If there’s something most of us can agree on—especially in 2020—it’s that life can sometimes feel overwhelming. We live in a fast-paced, future-focused world, often with external expectations that outpace our capacity to meet them, leaving us feeling depleted and exhausted. To restore balance and harmony in my life, I’ve discovered an antidote from the distant past when, instead of technology, humans tuned into the natural world for guidance in matters relating to health and wellness: Ayurveda.
Long before I knew what Ayurveda was, I was incorporating many of its primary principles into my own life, including attuning my daily cycle to the earth’s natural rhythms. I rise with the sun each morning, eat my most substantial meal midday when my digestive energy is highest, and begin winding down as the sun sets. These habits were formed intuitively, and allow me to tap into my energy when it’s at its peak, and to ease into relaxation at day’s end.
When I eventually stumbled upon Ayurveda, I realized how much it resonated with the practices I had already incorporated into my life. So when an opportunity recently presented itself to attend a virtual Ayurveda workshop with Main Street Vegan’s wise and wonderful Victoria Moran, I jumped at the chance to discover more tools rooted in ancient wisdom for managing day-to-day stress.
While I still consider myself a beginner when it comes to this 5,000-year-old Indian philosophy, I’ve found a set of Ayurvedic principles that work for me.
Here are 10 things that help me live as richly, peacefully, and joyfully as possible in this crazy, modern, stressful world.
- Nourish your body
Eating fresh, in-season fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is an Ayurvedic fundamental. Kitcheree—an Indian staple made with digestion-supporting herbs and grains—is one of my dinnertime favorites for its simplicity and nourishing properties.
- Rise & shine
Waking up to the jarring noise of an alarm clock isn’t the best way to greet the day. Instead, I’ve gotten into the habit of waking up with the sun each morning, even on weekends! I relish the quiet of those early hours and the calm it brings to my mornings.
- Go with the flow
Practicing yoga first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, imbuing me with energy, vitality, and a sense of calm. Doing sun salutations at sunrise revs me up, while creating space in the evenings for stretching helps me prepare for sleep.
- Experience nature
In Ayurvedic philosophy, sattva or “goodness” is a state of being worthy of striving for, since it embodies positive attributes including balance and purity. Time in nature helps pave the path, and for me, that means time at the beach walking barefoot on the sand, which grounds and uplifts me.
- Be here now
Being 100 percent present when speaking with others is another sattvic quality that supports wellbeing. I always look people in the eye, listen deeply, ask meaningful questions, and strive for understanding. Being a good listener has served me well during my life.
- Optimize digestion
Our digestive enzymes, according to Ayurvedic principles, are most active when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, making mid-afternoon the ideal time to eat your biggest meal of the day. Eating lighter at night makes it easier to sleep and wake up with energy.
- Taste the flavor spectrum
Eating foods with a variety of tastes—salty, sour, or bitter, for example—brings balance to our palates and gives optimal satisfaction when we eat. I love Victoria’s Ayurvedic Shake with bitter chocolate, sweet dates, fiery ginger, and pungent chili powder for its depth of flavor.
- Keep an open mind
Compassion isn’t just a vegan principle, but an Ayurvedic one, too. When dealing with conflict, I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes to develop an understanding of where the other person is coming from, find our common ground, and foster harmony.
- Find work that matters
Doing work that you love that also helps create a better world is another way to put Ayurvedic principles into practice, and I’m so lucky I get to do that each day at VegNews. Being of service to others is definitely one of the keys to happiness!
- Embody your values
Each new day offers another opportunity to express your values in thought, deed, and action. For me, that means staying positive, practicing gratitude, and letting honesty reign in my relationships. The rewards are exponential!
Remember that Ayurveda—and life—is a practice, not a framework for perfection. I still love my morning ceremonial cacao, too many desserts, champagne ... and it is not easy for me to stop working in the evening. But a (mostly) healthy foundation gives me the balance I need for a healthy, happy life, and this is a great place to start.