AHARA, the First Step to Health
I recently worked with a person named Ruth (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) who needed help with insomnia. I went over her health history and listened to her talk about what issues she was dealing with.
As she talked and I listened, I could sense, by what she was saying, that she just wanted to get her problem fixed so she could sleep better.
However, as a practitioner of Ayurveda, I have to get to the root of the problem. My job is to listen (and I mean really listen) to her.
Going through the details of her current state, I could tell that she was dealing with a lot of stress in her life. She didn’t really like her job and her boss was a monster in her eyes. She had a long commute and was disappointed because she hadn’t found her soul mate yet. Ruth also had pretty bad digestion. Ruth had a not so good diet (actually it was pretty bad!). Ruth had a habit of a non-fat latte every morning and maybe a cup of water if she gave it some thought, but she also had a diet soda every afternoon so she could stay away from sugar. She would eat left overs for days. (When she cooked, Ruth always made a big pot of something so she would have left overs for days thus avoiding cooking everyday!) Ruth also admitted that she loved “just a small dish of ice cream” every night.
Here are some suggestions I made for Ruth and you might find some of these resonate for you too.
Ahara (roughly translated) means all that we take in. That means food, water, air and perceptions. Let’s break this down:
- Food: Think fresh. Freshly cooked (notice I said cooked, not raw). The less processed your food is the better. We all hear this but let’s face it, it’s so much easier to buy prepared food because after we’ve worked all day and sat in traffic or maybe on the train on your way home, you’re just pooped and you want something good. So you go to one of those stores and they have pre-cooked rice in a bag of plastic and all you have to do is stick it in the microwave and it’s so easy. But try (and I know you’ve heard this before) to stick to the outer aisles of the store for the freshest, least cooked items. The further away from the outer edges of the store, the more processed food becomes.
- Water: Each and every one of us needs to drink between 6 to 8 glasses each day. This varies based on your individual needs and the season and how active you are. Every morning, when you get up, drink a large glass of warm water. It’s starts the digestive process for the day. Drink water throughout the day but just small sips with food.
- Air: Get out of your air conditioned office and your air conditioned car and get outside in the fresh air. If we happen to be having a “spare the air day” and you have respiratory issues, you may need to stay indoors, but other than that, try to get outside whenever you can. Take a break at work and walk outside. Focus on something other than your computer and your phone. Lookup at the horizon, stretch your neck. Breath!
- Perceptions: Remember when I said (a few paragraphs ago) Ruth thought her boss was a monster? Well, that could be true, but it could also be a perception. I have certainly had my share of monster bosses, but sometimes it’s really just a perception. If you take the time to learn the difference between Pitta, Vata and Kapha personalities, it might help you to understand what you’re working with. Here’s another example of perception. Let’s say you are planning to visit family after you’ve been away for five years. And maybe, just maybe over those five years you’ve managed to gain a few pounds. So you’re thinking about your cousin and as soon as she sees you she’s going to think “OMG, she’s gotten fat”. Next you know how mad it will make you and then you end of yelling at her and blah, blah blah. You think about this scenario over and over again, maybe even plan how your responses. When you finally arrive and you see your cousin and she hugs you and tells you how beautiful you are. And you have just wasted hours of time and energy thinking about everything that could go wrong and it didn’t. Wow, what an incredible waste of energy. Sometimes you have to let those perceptions go and just wait and see.
Ahara is a big, big topic as you can see, but just try and be conscientious of what enters your body and mind. It will make an incredible difference in your life. Even your sleep will improve (wait for the next blog about Vihara which refers to lifestyle).
Tell me, do you need to make changes?