A modern Yogi/ni practicing all eight limbs of yoga will often feel a conflict between the yoga life of spiritual awakening and the norms of our family culture or mainstream society. Life off the yoga mat often feels completely out of sync with the yoga philosophy we want to embody.
Responding to the stress of our jobs, family responsibilities, and community commitments can leave us in a state of overwhelm, exhaustion, and confusion. This hardly leaves room for proper self-care or time for spiritual development. Stay in this state of imbalance for too long and your health will eventually suffer, your well-being will erode, and the path to enlightenment (or just living a full and joyful life!) will be a very difficult journey.
We want to cultivate our yoga in all aspects of our lives, but how? The answer can be found in the wisdom - and the habits - of the yogis. They understood that we achieve health and well-being when we align our actions with the rhythms of nature.
How did the yogis do it?
Practicing yoga is a lifelong pursuit and takes serious intention and commitment. For example, upholding the ethical guidelines of the Yamas, such as ahimsa (nonharming) and satya (truthfulness) are challenging in our media-soaked lives. Whether it’s a feed full of pain, violence, and fake news, or a subtle drip of carefully edited Facebook posts, showing up to look a certain part, or choosing vegan vs. vegetarian vs. ethical omnivore - it’s not easy to live a yogic life. Distraction, being overextended, too little rest, and poor nutrition all block the flow of energy and focus and lead to poor health.
The yogis were on top of this problem, and they offer us a specific system for maintaining health and vitality into very old age. Have you heard the rumor of the 250 year old yogi? We may not be able to attain THAT kind of old age, but following the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda will ensure that all the years of our life are lived in the best health possible.
What is Ayurveda and how is it related to yoga?
Yoga and Ayurveda are interrelated domains of Vedic wisdom, both dating back some 5,000 years. Where yoga offers a system for spiritual growth, Ayurveda is the system for healing and health through alignment with natural rhythms. Both yoga and Ayurveda serve the greater purpose of revealing the inner workings of our consciousness and ultimately attaining freedom from mental attachments and illusions.
Ayurveda means “knowledge of life.” The yogis understood that living in harmony with our true nature is essential for vibrant longevity and spiritual attunement. Dr. John Doulliard, Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner explains:
Ayurveda is the science of life, and is about living your life in balance with your own nature as well as the natural cycles. It incorporates daily routines, exercise, diets, detox and herbal therapies to bring the body back into balance. Ayur means “life” and veda means “truth” – meaning that Ayurveda is ultimately the science of experiencing the truth of who you are. From an Ayurvedic perspective, this encompasses becoming less stressed, physically in balance, and emotionally free to be your most loving, kind, and joyful self.
Ayurveda looks at the unique constitution and life circumstances of each person individually to assess for imbalances in mind, body, and spirit. Ayurveda is therefore a truly holistic and integrated science “founded on the principle that nothing functions in isolation.”
How can I incorporate the habits of yogis into my life?
Dinacharya is the Ayurvedic system of daily habits that are based on cycles of nature. The yogis teach us that when we live in sync with nature, our good health will abound. The full spectrum of dinacharya includes many elaborate practices that are uncommon to many Westerners, but the basics of dinacharya are simple, gentle, and mostly free.
Dr. Doulliard offers this basic daily routine:
You can begin by looking at your established daily habits and routines, and how they fit - or conflict - with dinacharya. From there, you can begin to weave in the habits and rituals that will help you bring yourself into closer alignment with nature. Over time you will begin to see how these practices fully support your yoga, which is really, your life.
I want to know more about these habits! What’s next?
Yoga practice is enhanced by the wisdom of Ayurveda and the practice of dinacharya. In upcoming posts, we’ll dive deeper into the details of the daily habits of yogis. Each post will include the science behind the habit, and practical ways to bring these habits into your daily life. I hope you will find some new insights and inspiration to expand your practice with Ayurveda.
Kirstin is Santosha’s writer-in-residence. She is an artist, a student of yoga, Ayurveda, and massage therapy, and she is a Yoga Health Coach. Kirstin practices and teaches the habits of yogis - dinacharya. This is the Ayurvedic practice of daily habits that are essential for leading a vibrant, healthy, creative life. Find out about her upcoming courses and collaborations at kirstinpinit.com.