In my most recent blog post, I mentioned I was going to see an Ayurvedic consultant in a bid to try and help myself having reached my tolerance limit with chronic symptoms. Well, *drumroll* I’ve now been to my first session and thought I’d share my experiences.
I’d never heard of Ayurveda until my mum suggested it might be something worth trying (I still struggle to pronounce it!) A friend of a friend of hers sees a consultant and her ears pricked up when Ayurveda was mentioned. Having heard the positive experience of said friend of a friend, I thought ‘why not?’.
Funnily enough, since the discovery of Ayurveda, I see references to it all over the place. I’ve just finished reading Aubree Deimler’s book ‘From Pain to Peace with Endo’ and seeing her talking about Ayurveda makes me think the appointment must’ve been meant to be! Then, a friend over at ‘The Flame’ in Coventry also told me she follows an Ayurvedic way of life, the same principles the centre runs on. I feel like a new door of discovery has been opened.
Before I get into it, I’d like to say that the session was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It was a little overwhelming in terms of getting my head around everything because in many respects it’s quite a shift away from the Western approach I’ve been so used to. But it’s all positive because I can now take actions to help myself – an opportunity to try something new. It’s an approach that makes A LOT of sense – very natural, and it’s certainly made me question elements of the Western way of life. Anyway, onto the many learnings!
Learnings from my first experience of Ayurveda
1. Ayurveda is a mind-body connection approach
The roots of Ayurveda stem from India with the term translating as ‘ayur’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘veda’ meaning ‘knowledge’ or ‘science’ = ‘life knowledge’ or ‘science of life’, the practice of which has been around for thousands of years. A leading figure in the Ayurvedic way of life is Deepak Chopra who outlines the two main principles of Ayurveda being:
1. The mind and body are inextricably connected, and 2. Nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind. Freedom from illness depends upon expanding our own awareness, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body.
Having had some experience of mindfulness practice, it instantly brought this to mind – it’s a very mindful approach to living. It’s also a natural approach, seeing the body as an extremely powerful healer when given the right conditions in which to flourish. What struck me is how logical it is – it’s looking at the whole body and giving it what it needs. Makes sense!
2. There are three Doshas
According to Ayurveda, Doshas define how we’re built as individuals – emotionally, physically and mentally. There’s three types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. However, each of our doshas are proportioned differently which is what makes us unique. When we know our Dosha type, we can make sure we’re giving the body what it needs and in doing so work towards achieving ultimate balance (sounds good, doesn’t it!) Imbalance occurs when we don’t nourish our the needs of our Doshas.
I learnt that I’m 50% Vata and 50% Pitta – or at least I should be. But currently, my Vata is too high and so I need to aim to reduce this. The starting point for me to do this is via a detox (more on this further down).
There’s a quiz you can do to find out your Dosha type (although I’d always advise to take with a pinch of salt and see an Ayurvedic consultant before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle).
3. Agni = fire of digestion
‘Agni’ translates to ‘fire’ but in Ayurvedic terms, it means ‘fire of digestion’. As someone who experiences digestive issues, I found this part extremely interesting and when I thought about it, realised it’s really very logical.
- In the morning, our Agni is low, so we need enough sustenance to wake our digestion up and start our day well.
- By lunchtime, our bodies are in full-flow and are Agni is high, so this is when we need our biggest meal of the day. What do we tend to do instead? Eat our biggest meal at the end of the day when the Agni is low again which means we’re making our digestive system work really hard at that point. It should be the other way round.
- Then, during sleep, when our bodies are supposed to be repairing and renewing, they are still working hard to digest that food which means less opportunity for the job it’s supposed to be doing.
- The result? STAGNATION – when my consultant said this word it summed up exactly how I’ve been feeling.
Hearing this was one of those ‘Eureka’ moments. It actually makes no sense to not give the body enough fuel when it needs it and then over-fuel it when it doesn’t, particularly when you throw digestive issues into the mix.
Here’s an interesting article: 6 Ayurvedic Practices to Improve Your Digestion
4. There is such a thing as too much liquid
…And I thought plenty of liquids was a good thing! But turns out I’ve been drinking way too much during a day. In doing so it dilutes the Agni which can discourage digestion.
