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Maintaining Balance with Ayurveda

by Ragaia Belovarac

We live in a state of sensory bombardment. Implementing a few good habits can greatly help reduce the impact of stress.

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We find ourselves living in a time where many things are changing. Ayurveda offers a deep understanding of the underlying nature of all things and helps us to keep in balance during times of instability or change.

As defined in Ayurveda, the five primary elements are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These elements comprise the entire known world. In looking at the world through the lens of Ayurvedic wisdom, earth represents the more solid, inert, and stable qualities. Water represents the fluid, mobile, and dense. Fire represents heat, light and transformation. Air represents lightness, mobility and cold. Ether represents the idea of space and connectedness. An understanding of these characteristics provides us with the basis for understanding the bodily humors or "Doshas" from an Ayurvedic perspective.

The three main Doshas are: Vata, a combination or air and ether; Pitta, a combination of fire and water; and Kapha, a combination of earth and water. Each person's unique combination of Doshas is what is referred to as their constitution. All of these elements may appear as balance or imbalance depending on the unique combination of energies manifest in a given person's constitution.

So, how does this affect our state of balance when under duress? Imbalanced thoughts and emotions express as imbalance in the world. When significant changes come into our lives at one time, emotions are often heightened. Stress levels can soar, especially the emotions of anxiety and fear. Such emotions are the imbalanced aspects of the Vata dosha. These emotions become additionally compounded if there is an element of financial burden, such as loss of business, loss of income, etc.

We may also experience anger or resentment as a result of the feelings of loss that come with difficult times. When we experience anger, Pitta energy has been increased. Sadness, depression or lethargy is an expression of the Kapha dosha. No matter what your constitution, we all are subject to stress when we are out of balance and dealing with the serious challenges.

Although stress is a natural part of life, and the body's sympathetic nervous system is prepared to handle the threatening situations that may arise, in the long-term stress impacts the body in harmful ways. The constant heightened adrenal function we experience as a result of stress depresses the immune system. Normally, once the extreme situation passes your system should return to a more relaxed equilibrium and balance is achieved within the body. This is the role of the parasympathetic nervous system and it is engaged while resting, eating, or sleeping. During these resting times the immune system does much of its work and the body naturally rebuilds and repairs itself and stores up energy for future use and future "emergencies."

The current challenge today is that we are creating less and less time for the natural process of resting and rejuvenating to take place. Creating ways to allow the system to relax reduces the sympathetic nervous system's need for the "fight or flight" stress hormones. Additionally challenging is that the "stress busting" systems (primarily our adrenal glands) are locked in overdrive and we can no longer distinguish between anticipated stress and "real-time" stress and what constitutes an emergency. This is the result of living in a state of sensory bombardment. As a result, the body does not get a break from the constant running from one thing to the next, creating a heavy biochemical burden on the entire physical, emotional, and spiritual body. Implementing a few good habits can greatly help reduce the impact of stress. The fundamental principles of Ayurveda suggest maintaining the following five daily habits:

1) Get Enough Sleep
Many studies have shown that disturbed sleep is one of the fastest ways to reduce the body's ability to cope with stress. During proper sleep the body's maintenance of the circadian rhythms are especially important for experiencing long-term health and longevity. This is a time when the systems of your body reset themselves.

2) Eat in a Quiet Atmosphere
Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of eating in a comfortable, quiet environment whenever possible, to insure that your body's full attention may focus on digesting your meal. Distractions, which increase Vata, cause your attention to go outward, away from digestion, and this results in symptoms of indigestion, bloating, gas, etc. Encourage friends and family to slow down and enjoy each other's company while enjoying food--and eat slowly, chewing thoroughly.

3) Breathe
When you breathe deeply into the diaphragm, your entire system is oxygenated. This gives your body an opportunity to absorb, assimilate, and eliminate on all levels of bodily function. There are many practices for learning to breathe deeply and consciously. Find a way to make conscious breathing a part of your everyday life.

4) Be Present in the Moment
Meditation may be the key here. If you are not ready or inclined to begin a meditation practice, then there are other simple activities that may work just as well. Consider taking gentle walks in nature, spending a little time in a garden, or slowly sipping a cup of tea in the morning. Essentially, take valuable moments to cultivate yourself each day. This will assist in grounding your Vata energy and offer some respite from the stresses that are so often present. Also realize that your schedule may need to change to enable you to slow down. Sometimes less is more!

5) Choose to Think Positively
Finding the strength from within ourselves to say "Yes!" when we greet each day may prove to be fundamental in making profound and sustainable change in the world at large. A choice to think positively and to choose positive behaviors helps to create positive habits that ultimately become positive outcomes in your life and in the world.

Ragaia Belovarac is the Director of Blue Sage Ayurveda and Director of Body Therapies at the California College of Ayurveda. He facilitates client intakes and Pancha Karma immersion in the Bay Area and Nevada City. Clients receive the full benefits of yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic body therapies. For more information please call (888) 878-5222 or visit www.bluesage-ayurveda.com.

Related Info:
Spring Cleansing with Ayurveda
Balancing Your Energy Hormones
Mindful Yoga
Meditation Doesn't Have to be Hard
Yoga for Stress
Tai Chi: More Than Physical Exercise
Deepak Chopra, M.D. on meditation

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