An Intro to Ayurveda from Sachi Doctor of Elemental Alchemy

Sachi Doctor is the founder of Elemental Alchemy, an Ayurvedic lifestyle company that offers handcrafted products and personalized holistic health services. She is also an Ayurvedic practitioner, yoga teacher and tea maker from a lineage of Indian healers and doctors and has been imbued in both Eastern tradition and Western medicine since childhood.

After years of feeling like she needed to switch back and forth between these two systems, Sachi strives to marry the wisdom of both, blending Ayurvedic principles and yogic philosophy with physiology and functional nutrition to help individuals understand their mind-body composition, and ultimately, to empower them to reclaim agency for their own health. As we approach the busy holiday season, we thought it would be timely to ask Sachi to share with us some suggestions for how to practice self-care and stay grounded.

Ayurveda, the art of living in harmony with nature, is a holistic system of medicine that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Derived from a Sanskrit word, ayus, meaning life, and veda, meaning wisdom, it emphasizes the importance of attuning to our natural rhythms and those of nature to achieve — and maintain — optimal wellbeing. Health, then, is not the absence of disease but a dynamic state of harmony in which all aspects of life are integrated and balanced.

While the philosophy itself is quite complex, there are a few simple things we can all do to apply this wisdom to our daily lives. The beauty of Ayurveda is that it’s the small tweaks that make a big difference: It’s not about doing everything at once, rather make a few simple changes that over time result in the greater shifts we seek.

Here are five Ayurvedic practices you can start today:

Create a Routine
Adopting an appropriate daily routine is undoubtedly one of the most grounding and nurturing things you could do for yourself. At the most fundamental level, our physiology is very much adapted to — and supported by — some sense of regularity. Actually, this is precisely why a daily routine is such potent medicine. In effect, having a daily routine offers the grounding, stability, and predictability that are largely absent from our hectic lives. The routine itself creates a number of familiar and comforting reference points throughout each day that send a resounding affirmation to the deep tissues of the body that all is well, that we can be at ease. This is why when the body becomes accustomed to — and learns to count on — a daily routine that includes things like adequate rest, appropriate exercise and a nourishing spiritual practice, the nervous system finally begins to relax. As a result, a daily routine can result in profound rejuvenation throughout the body without requiring any conscious awareness of the healing process. To this end, it’s more important that there is a sense of routine from one day to the next than crafting the perfect combination of habits and practices. Here’s an Ayurvedic Guide to Daily Ritual.

“In our world of abundant information, rather than looking outside of oneself for instruction — a loop that’s confusing, complex, and disconnected from self—balance, then, is restored by identifying and celebrating the things that make you feel your best.”

Breathe Deeply
When you experience stressful thoughts, our sympathetic nervous system triggers the body’s ancient fight-or-flight response, giving you a burst of energy to respond to the perceived danger. Your breathing becomes shallow and rapid filling only the chest and not the lower lungs. Deep breathing can reverse these symptoms, instantly creating a sense of calm. When you learn to take deep, slow breaths, your muscles relax, your blood pressure lowers, oxygen flows more easily and feel-good endorphins release throughout your body.

Give it a try: In a quiet, distraction-free room, sit comfortably or lie down.

  • Give yourself a moment to settle in, relaxing your muscles and easing into the support beneath you.
  • Count to five as you inhale deeply, filling your abdomen with air.
  • Again count to five as you exhale, emptying your lungs completely.
  • Continue this rhythm for a few minutes, concentrating on your breathing and counting.
  • Let this be both a break and a reset.

Focus on Your Digestion
A strong digestion is the foundation of a strong and healthy physiology. This is why it is so foundational to an Ayurvedic lifestyle — good health is the byproduct of your ability to properly digest and assimilate what you eat, feel and experience. When your digestion is strong, you can break down the food you eat, absorb the nutrients you need and eliminate waste and toxins effectively. If you consistently feel heaviness, gas or bloating, mental fog and/or lethargy, there’s a good chance your digestion needs more support:

  • Follow your body’s own signals. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. Hungry is the signal that your digestive system is ready to take on more work.
  • Resist the urge to snack throughout the day, especially when you’re not hungry. The body needs time to digest your previous meal before you feed it again.
  • It’s best to wait at least two hours after you eat to exercise. A lot of blood flow is required for both so working out too close to meal time compromises the efficiency of both activities.
  • Try to eat in a relaxed, quiet atmosphere. This includes away from computers and phones. Give your body time and space to do its job.
  • And my favorite, eat things you enjoy! Savor the tastes that flavor your life.

Add “Rest” To Your To-Do List
One of the most important goals of Ayurveda is being able to tune into yourself and become aware of discomfort as it arises, allowing you can make subtle shifts and restore equilibrium. If each of us were to tune in right now, it’s likely that what’d we sense is the need for more rest. Rest — not to be confused with recreation and diversion — is important not only for our physical health, but as you’ve likely experienced, our emotional and mental health as well. Though it can feel counter-intuitive to take time out when your to-do list is a mile long, doing “nothing” gives the body needed time to complete it’s list, making you feel healthier and more energetic in the long term.

Simple things go a long way:

  • Go for a walk without your headphones.
  • Designate a half hour, an hour, or even half a day for silence.
  • Mindfully drink a cup of Elemental Alchemy herbal tea.
  • Enjoy a bath before bed.
  • Treat yourself to a massage.
  • Take a nap!

Honor Your Individuality
Have you ever wondered what actually accounts for differences in people? Why some people are hyperactive and fast-moving, while others exude grace and stillness? Why some people can eat a five-course meal with ease, while others can barely finish a salad? Why some people are inherently joyous, while others carry the weight of the world on their shoulders? Genetics offers some insight, but what about the characteristics and idiosyncrasies that make every person unique?

Just as we all have a unique fingerprint, Ayurveda teaches us that each person has a particular pattern of energy — an individual combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics—which comprises one’s unique constitution (dosha). But doshas are like anything in life; they are fluid and affected by circumstance, emotion, or even the seasons. Thus, Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to individual health, believing that all aspects of life contribute to balance including nutrition, lifestyle, seasons and long-term tendencies. In our world of abundant information, rather than looking outside of oneself for instruction — a loop that’s confusing, complex, and disconnected from self—balance, then, is restored by identifying and celebrating the things that make you feel your best. In this way you’re empowered to embrace what works for you, regardless of what that looks like on paper.

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