By Anuradha Gupta | Posted: December 24, 2019
Eat, Meditate, Love
“I made a list of things last year;
that I resolved to do,
I’ll use it again this year;
It’s still as good as new!”
As a jaded teen, I rather enjoyed this poem. ‘New Year, New Me’ is a revered concept because we all want to start over, and setting resolutions is a beautiful ritual for us to let go of the past and feel renewed. According to an encouraging study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, those who set New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behavior than people who don’t!
Today, stress has been dubbed the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century” by the World Health Organization. Rather than contagious diseases, our main concern is now lifestyle-based chronic ailments; the CDC reports that 60% of American adults suffer from chronic diseases like cardiovascular, lung, and kidney disorders, as well as diabetes and cancer. As we rush through the busy days of our lives, let’s ask ourselves--what is the quality within us that will endure? What can we draw upon to prevent these ailments?
The answer is simple: it’s the relationship between our mind, body, and spirit.
But how do we nourish this wonderful connection? How do we set simple, holistic health goals? I suggest using Ayurveda. For example, one of my Ayurveda-inspired goals is to strengthen my knees with Vata management and yoga, so that I am pain-free and don’t limp from an injury. Another is managing anxiety again through bringing Vata into balance.
“Ayur” means Life, and “Veda” is Science in Sanskrit; Ayurveda is the 5000-year-old Indian Science of Life, as well as a contemporary system of medicine in India and a form of alternative medicine in the United States. Ayurveda sets an individualized protocol for everyone, essentially treating each body and constitution as unique and special. This holistic protocol is based on harmony in our mind, body and spirit, as well as our relationships with family, community, and the environment.
When you’re setting up your New Year’s resolutions, go by the Aahar (Diet), Nidra (Sleep) and Vihar (Balanced Living).
Nourish yourself with wholesome food
Nutrition (Aahar) in Ayurveda includes food, liquids, breath and sensory perceptions, all of which we manage through a wholesome diet and practices like yoga and meditation. One of my professors would never ask us, “How are you?”. Instead, he would begin conversations with, “So, how is your Agni? (digestive and metabolic fire).”
Ayurveda believes that most diseases originate in the gut, and so your Agni is of utmost importance. However, don’t be too stressed about your diet, because that, too, impacts digestion; Ayurveda has always acknowledged the gut-brain nexus. Take baby steps and bring about change gradually.
For instance, set a goal to cook one fresh meal every day. Eat warm, unctuous food, and avoid cold, processed food. Drink a couple of glasses of warm water in the morning and sip water throughout the day. Check out more
Know your body and yourself
Life is a journey of self-discovery, and Ayurveda provides an exciting framework in which to do this. Our Prakriti, or body type (how much of which Dosha or humor we have) was decided at the time of conception, and we also have imbalances, or Vikruti, that cause disease. and learn how can you use this knowledge to understand your health, figure out your imbalances, and set measurable goals
Try a daily exercise and yoga practice
Build exercise into your routine, as this can reduce the risk of many disorders like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Start with just 10 minutes of daily yoga, incorporating a longer routine on weekends: as it says in the Patanjali Yoga Sutra, an ancient Indian text, “Heyam Dukham Anagatam”, or “yoga prevents future pain”. Here are some suggestions for a yoga and breathwork practice linked to your body type or imbalance.
Sleep like a baby covered by a blanket of grace (Nidra)
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, your body needs activity for wellbeing, and your mind needs rest. Sleep is a powerful Rasayana, or rejuvenator, and an oft-neglected facet of modern life. It is vital for both the body and the mind to feel rested and to heal. According to the CDC, 50-70 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of sleep disorder; we need to be mindful of just how important sleep is in restoring our health.
According to the Ayurvedic root text Charaka Samhita, happiness, proper growth, strength, potency, knowledge, and the quality of life of an individual depends upon their quality of sleep.
Commit to a daily meditation practice and align with a higher purpose (Vihar)
Another way to strengthen the mind and spirit is through increasing sattwa (purity and alertness of mind).
Cultivate balance and align with a higher purpose for spiritual wellbeing (Vihar or Brahmacharya). Ayurveda teaches us that creativity and loving relationships are essential for a happy and healthy life. Brahmacharya does not merely mean harmonious: Gurudev explains that “Brahma means infinity, charya means moving in infinity. Your consciousness expanded to infinity, moving in infinity, in your true nature, brings you a lot of vigor, valor and strength.”
Ayurveda prescribes meditation to bring in balance and enhance our physical, mental and spiritual well being. According to a Harvard Study, 8 weeks of meditation can change the grey matter of the brain.
The Gunas, or nature of the mind according to Ayurveda, are . We all want to be successful; raising Sattwa increases Ojas (vitality), making it easy to accomplish our tasks and alleviate depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric ailments. Raise Sattwa through light, fresh food, breathwork, meditation and seeking out knowledge and wisdom daily, as tools in your Sadhana (spiritual practice).
Serve and bring out the divine qualities in others (Seva)
Ayurveda considers our connection with family and community a vital part of our health.
Encourage others and connect authentically with family and friends; be mindful of being overworked, tech overload, and phone and social media usage. Be in Satsang, defined as being in the company of truth and around people that uplift us; this helps all of us meet our individual and societal goals. There is a beautiful reference to how volunteering, (Seva or service) is the best kept secret of mental health; studies have shown that helping others lowers blood pressure and reduces feelings of depression. Oxytocin production spikes in some people who volunteer regularly.
Another aspect of health, according to Ayurveda, is our relationship with nature.
Honor natural rhythms
There is a rhythm to nature; circadian rhythms, seasons, a rhythm to our breath, to when we sleep and wake up, when we eat, our heartbeat, menstrual cycles, hormones; indeed, there is a poetry and rhythm to everything in nature. Align your lifestyle to for optimal health and . Here are some recommendations on your
Be committed to the environment and conservation
Spending time in nature by itself is a Rasayana, or rejuvenator. We are a part of nature and will go back to nature. Honor the five Great Elements, or Panchamahabhutas: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, As Gurudev explains, “The challenge of the present century is to maintain harmony in the environment even while allowing technology and science to grow. It’s only when we start moving away from our connection to nature and ourselves that we begin polluting and destroying the environment. People should be encouraged to have reverence for the planet, to revere trees and rivers as sacred, to treat people as sacred, and to see God in Nature.”
Health is our prime wealth, and we are so fortunate to have access to this Ayurvedic knowledge and all these tools to enhance our wellbeing.
As this decade draws to a close, my heart wells up with gratitude and I’m reminded of questions from my first Art of Living Happiness Program that stare at me from a wrinkled paper stuck to my mirror; a paper I have held onto for ages;
“What makes you happy?
When will you be happy?
What do you resolve to do with your time on this planet?”
Here’s wishing you a blessed, happy, healthy, wisdom-filled New Year… and decade!
Anuradha Gupta is an Engineer, MBA and Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor. She has a corporate background and volunteers for Art of Living and other nonprofits. You can find her on or on .