By Lucia Whalen
The word “spirituality” means different things for different people. For some, spirituality is associated with religion and is tied to concrete rites and rituals. For others, meaningful activities like swimming, making art, and walking through the woods brings on a spiritual experience. For the most part, though, the word spirituality has become as ambiguous and vague as the word “the,” and is often stigmatized by associations to “hippy-dippy” new-age philosophies, patchouli, dreadlocks, and yoga pants.
Spirituality seems to have become confused with religion, as it is common to now associate as “spiritual” or “not spiritual”. However, at its core, spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and is not an ideology to believe or not believe in. Spirituality is, in fact, what gives life a sense of meaning and purpose.
Practicing spirituality has scientifically-validated benefits, making it important for each and every person, not just yogis in the Himalayas. If you find yourself skeptical about the necessity of spirituality, check out these 10 reasons why spirituality matters for the average Jo(sephine):
1. Be Present
The spiritual life is based in the present moment, as the present moment is the only real moment; the past and future are concepts in the mind. When living with our minds in the present moment, we function with greater focus, clarity, and spontaneity. We also feel greater levels of joy, as happiness is only accessible in the here and now.
2. Get Smart
Studies show that many spiritual practices, especially meditation, result in increased grey matter area in the brain. Among its many benefits, regular meditation leads to increased cognition, improved focus, attention, and ability to perform under stress, and higher levels of emotional intelligence, all of which contribute to enhanced work performance.
3. Be Healthy
Most spiritual paths and religious traditions recommend abstaining from behaviors and substances that are detrimental to health, such as drinking, smoking, using drugs, committing crimes, and harming others. Many paths, such as Ayurveda and Buddhism, even make dietary recommendations, which can lead to a lower body weight and lessened risk for chronic health problems.
4. Let Go of Grudges
A basic tenet of most spiritual paths and traditions is forgiveness. When we forgive ourselves and others, we are able to let go of blame, negative feelings, and anything else holding us back from moving forward in our lives. In fact, studies now show the positive health benefits of forgiveness, which include lowered risk of heart attack, lowered blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and reduced levels of pain, depression, anxiety, and stress.
5. Bounce Back Faster
Studies show that people who feel a sense of spirituality have greater resilience to hardships. Those with a spiritual outlook have an easier time moving through challenges by finding meaning in difficult situations. High resiliency is also a trait associated with the most successful people in the world.
6. Make Better Decisions
Decision-making is an area that many people struggle with. By simply identifying a set of values that we feel aligned with, we can make decisions that help us feel connected to the greater whole and with a sense of purpose. Spiritual paths also tend to support the development of faith and trust, which helps with stress-reduction in times of uncertain decision-making.
7. Enjoy Amazing Relationships
Research in social science demonstrates that humans are neuroscientifically hardwired for connection, and that connection is what brings meaning to life. Interconnectedness, which is at the core of spirituality, helps us to recognize the shared human experience and feel compassion for others. And when we feel compassion, we enjoy the company of others more and find it easier to find common ground.
8. Release Stress and Anxiety
When we feel a sense of connection to a higher power, we experience mental and emotional freedom. Personal spiritual practices, such as yoga, meditation, running, gardening, and other meaningful activities, are all correlated with lower levels of stress and tension.
9. Enhance Creativity
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “True art takes note not merely of form but also of what lies behind.” Many of the great artists in history attribute their creations to a higher power. When we are relaxed and in the present moment we can more easily experience the state of flow, which leads to more spontaneous ideas and greater levels of creativity.
10. Be Happily Alone
In our modern day culture, it is all too easy to never be alone. If you walk into any restaurant or cafe and look for the people sitting by themselves, chances are they will be absentmindedly eating their food while scrolling through Instagram and sending snapchats to people in other locations. People in this day and age find it difficult and even painful to be alone, both metaphorically and physically. However, when armed with spirituality, being alone is a gift, offering an opportunity to look inward and know oneself. Because, as almost all spiritual traditions teach, our Self is all we truly have. Spirituality teaches us how to ENJOY being alone, so that we can truly enjoy being with others.
Interested in learning more about spirituality, Ayurveda, and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
In today’s world, where people are prone to stress, anxiety, and depression, it’s more important than ever to search for ways to relax your mind. Relationships, work, school, and/or financial worries all take a toll on our bodies and minds, and yoga can be a welcome break from the pressures of everyday life. According to one study, a regular yoga practice may help you fight stress, anxiety, and depression. While yoga overall is very useful for calming the mind, we’ve selected five poses, which, when practiced mindfully, can make a big difference in your overall stress levels.
