According to Ayurveda, the body has three managers - one of which is Vata Dosha, responsible for the principle of movement. Made of the elements of Ether and Air, Vata Dosha allows changes to happen. The Air element in particular creates creativity in the mind and dryness in the body. In changing or insecure times, like the ones we are facing now, Vata Dosha increases - and when this dosha is in excess, stress and anxiety can occur.
Vata Dosha’s main properties are dry, light, and cold. To help smooth these qualities, Ayurveda offers simple grounding and warming lifestyle practices. An anti-Vata diet or simple yoga exercises can easily be implemented.
I’ll share with you some of the practices I learned during my Ayurveda Practitioner Training at Delight Academy to reduce stress levels and restore the balance of the body-mind.
1. Take deep breaths
Anywhere … just take a few deep breaths for a couple of minutes. Pranayama (or ‘breathing exercises’) is a powerful stress-reducing activity. It is best done with an empty stomach and in a cross-legged position. You can also sit on a chair with a straight spine. Pranayama calms the mind and allows Prana (or ‘life force’) to flow freely. Just remember to breathe throughout the day…deeply.
2. Stretch whenever you can
Give yourself a good stretch (and a little break at the same time). Yoga-inspired stretches can help to release tension. Stretching activates your blood circulation and has a calming effect on the nervous system. Sit in a chair with a straight spine and stretch your arms to the side, palms facing the walls. Rotate the wrists a few times in both directions, and then move the arms up looking in the same direction, breathing gently and slowly. You might even yawn. Repeat a couple of times.
3. Take a walk in nature
According to Ayurveda, walking in nature is a sattvic activity: it brings clarity to the mind. A twenty-minute walk in nature can eliminate the stress accumulated after a full day of work. Make it a meditation, a moment for yourself, a big deep breath… Personally, I like to take a walk after lunch, as it breaks up the day and helps with my digestion.
4. Nurture your body
The practice of Abhyanga in Ayurveda consists of applying warm oil all over the body before showering or bathing. You can apply sesame oil (use coconut oil if you have high Pitta dosha). Abhyanga provides a soothing and loving feeling to the body and the mind. The skin is your largest organ and it nourishes your body by absorption, therefore good quality oils are recommended. From an Ayurvedic standpoint, I would not recommend applying anything to your skin that you wouldn’t eat!
5. Eat regularly and quietly
According to Ayurveda, lunch is the time of the day when Agni (or ‘digestive fire’) is the strongest. Multitasking and skipping meals create irregularity. Because irregularity increases Vata Dosha, eating at regular times without other stimuli will help to reduce stress. And if you now work from home, choose to have your meals in a different place than your working environment. Make lunch a sacred moment!
6. Opt for warm and sweet food
Not the sweet that you might usually think of…Ayurveda considers grains like rice, oat, or barley sweet in taste. The sweet taste promotes stability, therefore, a diet rich in grains is grounding and highly recommended to control an increased Vata Dosha.
Focus on warm and cooked foods as well as warm (caffeine-free) beverages.
7. Cultivate mindfulness
Mindfulness is being attentive to the present moment and acknowledging anything that arises within it. By observing our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without evaluating them as “good” or “bad”, we may begin to experience a larger degree of detachment from things like stress and anxiety and inquire into whether the basis of your fear is valid or not. A meditation, a spiritual practice, or just contemplation can be a great help in dealing with the stresses of life.
8. Practice Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga is an antidote to stress. It helps to step back and reset the mind and body. Take a moment to pause the business of modern life and break the cycle of tension. It can do wonders for your day! If you do not have yoga props for your restorative practice at home, you can use pillows/cushions from the couch as a substitute.
9. Tap into your inner child
What excited you as a child? What are the things you are not doing anymore that you used to do as a child? Keep your phone in another room, turn off the tv and tap into your inner child. Creativity and play reduce anxiety, depression and stress so find some activities that bring you joy: jump on a trampoline, swing on a swing, read a book, make a puzzle, paint, draw, dance, sing, play!
10. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Get a good sleep is the best way to restore your energy level. Sleep is important for both physical and mental-emotional recovery. The night is a time for the body to rest and for the mind and emotions to process or ‘digest’ while we sleep. High quality of sleep is essential, both for normal well-being and prevention of disorders, as well as for recovery from illness.
This blog was written by a student in our Ayurveda Practitioner Studies degree programme. If you are interested in becoming an Ayurveda Practitioner or want to deepen your professional knowledge, skills, and experience in the field of Ayurveda - see our website here.