By Myra Lewin
Ayurveda and Yoga offer a wealth of information about how to live a better life. Yet students who attend our trainings are often surprised to hear me tell them that I don’t expect them to change everything the minute they return home. Rather than trying to completely overhaul their lives overnight, I suggest they pick 2 to 3 changes they are willing to commit to. When those are comfortable, add a few more. This kind of steady walk toward greater health and well-being is how the practices were meant to be experienced.
Transitioning to Ayurveda and Yoga
The purpose of Ayurveda and Yoga is to allow us to remember our true selves, but this uncovering happens when it is sustained over months and years, not days.
That is not to say that significant points of illumination and shifts do not occur. It’s just that these big moments are integrated through regular, consistent practice. The daily work builds on these flashes of insight, allowing you to assimilate what you have learned.
Ayurveda and Yoga are built on this model of change followed by rest. This is why panchakarma includes a rejuvenation period after the toxins have been released. It’s the reason we do savasana at the end of a Yoga asana practice. By allowing this ebb and flow in our growth, we follow nature -- seasons of growth are followed by seasons of stillness.
Why drastic change brings imbalance
I often talk about the mistaken thinking that if a little bit is good, a lot must be better. When this type of black-and-white thinking is applied to building a foundation of health and well-being, it can cause damage. A person who thinks this way about transitioning to a new lifestyle often experiences raga, or attachment, to ideas, practices or substances that they think will fix them. In pursuit of the attachment, they ignore signs telling them to slow down and practice moderation. What results is greater imbalance.
The ego, which is at the root of attachment, makes us blind to anything but our attachments. This blindness is damaging to ourselves and those around us. This is true even if the goals we are attached to were created in the name of health or spiritual development. But you can reach goals without allowing the ego to lead. When you are connected to your higher self, you can move toward your intention at a steady pace without attachment to what will happen afterward.
It’s simple to know if your ego or higher self is in charge: Just pay attention to the tone of the voice guiding you. If your goal is to do 108 surya namaskar once a week, your ego will demand that you fly through the poses so you can check the accomplishment off your list. The voice of your higher self will be softer, reminding you to pay attention to your breath and alignment (read our tutorial on adho mukha svanasana, downward dog).
Following the voice of the ego will lead to injury and disharmony. But listen to your higher self and you will deepen your practice and expand beyond your current abilities.
Steps to begin
Living Ayurveda and Yoga is a process of uncovering your true spirit. If it were something that came immediately, we would be living in a very different world. Allow it to unfold naturally as a process of self-discovery.
If you want to deepen your journey toward health this year, here are a few ideas:
Here’s one final practice that I’d like to suggest you do as you are embarking on any transition: Take a picture of yourself at the beginning. Then in a few months, take another. Look for the physical and energetic shifts. Is your smile softer now that you’ve calmed pitta dosha? Are some of your “worry lines” fading as you have learned to cultivate more samtosha, contentment? Use these photos to document your progress and remind you whenever doubt lingers in your mind.
When you point yourself in the direction of sattva, balance and harmony, positive change is inevitable. Be open to the journey, be gentle with yourself along the way and enjoy the process of remembering your true self.