The more I study and understand the interconnections between our mind, body, and breath, the more I am intrigued about the relationship between our overall health and our level of happiness. I am currently studying Ayurveda in conjunction with the yoga therapy training I am coming to the end of. I decided to embark on studying further because of how often I see people’s mental wellness and happiness depleting along with their physical and physiological health. Without our health, basically, I don’t believe that any amount of wealth can bring us real contentment even if that wealth is a richness in relationships, money, and professional or personal achievements. When I speak of health, I include the psychological, physical, physiological, and spiritual aspects of our well-being. “The total is greater than the sum of its parts”. For the purpose of this post, I am referring even more specifically to our physical and physiological health as an important part of the overall system.
Our digestive fire is like the battery in our car. A healthy system is one whose bodily functions work in alignment with one another: the individual has a healthy appetite, regular bowel movements, good quality and quantity of sleep, etc. Healthy does not mean we don’t get sick, but when we do get sick, the body bounces back into alignment following the infection or illness and doesn’t stay out of balance. Health is also optimized when we don’t suppress any of the following bodily urges: gas/ bowel movements, urination, menstruation, sneezing, yawning, orgasm, tears, vomiting, hunger, breathing, burping, thirst, and sleep. These urges are not to be indulged in any excess either. Cravings can be healthy or unhealthy and so it requires having a healthy mind to be able to pay attention to the body’s natural and healthy urges while abstaining from the mental cravings that may be mistaken for natural urges.
The other thing I am recently becoming more aware of and intrigued by, is the Ayurvedic understanding of healthy eating that goes way beyond the common saying “we are what we eat”. According to Ayurveda (and which makes perfect sense), our health is not only dependent on what we do, but how we do it. When we exercise, do it in such a way as to listen to the body and be mindful of the choice of exercise we do. When we communicate, to communicate non-harmfully and clearly and in alignment with all other ethical precepts. And when we eat, it’s not just about what we ingest, but about how we ingest it, digest it, assimilate it, metabolize it, and eliminate it. It is not uncommon for people in today’s health-conscious world to fall ill or develop a disease and say “but I did everything right”. As a psychotherapist and yoga therapist, my intention is to work with people on this deeper level and in a way that assists them in restoring their overall health by working with the whole system toward the end goal of living a happy life. There are many people who eat well, do exercise, and maybe even practice yoga. If these same people, however, have a restricted and shallow breath, are suppressing some of their healthy and natural urges, and living with any other symptoms of anxiety, fear, or disintegration, the digestion, assimilation, metabolism, and elimination processes may be impeded, resulting in a manifestation of physical and physiological symptoms or conditions.
Once the health of the physical body and all of its functions is restored, greater mental clarity and contentment is possible, and vice versa. You can’t address one without looking at the whole. Yoga and its sister science, Ayurveda, are brilliant models for understanding the nature of our human system with very basic and simple concepts rooted in ancient wisdom.
The beauty in studying these ancient teachings is that it simply requires understanding and observing the nature that surrounds us all and applying that understanding to our own self-care.