Embracing the Body with Ayurveda
Being a human in community is a tricky thing. Innately, our animal brains like to categorize and compare. Who are those people over there? Are they friend or foe? What are they doing that I’m not? Could I be doing better? These questions have been at the core of human growth and evolution and are built into our DNA.
The ability to step back and consider how we relate to others is innately human and comes with its gifts as well as drawbacks. In our current culture, we are faced with an ever-present barrage of opportunities for comparison, especially in the form of social media. Discerning where comparison is helping or harming our well-being is essential.
Alongside this tendency towards comparison is the vital understanding that all humans must be given consideration and equal chances.
In a way, it’s never been more challenging to be a human in community. But the more we cultivate love and respect for our own bodies through the wisdom of Ayurveda, the greater our capacity to embrace and respect our communities at large.
The Elements Unite Us
The natural human tendency to compare ourselves to others can bring with it a host of unhealthy perspectives—from subtle body dysmorphia to outright bigotry.
Thankfully, we have tools all around us to free ourselves from these unhealthy perspectives and focus instead on what unites us. Consider the inclusivity among the non-human species around the globe, as well as the balance of the elements—earth, air, fire, water, and ether.
According to Ayurveda, everything that exists begins as some combination of these elements. Therefore, all things that matter are made of matter. This is an undeniable fact, joining us together like the roots of the trees around the world.
At the end of the day, we all come from the same elemental origins, and we are all inherently worthy and valuable.
Respecting our Natural Differences
At the deepest level, our genetics connect us to the earth below us, the ether around us, and the pivot of the planets above us. In this way, we are all united. But just as no two trees are alike, even in the same species, grown in the same environment, there will be natural variations.
Consider the natural terrain of the earth. The environment around us and the environment inside our bodies are mirror images of each other. Just like plants, we are created according to the possibilities available to us for growth.
Access to sunlight, water, and healthy soil all play a role in how a plant grows, as does the climate and how hot or cold the weather is. A hot environment creates more acidic chemistry, while a cold environment creates more alkaline chemistry.
In the same way, our bodies create more acidic or alkaline conditions depending on the foods we eat and the experiences we undergo. For example, eating too many spicy dishes and encountering high-stress situations can yield acidic physical responses, such as burning indigestion or red, irritated skin.
We are all made up of the same elemental qualities in different proportions, yet we all grow and evolve in our own unique ways.
Celebrating the Freedom of Choice
No two people or plants are alike, since no two moments are alike. We evolve into individuals according to our prakriti, or unique birth constitution, as well as our environment and the personal choices and decisions we make.
We may look like our parents, created from the genetic material that is a blend of them, and yet we are not our parents! We’re all unique individuals, making our own choices and forming our own beliefs about what we see, think, and feel.
In this way, we can find empowerment through taking responsibility for our choices. And if I have the freedom and ability to make choices, I must allow others to have that same freedom. If I get to decide what I believe in and who I want to become, everyone else is also deserving of that same choice.
No need to judge, criticize, or waste energy on someone else’s choices that are out of our control. No need to compress our individual expressions into cookie cutter ideals that set us all up for failure. Instead, we can allow ourselves and others the joy and relief of embodying the rich, beautiful, and multifaceted diversity of human nature.
Ayurveda Honors Each Individual
When we look to the ancient lineage of Ayurveda, we can see a beautiful expression of this perspective. Ayurveda recognizes the ebb and flow of life, the flux of balance and imbalance, and the coexisting similarities and diversity of all people.
This is reflected in the Ayurvedic approach to health care, teaching us to observe our own unique bodies and offering tools to cultivate our own optimal state of balance. This attention to self-care is healthcare. It’s profound in its simplicity.
Our modern allopathic medicine relies on deriving the solution that works the best for the most people. And while this offers incredible value, it can also cause a host of side effects that result from our differences.
On the other hand, Ayurveda acknowledges categories of similarity in the three doshas, but addresses our individuality, differences, and unique paths to healing. Each person is called upon to take responsibility for their own daily choices to cultivate greater health, rather than placing our power in the hands of others.
The most successful medicine is personal and action-oriented—observing symptoms, opening to change, and developing a daily routine oriented to caring for one’s own body.
Our bodies can feel quite complicated and mysterious, yet Ayurveda offers simple and useful tools that lead to individual results. The best approach to Ayurveda is not as a quick fix, but as a lifestyle flow—a consistent practice of love and discovery.
In the process, we are invited into a more loving and accepting relationship with our own body, which naturally ripples outwards towards our community and world.
Love the Skin You’re In
For instance, vata is sometimes seen as the optimal dosha because it is associated with a slender form and a spiritual mind, where pitta is associated with athletes and go-getters and kapha is identified with an image of a larger form, often denigrated in our current culture.
But these assumptions do a disservice to Ayurveda’s truth.
Each dosha has benefits and drawbacks and each is made up of essential components that work together within the greater environment— similar to delicate flowers alongside sturdy trees and resilient shrubs. Each has a vital place. Each represents a blend of essential elements.
When we embrace the gifts of our inner balance of elements, honoring our unique body mosaic, we find a focal point to return to. We discover our own state of healthy balance rather than falling into patterns of unhealthy comparison.
In this way, we each get to define who we are and what we believe in, becoming the fullest and truest versions of ourselves.
I leave you with this poem by Alicia Henry:
belongs to me.
My body that holds space for
the physical and emotional of this human existence.
In the ebb and flow of life,
I will lose my balance and
I will find my balance.
In this body,
I have the right
a state of wellness
that I can call home.
I can be my own Health Detective.
My symptoms speak to me.
The elements, my guides:
The seasons of time speak truth.
I can change.
The freedom of my health
is in my hands—
and with these hands,
(my inner compass,
my anchor of truth),
a deep inhale,
a slow exhale…
I am ready.
I am my body.