This pose stretches your lower back and hips, which can be very relaxing and help decrease fatigue. To try out this pose, first sit on your heels, leaving a gap between your thighs. Then, extend your upper body on the floor, your midsection resting between your thighs, and your arms fully extended on the floor. Take several long, deep breaths in this position. This position can be held for up to five minutes, or longer if you wish.
This pose is challenging, but it’s very effective at the same time. It enhances your energy level and mood, and strengthens your back. For the cobra pose, lie face down, position your palms on the floor shoulder width apart. Keep your lower body and pelvis grounded at all times, then inhale and lift your chest off the floor, while your lower body stays in place. Keep your attention on lifting from your core, rather than simply resting on your arms. You can hold the pose for a number of long, deep breaths, then let your body rest on the floor as you exhale.
There are three warrior poses. Warrior II Pose is a simple yoga pose, which can help release stress and tension. When doing this pose, let yourself be reminded of your inner strength and ability to stand strong against the challenges of life.
This is a cool yoga pose, and it’s not only for dancers. Anyone can implement this pose into their yoga routine. It’s a beautiful pose that symbolizes grace and elegance. You can do this pose with a light and happy feeling, as though you were a dancer. Not only can it release stress, but it also opens up the chest.
This is a very effective pose, but it’s not an easy pose to try. Although it takes some time to master the crow pose, you will be proud of yourself when you finally get the hang of it. This pose can enhance your focus, strength, and concentration. When doing this pose, let the mind be happy and calm. In Sanskrit, this state of mind is called prasanna chetana, a pleasant, relaxed awareness. Having a strong mind can also help you overcome the symptoms of depression.
Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health. When ignored, stress can affect our physical well-being, as well as our mental peace. Making yoga a regular part of your life can help you manage stress and lower the risk of stress-related health problems.
Interested in learning more about the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
By Wendy Swanson
Most of us hate being a beginner. We dislike not being the “expert” let alone not knowing anything about a subject or practice. And yet ALL of us start as a beginner in any new endeavor.
Yoga, for many of us, can feel particularly intimidating, especially if we follow any “famous” yogi on social media and see lots of pretzel poses done flawlessly, in full makeup and expensive clothing (By the way, this is not really what yoga is all about and most of us do not look like that).
The best tips for beginner yogis
To help ease of our beginner angst, below are some tips on starting a yoga practice outside of our own homes:
Overcoming beginner’s resistance
Some other “fun” demons that sometimes rear their ugly head are resistance, doubt and second guessing. Think back to some of the bigger moments and decisions in your life and I bet you will find these guys hanging out. Recently I went on life changing retreat and for weeks leading up to the retreat I thought about backing out. My resistance to change and doing something new showed up in the form of: “I don’t have the money, so I should cancel”; “My family really needs me, so I should stay home”; “My business is super busy right now so this is really not a good time. I should cancel”. There are parts to me and to you that want us to stay small, play it safe and never ever change. These parts stem from aspects that have experienced hurt and pain in our past. They are valid parts of us AND we need to not have them running the show.
Living outside of fearI find that when I allow these parts to have a voice and at the same time not run the show, I can make decisions from a grounded and centered place. I literally picture myself stepping into my higher/ spiritual self and asking that part, that truly has my best interest in mind, what I need to do. A vibrant, joyous and fulfilling life comes from paying closer attention to our higher self that promotes growth, self-love, connection and abundance. It was a game changer when I realized that my overly practical side was just resistance cleverly disguised. I encourage you to ask yourself “what part of me is talking right now?”
Connect to your higher self
The practices of yoga and meditation can help us know our higher self a bit better. Taking time to retreat can help us profoundly understand ourselves so that we can have the life we dream of. Our dreams can then move from imagination into reality.
I invite you to bravely stand up to the parts of you that hold you back and go take that yoga class or go on retreat. Your soul will thank you.
Learn to see the beauty and magic in all elements of life. Brooks Haislip, Kathleen McIntyre, and Wendy Swanson host Fall in Love With Life at the Art of Living Retreat Center from April 26th-28th.
