Fortunately, bringing the body and mind back to balance is a core intention of Ayurveda, an ancient holistic medicine practice that originated in India. Certain Ayurvedic practices can be effective for managing stress and anxiety, which, if left untreated, can manifest in both physical and mental symptoms. below, two Ayurvedic practitioners provide tips for how you can apply Ayurveda to your life right now, in the midst of uncertainty, stress, and sadness.
How to feel more balanced, according to what you eat and drink
It's possible to optimize your nutrition habits in accordance with to your Ayurvedic dosha, or your energetic constitution, and doing so may help you bring balance to the body. But before you make any tweaks to what you eat, trained Ayurveda expert and Apothekary founder Shizu Okusa says it's important to first consider what you think your body needs. "Are you feeling lethargic and want to incorporate foods and herbs that are fiery and energizing? Or do you feel overly anxious and overwhelmed and could benefit from more cooling and calming foods?" Your answers, she says, will help you pinpoint how exactly you are feeling unbalanced.
what to eat for calmness
If you want to feel more calm, Okusa recommends incorporating more cooling foods into your diet, including fruit and vegetables with a high water content, like cucumber, zucchini, avocado, and melons. "There are also certain herbs that promote calmness, such as reishi mushrooms and ashwagandha, she says.
What to eat for energy
And if you think you'd benefit from an energy boost, Okusa recommends leaning on warming foods, like cherries, peppers, chilis, and corn. Herbs that can help naturally boost energy include astragalus and ginseng.
Eating for immunity
Ayurveda expert and chiropractor Thomas Mitchell, DC, says immunity-boosting foods in Ayurveda also play a major role in feelings of relaxation and happiness. "In Ayurveda, we talk about ojas," which is the Sanskrit term that rules immunity, he says. "If ojas is strong, then people feel relaxed and happy. But if it's weak, people feel fearful." In light of the COVID-19 virus he recommends avoiding "gluten and dairy, which can increase congestion and mucus."
How to aid digestion
If your digestion feels off, first know "it's important not to overload the stomach," says Dr. Mitchell. "In Ayurveda, it's recommended to stop eating when you're two-thirds full." If you're feeling anxious or stressed, he advises sticking with options that are easy to digest, like rice, soups, broths, and white meats (as opposed to red).
How to feel more balanced, using movement and breath
Okusa and Dr. Mitchell agree that movement can help you feel more grounded and balanced. "A sun salutation is a yoga movement that can help anyone feel more balanced," Dr. Mitchell says. "It stimulates different pathways, which are called marma points in Ayurveda." Marma points, he adds, are correlated with acupuncture points, and a sun salutation helps stimulate these points, which can then lead to feeling more relaxed and less anxious.
"Stress can disrupt blood flow, and hanging upside down can help improve blood circulation." —Shizu Okusa, Ayurveda expert
One of Okusa's favorite grounding moves is to hang upside down. (You can achieve this easily and safely by lying on your bed, with the top half of your body hang off or by standing and dropping your head and shoulders down to meet your knees.) "Stress can disrupt blood flow, and hanging upside down can help improve blood circulation," she says. Another one of her go-to methods for restoring balance is to take a cold shower (called "Ishnaan" in Ayurveda) in the morning. "A cold shower shocks the body to the point where you're able to forget what you're anxious or worried about—at least for a moment," she says.
Furthermore, breath is a highly useful tool in Ayurveda for achieving a sense of balance. Okusa says simply breathing in for five seconds and exhaling for eight can instantly calm the mind and body, by slowing the heart rate. "This is something that can work in just a few minutes," she says.
So while right now, there is so much out any person's control, what we can each work on is how to effectively eat and move during each day. If these Ayurvedic practices help you feel more balanced, lean in: There's so much more of Ayurveda to explore.
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