An Introduction to Ayurveda, with Dr. Geeta Vara
- Published: 12 February 2020 12 February 2020
Inspired by her Indian roots, British-born Practitioner Geeta Vara brings the timeless wisdom of Ayurveda to her clinic, workshops, wellness retreats and now in her debut book Ayurveda, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellbeing. Geeta helps her client’s to resolve a host of complaints and health conditions through herbs, diet, nutrition, lifestyle coaching, therapeutic treatments, yoga, breathing and meditation. As a spirited traveler and a passionate cook, her mission is to promote conscious living and empower her clients to be the healthiest version of themselves.
Ayurveda is the science of life and the sister science of Yoga. This Indigenous wisdom is both the oldest and most complete system of medicine as well as a complete way of life designed to maintain optimal wellbeing. For me, it’s the most perfect personalised and patient-centred system of wellness that encompasses a multifaceted approach to treat the root cause of our health concerns.
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Everything can potentially be considered as medicinal if used in the right way and the same item can be considered a poison if used incorrectly or abused. This was my fascination with Ayurveda – a complete paradigm shift from a one size fits all approach to medicine and health.
There are two key approaches to health in Ayurveda:
1. Curative - for pre-existing health issues, using herbs, treatments, panchakarma cleansing, diet and lifestyle, yoga, breathing and meditation
2. Preventative - understanding the dosha’s to enable us to detect imbalances long before they manifest into recognised health conditions. Diet and lifestyle can often be enough to bring balance and prevent further issues.
Ayurveda believes we are made of a unique combination of the 5 elements (air, space, water, fire and earth) and as they combine in the body, they form the three dosha’s. These are the bioenergetics forces that work in synergy to enable all functions within the body and mind. They are:
Vata - the energy of all movement
Pitta - the energy of all transformation (inc. digestion and metabolism)
Kapha - the energy of strength, stability and structure
These doshas have various characteristics that make up your prakruti (your mind-body type) - you have a unique balance of these doshas and they determine your personality, body features and health vulnerabilities. They also each have distinct qualities too, for example vata is light, cold, dry, mobile and rough and these qualities are what we focus on to create ‘balance’. You see a diet and lifestyle that features similar qualities will continue to increase or imbalance vata. The most basic principle to bringing balance to the doshas is based on the premise that ‘like increases like’ and ‘opposites bring balance’.
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We are all born with a unique prakruti, kind of like your blue print or DNA if you like. This does not change, it is our very nature. Our diet, lifestyle and response to stressors, environment, age, seasons etc. will dictate if we stay balanced to our natural state or if we become imbalanced (vikruti). When we start to understand the qualities of the doshas, we can easily navigate ourselves back to balance and maintain good health.
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Although this is the cornerstone of Ayurveda, a huge focus is also given to managing our gut health through Ayurvedic healing nutrition. Our gut health imbalances are often root of many lifestyle-related health issues and a key focus for me in clinic. I see huge shifts in energy, digestive health and immunity, skin, lustre, enthusiasm, mental clarity and more when adjustments are made. It's not just what we eat that matters but how, where and when. It’s a matter of clearing toxic build up and maintaining a strong digestive fire so that our body and mind can be optimally nourished.
Sometimes simple diet and lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on our health. Once we understand how to align our lifestyle to suit our prakuti, to the stage of our life, the seasons and circadian rhythms of the day we can live more closely to how nature intended and prevent health issues from arising.
In my book, I focus on simple but highly impactful changes to our daily routines. I include rituals for bedtime to aid better sleep and morning cleansing rituals as well as conscious eating habits and gentle cleansing methods to prevent toxins from forming and maintain a healthy gut.
Here are three of my top ayurvedic tips for everyone to embrace:
• Make lunch the main meal of your day as your digestive fire is at its strongest (yep breakfast is not the most important meal for adults) - read our Ayurvedic diet and cuisine guide for more information
• Live in tune with nature. Follow your diurnal rhythms - sleep close to 10pm and wake close to Sunrise
• Eat on when you have hunger- this is your body telling you that you are ready to digest, equally do not suppress hunger - this disturbs your digestive fire