Wendy Swanson, L.Ac, E-RYT 200, is a healer, transformational leader, yoga teacher and licensed acupuncturist. She is the owner of Be Yoga & Wellness in Charlotte, NC; and is currently studying at Kripalu for her 500 hour yoga certification.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
By Sejal Shah
In today’s culture of stresses and excesses, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can be a daunting task. It requires a variety of deliberate life adjustments, and experimentally combining separate-but-intertwining skill sets in five key areas: lifestyle, nutrition, fitness, psychology and spirituality.
Instant fixes and miracle cures will not create lasting and healthy change. It is essential to be willing to implement simple persistent lifestyle habits and work through self-harming patterns. You must be ready to overcome emotional or psychological problems linked with food, and let go of nutritional and fitness misconceptions. Weight issues do not happen all at once, and overcoming them will not happen all at once. Weight and food issues are complex, involving the body, the mind and the spirit. Therefore the solution must be holistic, integrating all of these aspects.
Spirituality (Spirit) & Mind
Spirituality will give you a broader outlook on life. With this improved perspective you are not carried away so easily by quick fixes or short term temptations and will tend to make choices which have sustainable long term impacts. When we are connected to our meaningful life purpose, we are more likely to make conscious food and life style decisions. Over time your connection will build a natural self-discipline which will bring you enormous and real freedom. This freedom will empower you to let go of the instant-gratification of unhealthy foods and look forward to long-term benefit of health. By empowering yourself to be in charge of your health and your life instead of depending upon anybody else you will see health as your real wealth and your body as a divine instrument to live a meaningful life. Life becomes a celebration.
Yoga, which literally means the union of the body, mind and soul, is a spiritual route to weight loss – that is why Yoga is such an effective way to tackle this complex issue. Yoga is certainly a means to that end, but not exactly in the way one would expect. Yoga will help you develop a leaner, more supple body not by emphasizing a restricted food intake and targeted muscle-building, but by nurturing an attitude adjustment that paves the way for long-term change. Regular practice of all 8 limbs of Yoga establishes physical and mental poise in a natural, gradual, lasting and organic way. With this poise, you will see life in a much more expansive perspective and you are naturally equipped to make far better choices and handle any situation in much more effective way.
The physical aspects of yoga have become more popular worldwide, and people do consider yoga as another means of physical fitness, but yoga as a way of life offers a holistic package for total personal transformation. More than a workout, yoga is work within! It brings harmony between our body, mind and spirit so that all three function in unison. Coupled with its sister science – Ayurveda, an ancient healing method from India, the practice of yoga becomes easier and goes even much deeper. Combining Ayurveda and Yoga offers a complete system of well-being for body, mind and consciousness.
When practiced regularly and in disciplined way, yoga will not only improve your physical health but also mental and emotional health. Practicing yoga changes the way you approach life, your body, and eating. Yoga shows you how to honor and appreciate your body for all of the amazing things that it can do for you and points you in the direction of wanting to fill your body with the best possible fuel rather than processed junk food. And changing your mind or the way you look to your body and the foods you feed it will be a much more effective weight-loss tool than mindlessly following any diet fads.
Typical weight-loss programs address the symptom (excess fat) and ignore the cause, which is essentially an imbalance caused by or manifested as any range of emotional problems, bad life style habits and poor nutrition. Unlike going to the gym, calorie burn is not top of mind for a yogi. Yes, aerobic exercise burns calories and can help you lose weight. But will it change you internally, thereby causing a lasting weight loss? The calorie calculated weight loss program does ultimately create a load on the system and eventually you will get bored and stressed by constantly remaining on your toes to watch the calories!
Yoga fosters a body awareness and discipline, which is something that goes deeper than calorie burn. Yoga cleanses and purifies your body from the inside and as an effect you will naturally want to put healthier and nourishing things in the body. Over a period of time, your taste buds change, and so will your cravings and aversions. Thus it can lead to healthier eating, mindful living, and self-care. Yoga can make you fall in love with healthy living. All of these things can lead to successful and lasting weight loss. While an hour spent at the gym exerts pressure on the body, yoga helps ease the resulting stress and helps tackle emotions like anger and frustration which often are often the cause of weight gain tendencies. Through a sustained yoga practice, your body will change, your health and metabolism will improve, and your peace of mind and self-discipline will return. A balanced mind and self-discipline are the key components for solving any kind of life problems, sustainable weight-loss is just one of them.
