Welcome to Summer of Ayurveda, a 25 day Instagram series offering you an Ayurvedic approach to summer’s biggest topics. Each week we will cover a new theme, hosted by some of the best Ayurvedic Instagramers. Follow us on Instagram @banyanbotanicals for inspired daily posts!
Join us this week on an in-depth journey through Reflection, Intention, & Meditation with our guest host, Nadya Andreeva.
Ayurveda, yoga, & meditation have been instilled in Nadya’s life since childhood, after discovering the topics from books in her parent’s library. Over the course of her life, she has nourished those topics with significant study and practice. This girl knows her stuff! And thankfully, she loves to share it with the world.
Every day this week, Nadya will be sharing helpful tips and meditation instruction on our instagram @banyanbotanicals. We hope you take the time to try them for yourself. In the meantime, learn more about Nadya’s path in the interview below!
How did you first learn of Ayurveda?
My parents had books on Ayurveda and I first picked up Dr. Lad’s translated book (into Russian) when I was 12. I did my dosha test and read about various doshas and foods for each. While I didn’t follow most advice, I firmly got the idea that we are all unique and what works for one person may not work for another.
After the first introduction at an early age, I didn’t come back to it until my early twenties when I met Dr. Lad in person at a workshop in NYC. I had an assignment to do an interview with him and spent 2 days in his pulse diagnosis workshop. With his compassionate soft voice he completely transformed how I thought about food in a weekend.
When you first heard of Ayurveda, what made you want to learn more?
When I came to interview Dr. Lad, I was in the process of trying to resolve a personal health issue. After stopping birth control my periods hadn’t been regular and I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). I didn't think Ayurveda could solve it but I was totally open. After Dr. Lad took my pulse after the interview he said that my Vata was too high and started asking questions about my diet and stress. When he found out that I was juice fasting 2 days out of every week on green vegetable only juice, he offered that I use either mango juice or boil my veggies and then juice them. I honestly thought that he was insane but he was saying it with so much certainty and kindness that it made me question my juice fasting habit. So I started digging deeper and trying to understand concepts behind Dr. Lad’s suggestions. I read a lot of books, flew to New Mexico to take more workshops with Dr. Lad, and found a great ayurvedic doctor in NYC who was helping me put everything together for my own health.
Was there a moment when the concepts of Ayurveda really “clicked”? When it all made sense to you without having to research every answer to every question? When was it and what was it like?
I learned from practice that nothing makes things click more than teaching them. While on my personal journey of healing PCOS, I was writing a weekly column for a yoga website called “The Ayurvedic Chef”. Since I had to come up with topics and explain ayurvedic concepts in a playful simple language, I spent a lot of time thinking about them, looking for metaphors, and applying them to life. This process sped up my learning process a lot. In 6 months I FELT Ayurveda almost on intuitive level. It felt like that knowledge was a part of me no matter what I thought about.
How did you first begin to implement ayurvedic practices into your daily life?
After I started working with a NYC based ayurvedic doctor to bring my hormones back into balance, I had to significantly change my diet and add herbs. I didn't mind herbs but some of the dietary practices brought up a lot of resistance in me. I didn't like the idea of including dairy in my diet, skipping green juice in the morning, or having an early breakfast. I did like using spices, and having lots of soups and teas. Honestly, regular spiced lassi after lunch never stuck with me, neither did eating an early breakfast. But having lots of teas and soups, and using the right spices, is still my daily practice.
What is your favorite daily ayurvedic practice? Why?
I have lots of practices that I can’t imagine my life now without: tongue scraping, drinking warm water in the morning, morning yoga and meditation (these have been a part of my daily routine before I started implementing Ayurveda), thinking of food in terms of qualities (gunas), thinking about time of the day and dosha cycles, looking at everything around me as potential medicine if applied correctly. But if I had to choose, I would never give up my daily yoga practice. It has been sacred to me since I was 12 and I never skip it as most people never skip brushing their teeth.
Tell us about how you practice meditation in your daily life.
I’ve had a regular meditation practice for the past 12 years, since I was 18 years old. My first yoga and Vedanta teacher gave me a pranayama sequence and a mantra to follow which concluded with a meditation. Since we didn’t have a lot of yoga studios where I was living at the time, I had only one teacher and one recommendation to follow. So making it into a habit was easy. Now my meditation practice has changed, but it is still very regular. Here is what I do for meditation now: before getting out of bed, when I wake up but haven’t opened my eyes yet, without looking at the phone or anywhere else that can distract my attention, I focus on my body and my breath. This is somewhat of an internal prana flossing. I follow the breath for a few cycles and then do a round of mantra for each chakra before setting the intention for the day. Then I get up. This practice takes 15-20 minutes. After I get up, I brush my teeth, drink some water and do yoga. To finish my yoga session I do 10 minutes of pranayama and another meditation. I find that pranayama is one of the most powerful ways to still the mind and drop into a very deep meditative state.
Have you studied meditation in depth? How?
My teacher Swami Paramanand Ji Maharaj, always stressed meditation a lot more than the physical practice of yoga so most of his lectures always encouraged a meditation practice. After going to India 9 times over the past 12 years, I have taken a lot of courses with my Indian teacher and US based teachers, including Alan Finger, to better understand meditation. I also did a residential teacher training course in mindfulness meditation, which gave me a slightly different but very useful perspective on the way our mind works.
How has your life changed since you began practicing meditation regularly/ with focus and intention?
I think the day is completely different if we start it by acknowledging the energy that fills our body and the space around it, if we connect to the core of our being and at least for a few minutes separate ourselves from our thoughts, fears, and emotions. It really helps me to move through the day with more intention and grace. I also feel connected to something much larger than myself and it helps me to let go of control and fear. Our days make up our life. Meditation is a daily practice. To have an effect it has to be done very regularly. Just as you can’t brush your teeth once a week, you can’t really meditate once a week and hope to maintain the same level of awareness and connection.
What is your “elevator pitch” for Ayurveda? How do you describe it to someone who has never heard of it before?
I don’t have an elevator pitch for Ayurveda because I think it can be introduced to different people from very different angles to meet them where they are in the moment. Ayurveda is very multifunctional and because of this, various people will see it differently. For someone it will be a whole philosophy that covers all aspects of life, for another it will be only about understanding what foods are best suited for their body. For me Ayurveda is a science that helps to create harmony in the body, mind, and emotions, while also understanding the deep interconnectedness of nature and all of its elements, and ourselves.
If there was one ayurvedic recommendation you could give to every person, what would it be?
Learn to recognize gunas (qualities) in everything around you and try to create balance and harmony using opposites. I think it is one of the most powerful ayurvedic concepts: like increase like and opposites create balance. Understanding gunas can be super helpful when creating balancing seasonal meals but also in creating a balancing living space, choosing what you wear, what oils to use for perfume, which teas you drink, and how you design your day.
How would you like to continue including Ayurveda in your future?
I think by now Ayurveda is so deep in my thinking that I use it almost unconsciously. I see everything from food, colors, textures, and smells as potential medicine and use it to create more harmony in my body and mind. I would like to keep deepening this knowledge and to share it with more women in the future.
Nadya Andreeva is the author of the #1 Amazon best-selling book on digestive health for women Happy Belly: A Woman’s Guide to Feeling Vibrant, Light, and Balanced. Professionally trained in mindful eating, yoga, and positive psychology, Nadya helps women create a healthy relationship with food that honors their body’s unique chemistry and eliminates bloating and irregularity.