5. Sip, don’t gulp!
Talking of liquid, I was also told the importance of sipping, not gulping when drinking. I’m definitely guilty of this with water. So, I’ve followed my consultant’s recommendation and have bought a Thermos flask to take to work with me which I’ll fill with a lovely herbal tea and sip throughout the day. It probably doesn’t help the fact that I’ve got a huge mug at work and tend to fill it…time to find another use for it. Maybe I can fit a plant in it 😉
6. Meal composition is important
Meals should be 50% vegetable (grown above the ground), 25% carbohydrate and 25% protein. A good reminder – especially when it comes to carbs.
7. Mindful movement every day
I’ve always known the importance of moving every day, even more so with digestive issues. Exercise for me until now has consisted of:
- Weekly/bi-weekly short runs (5k)
- Chi Kung, more recently
- Yoga tutorials on YouTube, as and when (shout out to Brett Larkin who has a whole range of videos to suit your need/mood)
- Walking and making the effort to stretch my legs at lunch time during the working week
While three out of four of these got the thumbs up from my consultant, one didn’t and that was…running. While I thought it was a perfect way to get my body moving, it turns out it’s simply putting too much stress on my body at a time when it really doesn’t need it. So I’m going to take a break – but I’m looking forward to trying to incorporate more yoga and walks as a result. Whatever the movement, it should be done in a mindful way.
8. Natural vs. hormones
One of the main concerns my consultant voiced was the fact I take the pill – with so much stagnation in my pelvic area she suspects it’s probably making it worse. Meanwhile, the gynaecologist who carried out my laparoscopy advised that I take it to suppress symptoms! It’s so tricky when you get conflicting information. It’s certainly made me seriously consider taking a natural approach.
9. Going on a detox…eventually
As mentioned earlier, I’ve been advised to go on a detox to clear stagnation and strengthen my Agni, lasting six weeks. I’d like to make clear this isn’t one of those fad detoxes!! No no – it’s a tailored plan following a detailed session with a fully qualified consultant (which included her taking a full health history, diet and lifestyle assessment, tongue analysis, pulse check, etc.)
Having carried out the low-FODMAP diet, I sat in the session thinking ‘okay, so it’s going to be quite a change, but I’ve got good at this planning malarkey, I’ll be fine’. But following the session, I received my plan in full and I actually felt really overwhelmed by it all! There was a lot to get my head around:
- Every meal of the day to be warm (to suit my Dosha type)
- Cooking meals with foods I’ve never used before and learning how to prepare them
- Eating organically as far as possible
- Not freezing food
- Not microwaving food
- Eating my biggest meal at lunchtime
- Starting the day with supplements
- Drinking less and sipping herbal tea throughout the day
- Learning about castor oil packs
- Making sure I’m getting movement in everyday
It all just felt too much in one go – I’d barely heard of Ayurveda, let alone had the chance to get my head around a complete shift in habit! I know the detox is what my body needs, but also know I need to be prepared or I’ll be setting myself up to fail. So, after digesting it all, I’ve decided the best thing for me is to break down the changes into manageable chunks that I’ll gradually incorporate into my daily routine. Baby steps. Then, by the time I actually start the detox, I’ll be ready and raring to go (that’s the plan!)
10. Discovery of fat bombs
Has anyone had these before? The sweet-toothed monster inside me is excited to make some. They’re even okay as part of the detox. Will keep you posted…
11. Books to read
Two books that I’m working my way through that have been recommended:
- ‘Perfect Health’ by Deepak Chopra
- ‘Balance your hormones, balance your life’ by Dr Claudia Welch
How to summarise all that?!
I learnt LOTS – it was fascinating. I think the Ayurvedic approach is extremely logical, looking at the person as a whole and giving the body what it needs. Any imbalances can have a knock-on effect. I need to strengthen my Agni and clear stagnation and I’m looking forward to incorporating changes gradually. It might be pants to live with chronic conditions but it’s certainly amazing the discoveries you make about yourself as a result – I feel like I’m always learning.
Have you come across Ayurveda before? Has it helped you/eased symptoms of endometriosis/IBS? Would love to hear your experiences.
I’ll leave you with something that stuck with me following the session:
Our feeding pipes are 25/30ft long – we have to keep it moving!