Are you ready for an experiment for 3 weeks?
Next time your favorite chips are in front of you and you are so tempted to eat the whole bag, just take a few deep breaths and then ask three questions:
If you, like so many of us, have tried many quick fix solutions and you are feeling frustrated, don’t give up. I am sharing this wisdom with the intention that it will help you to regain your hope and confidence and you will be ready to give yet another try.
Stay tuned, soon I will be sharing much more interesting tips and eye-opening facts to help you overcome your problem. Believe me, every problem is an opportunity and blessing in disguise and have faith that you are never given any problem which you don’t have the capacity to handle and solve.
Much love and peace.
If you’d like to learn more about a holistic approach to weight-loss that combines Ayurveda & yoga, check out our ebook on Weight-Loss tips from Ayurveda.
By Doug Swenson
Mastering the secrets of Yoga flow lends itself to the vision of a yoga practitioner moving seamlessly between yoga asana with awareness and fluid grace. This is definitely part of the definition of fluid vinyasa in yoga, and yet, the concept reaches far beyond, to include awareness in all aspects of life. This heightened perception will reward you with enhanced consciousness; inspiring direction in your life, with spirituality, healthy diet, cross-training and your foot print in the sands of time.
The new accessibility of yoga
The recent overwhelming popularity of Yoga has its positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, we no longer have to search the world over for a really good yoga teacher. No more walking great distances over blazing deserts, climbing frozen mountains, sleeping on beds of nails, or walking barefoot on hot coals just to earn the right to practice yoga. In almost any town across America, you can now find many great yoga teachers from an array of diverse styles.
Furthermore, you don’t have to go through lengthy auditions to be taken seriously: all you have to do is show up and you are accepted into the group.
How do you find the right style of yoga for you?On the other hand, Yoga has become a bit more complicated now that it is accessible to everyone. You have to be knowledgeable enough to decide which style, guru or teacher is most beneficial, educational, fun, and down to Earth. So where do you begin on your search to find the wisdom and answers to all your questions for every day life and beyond, yet in a nice cheery, leveled headed manor? Should you base your practice on the softer styles, which embrace flexibility and relaxation, or the harder styles, which promise a great workout, and lots of muscle resistance and sweat? Should you invest in spirituality or just use yoga for the physical attributes?
All styles of Yoga have their own unique benefits, appealing to your own individual personality, or goals. Among them, there are many similarities. For instance, all yoga posture practice is categorized as Hatha Yoga, which translates as meaning masculine and feminine, strength and softness, or yin and yang. I always tell my students that when choosing a practice, choose one that defines the true meaning of Yoga: union. Within this definition it is to your advantage to practice both hard and soft forms of Yoga. This creates a greater balance of both physical and mental energy.
Remember to flow
Surprisingly enough, the way you move from one posture to the next is as important, if not more important, than choosing between a challenging or more-relaxing yoga practice. The movement between postures is called a vinyasa, or connecting link. What you do with your body affects your mind and whole energy level. When practicing either hard or soft form styles of yoga, try to move with fluidity and grace as you enter and exit each yoga posture, still maintaining strength and power. This manor of practice will reward you with greater energy, deeper relaxation, and a more focused mind. Allow your yoga to flow naturally, like the energy of a peaceful river as it journeys to the sea.
Yoga and spirituality
As for the energetic flow of spirituality, this can mean different things to different students. You may feel spirituality is a natural bond with nature or a faith in a greater power, or perhaps a union of universal energy within your own body and mind. This is a personal matter and the answers will come as you practice your yoga. Remember the masterful words of yoga: “the journey is everything.” Just by committing yourself to the practice, these answers will come to you.
In time you will discover that your yoga practice also affects your whole life in a positive way. Your daily life will take on an essence of controlled energy flow. Yoga is an internal practice with eternal results, touching every aspect of your whole life in a positive way. In yoga, this is called harmony within!
A complete system of health
Yoga is a wonderful science and art, yet your overall health will benefit greatly if you do some cross-training as well. Yoga will complement your other physical activities, just as they will in turn complement your yoga. For complete fitness, we need a balance between aerobic exercise, muscle resistance training, and stretching. Combining these activities will enhance your vital life force, or flow of prana.
