Bringing some well needed 'om' to your life
Spiritual India: Health, Wellness and Ayurveda
11 February 2019 by Kiera Greenwood
Renowned health and wellness blogger, Jasmine Hemsley, is currently exploring southern India on our Classic Kerala itinerary and one thing’s for sure, we’re all very jealous in the Meraki Travel office.
If you’ve been following Jasmine’s trip on Instagram, amongst the beautiful pictures (both of her and the scenery), we’re sure that you’ll have noticed a rather weighty mention of the word ‘Ayurveda’. And we’re also sure that, like us, you hadn’t the foggiest what she meant until you Googled it. Ah, trusty Google. But for those of you who are yet to look it up, here’s our low-down on one of India’s most accessible wellness traditions. You may well be practising some of its elements without even knowing it.
What is Ayurveda?
In the modern world of social media, it can be hard to remember to slow down and take some time out to reconnect with yourself and not just your ‘x’ amount of followers (#mindfulness). In 2018 we definitely saw the birth of self-love and in 2019 most are willing to agree that this shouldn’t just be a trend, but a way of life.
Although it may have taken us this long to figure out the importance of looking after ourselves in the west, over in India the study of wellness has been part and parcel of the culture for over 5,000 years. Ayurveda being at the heart of it all. Say hello to the “science of life”. Which, according to the experts, doesn’t just improve how you feel, but also how you look – beauty hack alert. And if Jasmine proves anything, it’s that this really does work.
This is no one size fits all lifestyle though. But it’s also not all or nothing. Focusing on restoring balance, practising Ayurveda provides your body with what it needs to flourish. According to this holistic approach to wellbeing, the mind and body are inextricably connected meaning that an imbalance in one will cause an imbalance in the other. This reinforces the idea that to look after your body, you also need to be looking after your mind and vice versa.
In fact, it’s a concept that harnesses a lot of things that we already know about health and wellbeing and provides an easy to use framework in order to put it into action. Feeling a bit down? Unsure where your motivation has gone? It’s probably because you’re not utilising earth’s natural medicine cabinet: herbs and spices. According to Ayurveda, food, and in particular spice, plays a massive part in staying happy and healthy. So be kind to your gut and nourish both your body and soul. After all, you can’t be happy if you’re constantly “h-angry”. Fad diets may promote raw foods and juice cleanses, but neither are good for your digestive system. Instead, eat good, wholesome meals at times when your metabolism is at its highest. As a rule, that means breakfast between 7-9am, lunch before 1pm and dinner before 7pm. Once you’re in a routine, it’s not actually as hard as it sounds.
But equally, if your body is showing signs of stress – like your skin breaking out or your hair thinning – it’s probably because your mind isn’t getting enough rest. Jasmine herself swears by being in bed by 10pm and according to Ayurveda, a restful night’s sleep is one of the best natural remedies that you can get. Getting six-eight hours of sound sleep will help to restore both your body and mind. See? Balance.
Steering clear of compulsive behaviours and finding the natural rhythms of your body are also key to practising Ayurveda. Daily meditation and gentle exercise will help you to tap into what it is that your body actually needs, defy cravings and generally make healthier choices that both feel good and are good for your body. Yoga may seem like its a current craze, but this ancient form of exercise has long shown its benefits to people in India. And don’t let the inundation of #yogi, #fitness and #namaste on your insta feed put you off. Take the time to enjoy yoga for yourself rather than for the likes and you’ll learn to train your mind to forget the past and the future and live in the now, as your body already knows how to do. It really does live up to the hype.
But how do you know what your body needs? Well that’s where Ayurveda saves the day once again. “Mind-body types” are split into three categories, or ‘doshas’. All that you need to do is figure out where you sit.
There are numerous quizzes online, including one on Jasmine Hemsley’s personal website, and most ask quite, erm, shall we say, personal questions. Maybe don’t take it on a screen that’s too public if you don’t want the world to know about your bowel movements. However, it is quite fun and we’ve all done it here in the office. With three laid-back Kaphas, two fiery-natured Pittas, one quick-paced Vata and two team members showing an equal dominance of Pitta/Kapha and Pitta/Vata respectively, Meraki Travel has a good old mix of mind-body types, that’s for sure.
Once you’ve figured out your mind-body type, the trick is to balance out your dominant dosha with your everyday actions. For example, hot-headed Pittas benefit from taking some ‘reflection’ time out everyday, as well as fuelling themselves with cooling foods. Whereas energetic Vatas need routine and early nights to keep them in check. It’s almost spooky how much your dosha really does speak to you – there may be 7.7 billion people in the world and only three dosha types, but these fairly fluid categories are well worth paying attention to.
Ayurveda in its birthplace: India
Everyone knows that India is a deeply spiritual country. Most people are aware that it’s the birthplace of yoga, but the system of wellbeing attached to it, Ayurveda, doesn’t quite get as much press. And, having been around for the past 5,000 years, we think that it’s safe to say that this practice is no fad.
Traditionally practised all over India, it’s likely that wherever your trip takes you, you’ll come across some form of Ayurvedic treatment. In fact, so drummed into India’s way of life, the word Ayurveda will pop up everywhere from massage offerings to specialist hospitals. Whether having issues with your metabolism, stress, or are actually suffering from a chronic condition, an Ayurvedic doctor will get to the root of the problem – or ‘imbalance’ – and tailor-make a solution accordingly using the natural remedies upon which Ayurveda was founded on.
And, one of the most popular places in the country to receive Ayurvedic treatment is actually Kerala itself – hence Jasmine’s excitement to be exploring this particular region with us. A humid climate and abundant supply of medicinal plants and herbs, as well as an overall atmosphere of unwavering serenity, make Kerala the ideal location for practising Ayurveda. So, if you’re planning on exploring Kerala on our Classic Kerala itinerary make sure to keep your eyes peeled for this ancient practice, because where would be better to start your new path to wellbeing than in its homeland? Ommmm.