Ayurveda and the Seasons of Self-Care
It is the season of slowing down and cultivating a deeper connection with oneself and I am so excited to share the wisdom of Sarah Kucera! Sarah is an Ayurvedic practitioner, chiropractor, yoga teacher, as well as the author of the book "The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook". We are so fortunate to have Sarah's book currently on its way to Heritage Goods and Supply as well as share her wisdom on the journal today! Below is a excerpt that Sarah has written on the topic of self-care and the practical rituals to help you transition into each season!
“Self-care” has become a buzzword within the modern day wellness scene and beyond. It’s millennials specifically who have been credited with the rise in interest in self-care, as growing up with the Internet has increased their awareness of different health issues and informed them of the benefits of caring for oneself and the tools needed for doing so. Whether it be the accessibility of searching for different types of alternative health care providers, meditation classes, or simply an app for tracking one’s health routine, our web searches, social media, and devices have made the notion of self-care and how to go about it more mainstream. Yet, as this is currently a trending concept, it is in no way a new idea. In fact, it was on the minds of people thousands of years ago, as the ancient medicine of Ayurveda—a medicine placing emphasis on wellness and disease prevention—was being developed.
Ayurveda is nature’s medicine and is a Sanskrit word translating to “the science of life.” It is often dubbed as yoga’s “sister science,” with Ayurveda being seen as the study of the body and yoga the study of the mind. Ayurveda uses nature’s daily and seasonal rhythms, along with the five elements of nature (space, air, fire, water, and earth), to help us understand more about the patterns of our external environment and our own internal landscape. This understanding is essential for achieving optimal health and ultimately arriving at the daily practices that help us to live as our truest self. This is because Ayurveda recognizes each person as an individual, with their own unique expression of nature within them. This is referred to as one’s dosha or constitution.
Self-care is embedded in Ayurveda, and though the needs of an individual may vary, there are general guidelines for maintaining health that can be applied to most. These are daily, nightly, and seasonal routines that are considered to be foundational. Great importance is placed on these practices because similar to how regular participation in unhealthy acts will accumulate and cause illness in due time, the consistent acts you do to better your health will largely contribute to your overall well-being long-term. And while this will not make you disease-proof, it will certainly reduce the frequency and severity of imbalances you experience. As self-care sometimes thought to be self-indulgent, the components of an Ayurvedic self-care routine are not elaborate, indulgent, or even big time commitments. Rather, they are things that are important for keeping us in sync with nature and our circadian clock, so that we can support our body’s own processes.
Coincidentally, though these practices were created long ago, this is exactly what our modern day society so desperately needs. We tend to spend too little time in nature, abuse the ability to work from anywhere at any time, and give in to the pressures to always be doing more. Finding balance in our current culture means connecting with the great outdoors, having greater boundaries and structure in our day, and taking the time to slow down and rest.
Rituals for the Seasons
One of the more sensible places to start when incorporating Ayurveda and self-care rituals into your life is with the seasons. As we are already accustomed to feeling nature’s influence, be it with a change in wardrobe or home décor, there is a more instinctual urge to create a shift and to align ourselves with the rhythms of nature as we usher in new seasons. Provided below are simplistic ideas to inspire you to create new rituals for each season. And remember, as you look to weave new components into your routines and rituals, let changes and transitions be easeful.
Fall and Winter
Daily Routine and Nourishment: To balance the light, dry, cold, and uprooting feelings of fall and winter, add more grounding, warming, oily practices and foods. Oil your feet every night before bed, and oil your joints every morning before you shower (use warm sesame, jojoba, sweet almond, or your favorite herbal oil). Eat primarily cooked foods that feel like a comforting hug. Consume more squash, grains, nuts, seeds, and root veggies, and warming spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and cardamom.
Meditation: Create a personal harvest ritual. Journal in reflection on your accomplishments throughout the year and how you’ll find closure for this particular year’s efforts. Note your willingness to surrender and be unattached, releasing situations, habits, or relationships that are no longer serving the highest good. After writing, sit quietly with your eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply.
Daily Routine and Nourishment: Spring is the season to bloom, and as such, we want to feel light and lively. Coming out of our winter hibernation, we do this through more vigorous movement and breathing practices, dry brushing, and nourishing with foods that have natural cleansing properties. Make sure your diet has lots of leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and fresh berries. Reduce your oil, salt, and meat or fish intake this time of year, as these things can weigh heavy. Replace these foods with lentils and beans instead. Lastly, season with extra turmeric, cilantro, and parsley.
Meditation: Create a meditation or ritual that embodies the concept of planting, new beginnings, and growth. There is a natural momentum to bloom, so explore the areas of your life, be it mundane or stagnant, that need a fresh start. Think of this as spring cleaning for your personal intentions, and write three things you wish to see manifest this spring. Sit quietly to fully embrace the newness that spring will bring.
Daily Routine and Nourishment: We can’t think of summer without the thought of playing in the sunshine. What will allow us to do this without experiencing the imbalance of heat is cooling acts, of course. We can create an internal sense of cool by reducing our responsibilities and allowing more time for spontaneity and fun, along with more recreational and leisurely exercise instead of those intense interval training workouts. Favor the foods that cool, which those that have the taste of sweet, astringent, and bitter. And don’t forget the more notoriously cooling foods, like cucumber, coconut, aloe, and mint.
Meditation: Just as you would water your garden in the summer and sit back and watch it grow, take time for a summer ritual that nourishes your current projects and visions. In a quiet space, journal about the top three dreams or goals you are working with right now. Not the progress you have already make and the ways you will further cultivate them. Close your eyes and imagine these intentions coming to fruition.