Aerobic activities are any exercises that strengthen the heart and lungs, including jogging, bicycling, walking, or even your Saturday night dance fever contest at the local gym. Try to include at least 20 – 30 minutes of quality aerobics every day.
Muscle resistance is found in specific exercises, which strengthen and challenge the different isolated muscle groups. The classic form of muscle resistance is weight lifting, chin-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, or isometric exercises that push one muscle against another. The more challenging forms of Yoga offer quite a bit of muscle resistance, such as Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga. Even the softer forms of yoga such as Sivananda Yoga or Integral Yoga create some degree of muscle resistance in certain postures. Try to get at least 20 – 30 minutes of quality muscle resistance four times a week.
Stretching is a plus for yoga students; yet don’t get stuck in the same routine day after day. Strive to rotate with different practice and postures over a period of time to insure covering every area of your body.
Your body is a temple
When you get hungry and find yourself staring down the barrel of a donut, armed with a full mug of heavily sugared coffee – before you declare war on your anatomy…be sure to remember your body is your temple and you should treat it with respect. Stay away from junk food, fast food, and artificial and unnatural food. You can enhance your overall health by simply eating more fresh raw, fruits and vegetables – and whole foods in their natural state. Try to eat lots of green, chlorophyll-rich foods such as raw leafy greens, which protect your body against pollution and enhance you immune system. Drink plenty of liquids daily and try not to overeat.
Use the energy you create in Yoga to help you to become a better person. If you throw a pebble in to a quite pond, this energy creates ripples, which eventually touch every shore. In the same respect, your presence in life creates ripples in time: your actions, words, and thoughts – in one way or another affects people in future generations.
Nurture your flow, strengthen your body and mind, and revolutionize your yoga practice. Doug Swenson teaches Mastering the Secrets of Yoga at the Art of Living Retreat Center from April 3-7, 2019.
Doug Swenson is a world-renowned yoga teacher and has been a true pioneer of yoga practice in the United States and further afield for over forty years. He has authored three books on yoga and twenty yoga videos on the well-known online spirituality platform, Gaia. Doug teaches with clarity of words and weaves informative wisdom mindfully throughout his teachings.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
By Diyana Harmitha
Ever wondered how to sleep better? Ask just about anyone if they get enough sleep, and the answer you are likely to get is “no.” According to the CDC, “An estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.”
Not only is the quality of sleep we get not up to snuff, we are also not getting enough sleep. A 2009 survey conducted by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found that 35.3% of adults surveyed get less than 7 hours of sleep. The survey also found adults reporting nodding off while driving, or engaged in other activities.
It’s not just adults who have trouble getting enough sleep, but children also. The demands placed on our youth in school and in their activities make it hard for them to get a good night’s sleep. A solution to this widespread sleep problem is applying the principles of Ayurveda to your pre-sleep preparations.
Before we introduce Ayurveda, let’s look at why sleep is so important. In children, sleep is essential for healthy growth and development. Children who get enough sleep are more focused, perform better in school and activities, are happier and have fewer behavioral problems. The average child between the ages of 5 and 12 needs 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night.
In adults, sleep is when the body and mind rest and restore. Adults who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and stroke. Adults who get enough sleep are also more likely to maintain a healthy weight. The average adult needs about 7 and a half to 9 hours of sleep per night.
For older adults, sleep is an essential tool in maintaining health during the aging process. Many seniors find it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep due to health conditions such as the need to use the rest room frequently. Older adults need just as much sleep as their younger counterparts, about 7 and a half to 9 hours.
How can Ayurveda help?
Ayurveda is a method of healing the body naturally. It is a discipline that is over 5,000 years old, and originated in India. The main difference between Ayurveda and modern medicine is that Ayurveda seeks to treat the cause of disease, not the symptoms.
Have you ever taken a sleep aid? Millions of adults take prescribed medications to help them sleep better. Unfortunately, sleeping pills don’t address the underlying causes of lack and poor quality of sleep. Applying principles of Ayurveda to your night-time routine can help you get better sleep, and more of it, with less reliance on pills.
Find Out How to Sleep Better with Ayurveda
Try adding these practices to your day and enjoy the increased energy that comes with better sleep!
Nix caffeine. Or at least cut off your caffeine consumption after 3 pm to sleep better. That goes for sugar and other stimulants. Your body will have a tough time closing up shop for the night if you have sugary, caffeinated substances coursing through your system.
