By Joanne Cooper
I have always had issues with digestion. As a teenager, I had two bleeding ulcers. For most of my life, I experienced burning indigestion and often could not even lie down to sleep at night because of acid reflux. By the time I reached my early 40s, I began to see significant consequence from the way I was eating and living. I realized that I needed to change my lifestyle in order to enjoy good health.
I began studying Yoga at a local studio as a way to connect more consciously with my body. One of my teachers had a background in Ayurveda which she wove into her weekly asana classes. I was intrigued with the idea that people are inherently connected to, and are meant to live in harmony with, nature. When my teacher announced that she was hosting a workshop at her studio with an Ayurvedic doctor from India, I eagerly signed up.
The workshop focused on the basic philosophy of Ayurveda – aligning your life to the elements, finding synchronicity with nature; how seemingly small things, like the cycles of the moon, are tied to our health. I was fascinated with this notion! In a consultation, he did an analysis of my tongue and pulse and gained enough information to give me several recommendations to improve the rhythm of my day and the way I approached food. I adopted some of the basic changes, but the most important thing that came from this workshop was a deep curiosity about this ancient science, Ayurveda.
Driven by this new interest, I enrolled in a Yoga teacher training program with a focus on Ayurveda. I eventually traveled to India to study Ayurveda more formally in a four-month program in Kerala. I read many books on the foundations of Ayurvedic philosophy, including those by Vasant Lad, David Frawley and Deepak Chopra. But when I found Myra Lewin’s book, Freedom in Your Relationship with Food, it reinforced clearly how these concepts could be applied to my own daily life. When I learned Myra would be visiting Canada, I signed up for her workshop and a consultation.
Learning the practical applications of Ayurveda
I learned so much from Myra: her practical approach to Ayurveda gave me a new perspective from which to view my earlier learnings, bringing everything to life. I promptly signed up for Hale Pule’s A State of Health: Getting Started with Ayurveda. This course exceled in presenting the concepts of living a life based in Ayurveda, yet it offered more, opening the door for a deeper personal connection with my own body and experiencing the healing effects of Ayurveda. Over a few months, I incorporated some simple changes into my daily routine, such as chewing my food more thoroughly, stopping eating at the first burp and avoiding snacks between meals. With no extra effort and no dieting, I lost 40 pounds. I simply lived in a way that allowed my digestion to function naturally. After decades of digestive discomfort and years of studying Ayurveda, I was finally able to become my own healer.
I’ve continued to study Ayurveda as a lifelong pursuit (I am enrolled in Hale Pule’s Ayurvedic health counselor certification program and attended the Ayurvedic chef training on Kaua’i). The more I learn and the more I connect with my prakruti, or constitution, the better I understand myself on a much deeper, more profound level than I have ever known. Now, when I teach my Ayurvedic cooking courses or lead my Yoga classes, I guide my students to approach this seemingly complex science using simple and practical ways. Making simple changes can completely transform one’s relationship with eating and health, and it doesn’t require years of study to begin.
Ayurveda allows us to accept responsibility for our health
Ayurveda is a beautiful way to feel confident, empowered and in charge of one’s own health. Through my journey, I have learned that in order to accept responsibility for my health, I needed to see that health begins in the mind. That health is made up of all those little decisions I make all day long. This includes when I get up in the morning, what I do, what I eat, which food combinations I take in, the type of exercise I do. I see that every part of life is a choice. When I approach decisions about what I eat or plans I make for my life, I now ask myself: What do I choose to experience? When I live with this understanding – the best gift Ayurveda has given me – I can surrender control, release attachment and take full responsibility for how I feel.
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