

Our teacher explained that since I lived in a part of the country that normally has moderate winter temps, my body knew it needed to soak up as much sun as I could now before returning to a place with gray, cloudy skies and lots of rain for the winter season.

I needed to feed my Pitta to keep it fired up for the winter.

However, when I came home and told my class this story, they looked at me like I was crazy.

Here in the Bible Belt South where I live and teach, talking about doshas and Ayurvedic alternatives isn’t always embraced or accepted. I’ve learned to tailor my teachings in a general, non-threatening way that allows even non-yogis to use Ayurvedic practices to improve their health.

You don’t have to completely change your lifestyle to improve your health with Ayurveda. These simple tips are accessible to anyone without being too extreme.

  1. Adjust your asana practice to the time of day and the time of year. Winter is a Kapha time of year, but so are early mornings. An Ayurvedic yoga practice based on rounds of sun salutations, strong standing poses and simple back bends can help move excess mucous and alleviate feeling weighed down or depressed. A hot summer day, or even a day of extra stress or anger, will benefit from cooling poses such as shoulder stand, moon salutations and lots of forward bends.

  2. Build your daily routine around the daily dosha cycles.

    1. 6am – 10am: Set your morning alarm for before the beginning of the Kapha cycle to help you wake up more alert and energized.

    2. 10am – 2pm: Problem solving is best done during the mid-day Pitta hours.

    3. 2pm – 6pm: Most people experience a lull as Vata sets in early afternoon. This is a great time for a work break and a short but energizing walk to boost energy.

    4. 6pm – 10pm: As the second Kapha cycle emerges it’s best to set aside any unfinished work and instead use this time to reconnect with yourself and your family.

    5. 10pm – 2am: Since Pitta returns at night, it’s best to go to bed early rather than stay up late and get caught up in a second wind of increased activity.

  3. Eat regularly and intentionally. Begin each morning with a cup of warm water with lemon to get the digestive fires burning and to encourage proper waste elimination. Eating the largest meal of your day is best during midday Pitta hours. This gives your body plenty of time to complete digestion. An evening dinner meal should be lighter and easier to digest since Kapha slows down the body.

  4. Speaking of eating, be just as mindful about what you eat. Foods that are processed, canned, frozen or packaged are harder to digest, and thus create ama, or toxins. Ayurveda practitioners knew long before recent health campaigns that fresh is best. Since Ayurveda is in tune with the seasons, your diet should also be seasonal. Your diet should be lighter in the spring and summer; full of sweet fruits like peaches and berries. Winter meal planning should focus on soups and stews loaded with root vegetables and winter squash.

  5. Rinse regularly. Here in the Mid-South, we have the highest rate of allergies in the country. Regular Neti rinse helps relieve allergies and sinus infections. If you feel like you are drowning when you use a Neti pot, whisper the letter “K” as you rinse. Saying the letter “K” closes the back of the throat and keeps water from going down the throat, giving you that drowning feeling.

  6. Integrate a meditation or regular spiritual practice into your life. If meditation isn’t something your classes are open to for religious or other reasons, change the wording to spiritual practice. Meditation, prayer and quiet time are simply a way to connect to your true self and higher power. Regular meditation or spiritual time has been proven to decrease stress, which can lead to a healthier physical body.

  7. Essential oils are a hot new item now, but Ayurveda strongly emphasizes that essential oils should never be ingested internally. Doing so increases the agni in the body, potentially leading to further negative health issues. Ayurveda teaches to use essential oils as aromatherapy. When you inhale a scent, the smell travels to the hypothalamus, an area of the brain responsible for regulating bodily functions such as growth, sleep and emotional responses.

    1. Vata dosha is typically pacified with floral, fruity, and warm smells. Aromatherapy oils such as basil, orange, geranium, clove and vanilla can help balance Vata.

    2. Pitta can be soothed with cooling, sweet smells. Try sandalwood, lavender, jasmine, ylang-ylang and mint during meditation or throughout your bedroom.

    3. Heavy  Kapha energy is receptive to stimulating and spicy smells such as eucalyptus, camphor, juniper and rosemary.

  8. Get some rest. The Centers for Disease Control reports that one in three Americans aren’t getting enough sleep each night. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a variety of health issues.  For a better night’s sleep:

    1. Use lavender or chamomile essential oils. Both oils promote relaxation.

    2. Sleep in a cool, dark room. Cover all ambient light from streetlights or technological devices in your room with blackout curtains. Sleeping in a darkened room signals the brain to produce melatonin,  a natural hormone to induce sleep.

    3. Reduce your caffeine intake. Ayurveda already recommends increasing the amount of water you drink. Caffeine interferes with the deeper, restorative stages of sleep. If you do insist on caffeine in your diet, schedule earlier during the Pitta hours of the day rather than later in the evening when Kapha suggests we slow down and quiet down.

Although these may seem like basic tips to longterm yogis, they may still be foreign to someone used to living a fast-paced, fast-food lifestyle. Ayurveda recommends doing all changes gradually and never force yourself into any diet or health choice. Ayurveda believes the body knows what it needs and we just need to follow its cues. Listen to your body and let it guide you.

If you are unsure of your dosha type, you can find quizzes online to help you determine which doshas are predominant for you.

Another helpful Ayurvedic article, this time from writer Julie Bernier - Good Digestion, Good Health: 12 Ayurvedic Tips for Better Digestion.

Would you like to study Ayurveda's many health benefits? - Join YogaUOnline and Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar - The Art of Self Care: Ayurvedic Tools for Fostering Balance and Well-being.

 

Jennifer Williams-Fields E-RYT 200 is passionate about writing, yoga, traveling, public speaking and being a fabulous single momma to six super kids. Doing it all at one time, however, is her great struggle. She has been teaching yoga since 2005 and writing since she first picked up a crayon. Although her life is a sort of organized chaos, she loves every minute of the craziness and is grateful for all she’s learned along the way. Her first book "Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom" is now available on Amazon. She has had her essays featured on Yahoo! and Dr. Oz The Good Life. She is a regular writer for Elephant Journal Magazine, Your Tango, and YogaUOnline. See more from Jennifer at jenniferwilliamsfields.com