Drink hot milk. It sounds like something your grandmother would tell you to do, but a common Ayurvedic practice is to drink hot spiced milk before bed. Try a hot cup with a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. The spices are cleansing for your body, and the nutmeg is calming.
Unplug. Give yourself some screen free quiet time for at least an hour before bed. Turn off your phone, computer, TV and tablet. Dim the lights and play some soothing music that fills your heart. This gives your brain a chance to switch from active mode to sleep mode.
Meditate. You may not think you know how, but you don’t have to be a Yogi or Buddhist Monk to meditate. Try this: sit quietly and comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Even 5 minutes of this is enough to start resting the mind.
Get Moving. Not right before bed of course, but try to incorporate more movement or exercise into your day. Take the stairs, go for a walk, do yoga, get active! Your body is designed to be in motion during the day and at rest at night. Moving more will help you get on that cycle.
Interested in learning more about how Ayurveda can improve your health? To find out more, schedule a free consultation with our Ayurveda specialist.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
By Lokesh Rathuri
Natural Weight Loss Tips with Ayurveda
In our last article, we looked at key causes of weight gain and what body types persistently grapple with weight issues. Now, I’d like to share a few Ayurvedic tips for natural weight loss. Read on for more.
DEALING WITH VATA
For weight loss, it’s important to first balance the body’s vata, the dynamic element that dominates the body’s nervous system and coordinates all the movements of the body. If you compare, the two elements vata (light) and kapha (heavy) have opposite characteristics, apart from the cooling properties common to both. So normally, when vata goes out of balance, say if you have joint pain, gas, restlessness, the body naturally tries to balance vata imbalance by adding on kapha (heaviness) in the system — in other words, the body gains weight. And when we put on weight, a natural tendency is to do more exercise, which can increase vata. This can create a hidden cycle where the vata keeps rising, the body keeps adding fat and you don’t lose weight. So it’s important to first attend to balancing vata in the system.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-MASSAGE
Self-massage with oils is one of the main ways to balance vata and reduce fat. So for those who want to lose weight, I highly recommend to briefly massage your body everyday with sesame oil. Five to ten minutes, applying oil all over should be sufficient. To complement this, steam therapy, such as sweating in a sauna or in a traditional Ayurveda steam chamber (if you are on a residential program) is also very helpful to make sure vata is not aggravated.
DIET TIPS For weight management, in your diet avoid or minimize foods that are:
Okay, enough with what to avoid…now what to eat?Generally, emphasize pungent, bitter and astringent tastes in your diet. This reduces heaviness in the body.
Have a light breakfast of fruits. Then, drink hot water throughout the day, which helps to lower weight. As an energizer two to three times daily, you can drink lukewarm water with one spoon of aged honey and a few drops of lemon juice for taste. This will give you lots of energy, so that you may not even feel like eating much. Then eat when you really feel hunger.
About the lemon-honey water: the water should not be too hot, as overheated honey can be mildly toxic and difficult to digest. The honey should not be fresh honey, which for weight reduction is not useful, but rather be aged for at least one year. This aging process adds the weight-reducing benefit. Fresh honey, on the contrary, leads to weight gain. The best way to find out the age of honey is to ask your local honey producers or check the expiration date. Generally, an expiration date within the year indicates that the honey is already two years old.
Have a light lunch that includes some significant protein. Lunch can be followed by one to two cups of buttermilk. For dinner, have a lighter meal, which can be just soup. With this plan, you do not lose energy. Rather you feel more dynamic, lighter and more energetic, while at the same time losing weight.
The Ayurveda Home Cleanse
Beyond eliminating toxins from the body, the 5 day Ayurveda Home Cleanse Diet also helps you to lose weight. It involves just five days of eating a special preparation of a soup called kichadi, which is made of mung beans, rice and select spices. As much as you are hungry, you can eat this for five days for lunch and dinner. For breakfast you can have fruits. In just five days, many people have lost four to six pounds. But this diet should be kept for only five days. If prolonged, it does not give such benefits. But you can repeat this after a month.
You will need exercise also because you need more oxygen to burn the fat in the body. In this respect, pranayama (regulating the flow of breath and energy through working with the breath) is instrumental in natural weight loss, especially a technique called kapal bhati. My favorite is Sudarshan Kriya which combines pranayama with advanced breath-work and is taught in the Art of Living course.
