By: Sarah Ribner
I have an interest in multiple things and all things wellness - aromatherapy, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, astrology, seasonal organic fruits & veggies, and more, and while I incorporate all of these elements into my life, they often happen in a vacuum. One thing that has been calling to me for some time is Ayurveda, which incorporates so many elements of living well. I recently embarked on a journey to dive more deeply into Ayurveda, committing to learning the world’s oldest life science, medical teachings to bridge all of these teachings together, to understand their purposes on a deeper level.
The course required 10 Days of living the strict Ayurveda life on campus, followed by a full semester of learning back home in my everyday life, with weekly assignments. Participating in this course is one of the most challenging things I’ve voluntarily embarked on. Not only was I learning a whole new subject that could take decades to fully discover, I changed my lifestyle to fully learn the teachings of this practice, and had to find a way to incorporate into a busy lifestyle as a founder, living in a large active city. While I was on campus, I met likeminded people, learned to meditate in nature, seasonal eating, talked philosophy, and learned different body types— all in a setting created to nurture these experiences. Once I arrived back home in New York City, many of these elements felt at odds with my fast-paced life, I set out to balance the two.
The World Health Organization defines health as “physical, mental, spiritual, and social well-being, not merely the absence of infirmity or disease.” Similarly, Ayurveda is a holistic science of life, it treats humans as mind, body, and soul. This teaching approaches the whole health of a human being. We live in a complex world, we make dozens (maybe hundreds or thousands) of decisions daily that we don’t know how they impact our health. This science of life, this ancient medical system provides a guide to so many of those questions.
Specifically, there are three main pillars of Ayurveda that I learned about in my training that I am diving into and incorporating mindfully into my daily, busy, city life as a founder.
Through my studies, I learned that yoga is far more than the Western ideals of physical exercise. In Ayurveda, yoga is used as a method for spiritual growth through self-realization and as a healing science for mental and physical ailments (often in combination with other treatments). Not quite the same as the “cardio” workout we are often shown in city living.
Historically, I’ve done yoga for chronic pain management, and stress relief. Working in the wellness industry, I often hear about meditation and its benefits, and I’m aware it should be a part of my daily routine but I often struggle to concentrate or regularly keep up with it. Yoga gives me that steady focus and dedicated time for a deep meditation either during or after a long yoga session. There’s nothing wrong with these intentions; they simply miss the deepest meaning of yoga that Ayurveda explains in depth. Yoga is a method to balance what is out of balance, and how to tailor your practice to your specific needs.
Have you ever found that season, person, or lifestyle that always makes you feel like your best self? That’s how I feel about early mornings – I am the best, most productive version of myself early morning. Nevertheless, I’ve still always struggled to consistently sleep early, rise early and conquer my day. When I do, I feel like I’m on top of the world, but when life gets in the way it’s not always practical to get a full night’s sleep and wake up refreshed at 5:30 am every morning.
In Ayurveda, many of the practices are done in the morning, including yoga, sense care, focused work, meditation, and as suggested, a large meal. For 10 days while on campus doing my training, I was an early riser. My productivity flourished during this time, but it wasn’t without its challenges. My body had a hard time adjusting to a new circadian rhythm along with an intense workload, and I became sick for several days. By the end of the 10 days, I felt better than ever, as if a purging had occurred. I had a few intense days of body pain, headaches, and a seasonal cold, but in the end I felt better than ever. I’ve been able to maintain my early mornings since coming back to the city and going to sleep earlier than usual.
As someone who lives in New York City, spending time in nature is not always the easiest. Nor is easy living. Through my training, I became more motivated to make small lifestyle changes, like walking through a park on my way to work from the bus stop, even if it’s a few minutes longer. I also aim to chose walking over taking public transportation, opting to walk along the riverfront or a park if the option is available. Through my training, I realized the importance of finding moments to connect to nature throughout the day.
Ayurveda is a complex system, so I am enjoying breaking it down into elements I can incorporate into my everyday life. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming— just start somewhere!