The Spirituality in Self-Care

The Spirituality in Self-Care

“The root cause of disease is not listening to the body. Intelligence is the flow of awareness, that tells us what we should and should not do. To purify the blood means to listen to the intelligence of the body. A sensitive body is the abode of God. With a sensitive body, life becomes a ceremony, because it is the action of awareness.”— Dr. Vasant Lad, Textbook of Ayurveda, p.122.

“How can I be more spiritual?” is a question I hear regularly. I hear it from the mouths of some of my clients and students, and I sense it from the explosion of interest in yoga and Ayurveda. We are turning to these ancient sciences because we are ready for deeper connection, more meaning, and more truth in our lives. In my understanding, just the fact that we're seeking is part of the practice of spirituality. The tools from Ayurveda can allow us more moments of clarity and connection. The most potent tool we may have is Dinacharya.

Dinacharya—To Come Close to the Day

Dinacharya includes the daily routine and self-care practices for aligning ourselves with greater forces. As healing tools, these encourage our physiology to function more optimally. 

My favorite self-care practice is abhyanga, self-massage with oil. It is one of the most valuable practices for balancing vata dosha, and aiding longevity in general. The Ayurvedic classics share that self-massage can improve agni, our digestive capacity, improve circulation, encourage better sleep, tone the muscles, and improve elimination and detoxification. 

Great. So how does a little oil massage make us more spiritual?

Touting all the above benefits, abhyanga gives us a practice with which to take good care of our vehicle, the physical body (which really includes the mind as well as the energy body). When thinking of traditional spiritual practices, one might think it's actually about leaving the body behind, working with the soul, for connection with the more subtle.  In some states of meditation, this may be the case. The yogic texts teach us though that if the body is not purified and is not strong enough, those places are either unattainable or we may not return from them.

Many of us start working with balance at the gross level of the body. Our attachment is strong here, and our discipline must be around this level of our lives. For yoga practitioners, this is what asana is for, ultimately: a strong, flexible, purified body that encourages a directed mind, and allows for optimal flow of prana.

This is also the goal of Ayurveda—self-care that could ultimately lead to self-realization.

Macrocosm and Microcosm

“According to the Law of Microcosm and Macrocosm, everything that exists in the vast external universe, the macrocosm also appears in the internal cosmos of the human body, the microcosm. Charaka says, 'Man is the epitome of the universe. There is in man as much diversity as in the world outside, and there is in the world as much diversity as in man.' When the individual becomes aligned with the universe, the lesser cosmos functions as a harmonious unit of the greater.”— Dr. Robert Svoboda

It is through the mindfulness of when to take action, that your body begins to align the bio-rhythms with the rhythms of nature.

As one studies Ayurveda, they begin to learn about the natural rhythms of the elements and the doshas in their environment and can then start to use that awareness to align their physiology. When one feels aligned, the body functions more smoothly, more optimally, because it is not fighting against its nature but as a part of nature. One is then connected with the larger forces of the universe and has a deeper spiritual sense. What comes from that feeling is that there may be more energy and more inclination to interact in a compassionate way with others and engage in meditation.

So, the more respect and love we give to ourselves as vessels, the more harmoniously we can live amongst others. And the more self-love we practice, the better a channel we can be to the love all around. What's more spiritual than that?

Adena is creator of The Healing Diet, a 10 week course in healing through diet and lifestyle.  Apply Ayurveda to your body week by week. Click here to learn more and apply for the next program which begins March 2016.