Combined with several of the strategies above, several herbal supplements can give added benefits (or losses;). Like regularly taking triphala at night. Also, Amrut is an herb that reduces toxicity in the body, balances vata, pitta, and kapha, and opens up the circulation in the body. Another useful herb for weight loss is Shilajit. There are many such herbs, such as guggulu and others.These herbs are most useful when taken for one to two month and have maximum effective when used for three months, especially when used alongside with the Ayurveda home cleanse, when repeated monthly. This helps the body to lose weight, then stabilize; to lose weight, then stabilize.
MAINTAINING OUR LOSSES
It can happen that people go on a diet and lose weight very fast. But when they come back and resume their normal diet, they may gain double what they had lost. That’s where this gradual program of natural weight loss, repeating a gentle Ayurveda home cleanse monthly is very useful, especially when done along with daily self-massage, exercise and supplements. This balanced, holistic program helps with natural weight loss and with maintaining our losses.
To review, the weight loss routine draws from all three areas of Ayurveda’s holistic approach to wellness:
So having fresh fruits for breakfast, a nice, hearty lunch and soup for dinner, along with lots of water and lemon-honey-water, you will lose weight, but you will not feel weak. This coupled with the cleanse, the herbs, some exercise appropriate for your type and some breath-work will all combined help you to lose weight and manage your weight. We’ll investigate in our next post how some these techniques can also be used to rejuvenate, regardless of your weight management goals.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
By Lokesh Rathuri
Many people want to lose weight, but often we start an exercise routine (which in itself is great!) without fully considering the factors that cause obesity. In this first installment we’ll look beyond standard explanations to analyze from an Ayurvedic understanding what causes weight gain and obesity. In turn, this will help us understand the process of natural weight loss with Ayurveda.
There are many factors that can cause obesity. Of these we will look at five factors.
Accumulation of Toxins & Other Factors
One factor is the accumulation of toxins in the body, and this accumulation of toxins prevents you from being able to lose weight. You may not put on much weight, but neither do you lose weight.
What are the signs of toxins in the body? One sign is that the body feels puffy, especially when you wake up in the morning. Other indications are when the body feels dull, lethargic and there is low energy.
It is so important to get rid of these toxins.
For that, it’s great to follow a 5 day Ayurveda Gentle Cleanse Diet. This plan helps you to detox AND to lose weight. It involves just five days of eating a special preparation of a soup called kichadi, which is made of a superfood called mung bean along with rice and select spices.
There are also procedures you can add to your daily routine to help regularly cleanse the system. As just one example, it is a good practice to drink one cup of hot water at night.
Some key instances when people gain weight are
Examining the Connection between our Type and our Weight
Another interesting observation is that obesity is related to our natural constitution.
Obesity is more common among people whose natural constitution is predominated by kapha or a mix of pitta and kapha. You are far less likely to find a person with a vata (light) or pitta (strong) constitution suffering a kapha imbalance and being overweight. However, kapha and pitta-kapha types both have a tendency to gain weight easily and lose it with difficulty. So obesity is very much connected to our natural constitution as well as to imbalances in our lifestyle.
SUPPORT YOUR NATURAL CONSTITUTION FOR NATURAL WEIGHT LOSS:
This is why Ayurveda recommends so strongly to stick to the diet plan that best supports your natural constitution as a foundation for good health. For kapha types especially, it is important to avoid oily, greasy and fatty foods. So you must come to know what constitution you are and what imbalance exactly you are experiencing. You can learn more about this during an Ayurvedic consultation or when you participate in a cleansing program like a week-long panchakarma detox. We will explore more Ayurveda weight loss tips in the next installment in the series on Ayurveda and weight loss.
Want to learn more about weight management with Ayurveda? We’ve created a special guide of weight-loss tips from the tradition of Ayurveda that goes more into the topic and gives some solid, detailed advice for anyone who wants to feel and look lighter.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
After practicing Western medicine (Allopathy) for 25 years, I became disappointed with many aspects of the culture surrounding it – namely, the lack of emphasis on prevention, and the over-reliance on prescription drugs.
At the time, I wasn’t aware of the system of optimal health from India that is all about prevention. It’s a system that uses natural herbs instead of synthetics, a system that incorporates yoga for healing the body and mind. It’s called Ayurveda, or “the knowledge of life.”
