(Sasha Nelson) We all have our favorite rituals, practices, and activities that connect us to ourselves — and, as a result, connect us to one another. Whether stemming from culture, family traditions, or learned behavior from surroundings, it is safe to say that everyone has some type of mindful activity that helps them feel tapped in.
At present, healthy lifestyle habits are a full-fledged trend. Wellness influencers and modern-day humans alike are all about hygge, farmer’s markets, floral baths, monthly intention-setting, full-moon circles, tarot cards, astrological assistance, and beyond.
It is no surprise that ancient foods, rituals, and so on are all the rage. In a time of global disarray, what better way to feel better about our own minds and bodies and to connect as individuals and a community than to revisit the various ways in which our ancestors took care of themselves and each other? The warm milks, meditations, green teas (matcha, anyone?), prayers, superfoods, spiritual offerings, and nourishing soups have been around for centuries for a reason, right?
In my deep dive into the wisdom of Ayurveda, thanks to guidance and support from Divya Alter, I’ve learned to infuse and adopt these practices into my everyday life — and to stop beating myself up when I occasionally slide off the rails. They have certainly enhanced my life in positive ways, and so elements that feel natural to me personally have become a priority to integrate.
Here are a few Ayurvedic and yogic-inspired daily practices that I have found enlightening, balancing, and overall really beneficial. Take bits and pieces that seem intriguing to you and see what sparks:
Move slower. Notice the beauty around you, wherever you are. Dr. Marianne Teitelbaum, who uses in-depth principles of Ayurveda in her practice, advised me not to rush, because the healing herbs and practices will not do their job if the body is under a constant state of rush-induced stress.
Inhale and exhale. Breathe gently in and out of the nose. Dr. John Douillard has done several studies about how nostril breathing is calming to the nervous system.
Meditate. Get to know your heart. Tara Brach says that everything and every emotion belongs and that we can say yes to whatever arises simply as an act of paying attention to how we feel. The same way we can learn information from reading a book or listening to a podcast, we can learn so much about ourselves by being aware of our thoughts and corresponding emotions.
Recognize desires without attachment. Ayurvedic consultant Dr. Pratima Raichur told me a few years ago that we will always have desires. The important thing is to not get stuck on desires because, as yoga philosophy also teaches, then we will never be satisfied with our results or what we have in the present. We will always be seeking or looking forward to something: a new job, an improvement for our home or ourselves, an item on our shopping list, a vacation, a solid relationship. Honor the future desires that may bring contentment, and appreciate the joy in the moment just as it is.
Pray. Talk to your angels, Universe, or Source — they’ve got your back. If and when life hurts, trust in the flow and return to prayer in whatever form works best for you.
Eat slowly and seated. The body digests better when we are relaxed and seated, when we breathe calmly so that oxygen flows into the lungs and organs. The saliva from chewing has important enzymes that also helps effectively break down nutrients.
Eat as seasonally and as clean as possible. Opt for mostly vegetables and whole, unpackaged foods, and give yourself a break if it’s not 100 percent of the time. Alter says “health comes first, and healing begins with self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love; food is meant to keep us healthy, not to make us sick.”
Notice words and thoughts. What we think, say, and do feeds our life, body, and soul; it is and will become reality. Alter writes in her cookbook, “The ancient Vedic texts of India state that our whole body is built around two things: the food that comes into the mouth and the words that come out of the mouth — both must be healthy and harmonious for the well-being of ourselves and others… Healthy food promotes healthy thoughts, conversations, and relationships that ripple into sustaining healthy families, communities, and societies.”
Accept with kindness. Try your best to welcome thoughts and circumstances with gentleness, whether good or undesirable. Like the story of Mara that Tara Brach shares: instead of ignoring negative qualities or thoughts, try “inviting them to tea” to get to know them better.
Give gratitude. Say a big genuine thank you for what we have versus what we don’t have. Even in the realm of the unknown, there is much to be learned and even more to be thankful for.
Get messy. Throw everything out the window. Break the rules. Do something out of character. Then come back to yourself. It is absolutely acceptable to have emotions and feel feelings (and eat pizza), so long as we remember to return to love.
Ultimately, we must do what feels best for us, remembering that we can always turn to the ancient wisdom provided by our ancestors for inspiration.
The daily rituals I witnessed during my recent trip to Bali reminded me that we can be in constant communication with Source/Universe/Divine if we want to be. Just like they pray at their altars every day, we can remember that there is always an opening and opportunity to ask for guidance, support, peace, and our heart’s desires. It may not exempt us from pain, but it will give us tools to soften and work with suffering. It will show and teach us our own definition of happiness, wellbeing, and balance.
Finally, Alter reminds us, “Balance is never static… it involves continual adjustments.” Return to time-tested practices (whether from your own culture or lineage or elsewhere), try things out, observe the effects, rinse and repeat, and enjoy the process.