We live in an age when multi-tasking is not just the norm, it is expected. In fact, we are rewarded for the speed and efficiency with which we complete projects. But how many of us can talk on our cell phones, shop for gifts, and practice deep diaphragmatic breathing at the same time? Especially during the holiday season, many of us find it challenging to support our own needs for relaxation and rejuvenation.
In Ayurveda, the Sanskrit word swastha is used to describe health. It translates literally as being fully established in one's Self, or Soul. It is only through slowing down, quieting the mind, and allowing all stress to dissipate that can we learn to know our true selves and nourish our bodies.
Although indulgence in rich food and drink is customary this time of year, remember to respect yourself and your body's capability to digest all that you take in. Remember it is not just what you eat, but how and when you eat that matters.
A digestive tea following a meal can improve digestion and help to soothe the entire gastrointestinal tract. The ritual of making and drinking tea can provide a relaxing time, giving yourself a chance to show some devotion to agni, the digestive fire.
Here is a simple recipe from Amadea Morningstar's The Ayurvedic Cookbook.
Mental stress can exhaust the nervous system and weaken immune function. Sometimes, even when our bodies are at rest, a million thoughts continue to race through our minds making it nearly impossible to experience a sense of peace. Tranquil Mind formula can help to quiet mental chatter while promoting sleep and relaxation. The synergistic composition of bhringaraj, skullcap, guduchi, and several other calming herbs soothe the nervous system and help to release excess vata from tissues. It may be the perfect remedy for restless minds fraught with anxiety or worry. Herbs are powerful and in Ayurveda, they are considered an integral part of bringing the body into balance.
Yoga and meditation offer healing benefits in all aspects of the body and mind. One of the best ways to slow down and rejuvenate is to practice restorative postures, such as Viparita Karani, or legs-up-the-wall. In this pose, you are grounding, gently stabilizing your pelvis, the seat of vata, while nourishing the nervous system through deep abdominal breathing. If feeling overextended or overwhelmed, another calming, quieting posture is Child's pose. This asana draws the energy inward, helping to restore and nourish our inner core.
During meditation, bring awareness to the breath. The breath is the bridge between the body and the mind. One-pointed focus of the mind helps to cleanse the mind of mental ama. Just as we cleanse the body each day, we should cleanse the mind of any thought that distracts from the present moment. When the mind is clear, the body can reach a state of profound relaxation. The mind sends a message to the body to let go and surrender to cosmic consciousness. When beginning meditation, remember that it is a process. It is the nature of the mind to be active, so do not become discouraged when thoughts consistently pop in. Simply be with them, allow them to pass, and begin again.
Honoring ourselves by making conscious, healthful decisions and providing our bodies with the nourishment they need enables us to cultivate a true sense of peace and joy this holiday season.