Over the next few years, I discovered the ways in which Ayurveda can be a more effective approach to health, especially when it comes to treating mental unrest like anxiety and stress. Much disease can be prevented as patients learn how to de-stress. The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is a healthy physical body, a calm (sattvic) mind, and a heart connection with Spirit.
Allopathy vs Ayurveda
Both Ayurveda and Allopathy (traditional Western medicine) have their place in health and healing. “Allo” means opposite, and “pathy” means disease. In allopathy, pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed that have opposite effects to the symptoms. Sometimes, allopathy can be life-saving. Examples include the epi-pen (epinephrine injection) for a life-threatening bee sting allergy (anaphylaxis), and antidotes, like Narcan, for opiate overdose.
However, Allopathy has its shortcomings. It often treats symptoms more than it cures disease. Anti-depressants like Zoloft are prescribed for depression, and Xanax for anxiety. While they may relieve symptoms, they do not offer a cure.
Unfortunately, these synthetic drugs come with long lists of side effects, and can actually affect brain chemistry. Prozac was given a black-box warning by the FDA, the strongest caution given before a drug is yanked from the shelf. Why? Prozac made some suicidal patients worse, especially those in the 18-25 year old age group.
Dr. Deepak Chopra put it bluntly: “I think it was just the fact that there is a lot of frustration when all you do is prescribe medication, you start to feel like a legalized drug pusher. That doesn’t mean that all prescriptions are useless, but it is true that 80 percent of all drugs prescribed today are of optional or marginal benefit.”
Why Ayurveda? Treat Root Causes, Not Symptoms
Ayurveda is, in many ways, opposite to the Western approach. According to Ayurvedic master Dr. David Frawley, deep seated anxieties must be be pulled out by their roots. Both Ayurveda and Yoga do so with yogic breath practices and the practice of mantra. These practices are yoga for your mind. Pranayama and mantra are at the core of the Happiness Program and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, taught at the Art of Living Retreat Center.
All About Prevention
One answer to “Why Ayurveda” is its emphasis on prevention, or Sva-stha-vrit-ta.
Svasthavritta means “the protocols by which one can remain healthy.”
So much disease (heart attack, stroke, cancer) could be prevented by awareness of these Ayurvedic protocols:
• Treat organic fruits and veggies as medicine. You will be prescribed specific foods and healing spices based on your body-mind type, or dosha.
• Develop a healthy exercise pattern like Yoga or Tai Chi.
• Learn how to de-stress with mantra and pranayama (breath practices).
• Learn the principles of Ayurvedic detox. Put no junk food in your body and no junk food in your mind. Try an Ayurvedic cleanse with superfoods like kitchadi.
Connection With Spirit
Another thing I love about Ayurveda is how it addresses our connection to Spirit. Allopathy seems dry in comparison to the holistic healing traditions of the East, that are steeped in prayer and meditation.
Connection with Spirit is essential for complete health. Treating the body-mind without addressing Spirit leaves us dry, and often unhappy. Connection with Spirit helps us to realize our place in the Universe beyond time and space.
Of course, a spiritual path is a deeply personal decision. Dr. David Frawley tells us that spirituality is a big tent. He wrote that the Divine can be looked upon as a father, a mother, a brother or a friend — or as Nature, a saint, or the one divinity within us all: the higher Self.
In Your Hands
Take charge of your health today. Don’t wait until something breaks. See an Ayurvedic practitioner and discover your dosha (body-mind type). You will be then be prescribed a lifetime of better health: Svasthavritta — Ayurvedic essentials for staying healthy: right food, right exercise, right herbs, right sleep and right actions.
Don’t forget: many Ayurvedic treatments are also fun. Steam bath therapy sweats away toxins. Shirodhara (bliss oil therapy) can calm the mind and expand the awareness. Abhyanga, healing massage with medicated oils, can work wonders. For more info, contact the AOLRC Spa.
No Quick Fix
Ayurveda is not about the “quick fix” or taking pills. Ayurveda is about discovering the root causes of disease, then treating it. Root causes may be related to a toxic diet, a dysfunctional relationship, stress at work, or repetitive thoughts. Yoga, Ayurveda and a contemplative lifestyle, including self-inquiry, are the keys to success.
Choose Ayurveda to stay healthy and prevent illness. Choose Allopathy when it can be of benefit. These two approaches can be complementary, and not mutually exclusive.
Interested in learning more about the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
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