Ayurveda is the 5000-year-old Indian science known as the "science of life". According to it, everything in the universe - us human beings included - are made up of five basic elements: Ether (space), Water, Fire, Earth and Air. Each one of us also has a prevalent 'dosha' (element), based on constitution and physiology and it is fundamental to our health to keep this in balance through diet, lifestyle and wellbeing.
As advocates of a holistic and naturopathic view of health #ContentHQ, we have always been very interested in this ancient form of medicine. So we were excited to hear about the release of The Balance Body Diet Plan (Watkins), a guide to Ayurveda written by Eminé Ali Rushton - also Beauty & Wellbeing Director of one of our favourite reads Psychologies Magazine. Promising to decode the subject, we've read the book and we can confirm that it truly does! So, to celebrate the launch of her new book and as someone with a wealth of health and wellbeing experience we asked Eminé a little bit more about the book and her philosophy. Discover it below.
- What first attracted you to Ayurveda and inspired you to write The Balance Plan?
I’d spent 10 years as an editor, continually hearing about the latest diet fads and crazes, and as someone who has always been completely moderate and very anti-diet, I’d grown sick and tired of it all. Then I went on an Ayurvedic Immersion for work and eating according to my body type, or ‘dosha’, and it really surprised me, and my body – in a great way. My body sort of streamlined, and my mind felt more connected and clear than it had done in years. So, I decided, this is for me! I was chatting to my agent, quite innocently, on my return from the immersion and she pushed me to write the treatment. I didn’t want to market it as a ‘diet’, just a beginner’s guide for those who had never heard of, or been interested in, Ayurveda before. Also, importantly, to those who live a very ‘Western’ life – busy busy busy – to help them realise how something like Ayurveda can remain liveable and practical, despite being initially unfamiliar.
- What are the benefits of adopting an Ayurvedic ‘state-of-mind’?
Ayurveda talks about the Maha Gunas. They are states of being that relate to the mind, and there are lots of them. There are 3 main ones though, and Sattva is the ideal. It is a state of being that is completely at peace, in tune with nature, feeling harmonious, inside and out, part of this bigger picture of life that ebbs and flows around us. It is optimism and acceptance – even if life deals you a hard knock, it equips you with the grace to pick yourself up, learn from the fall, and carry on stronger than before. When the body is balanced with Ayurveda, the mind follows suit… I am striving for Sattva every day, and getting closer and closer… the more Ayurvedically I live, the closer I get!
- What is your most valuable piece of advice for individuals attempting to incorporate Ayurveda in their modern lifestyle?
Start with your digestive system. So much of our health – mental and physical – stems from the gut, and this is something that Ayurveda absolutely recognises. If you can introduce some Ayurvedic digestive remedies (e.g. Triphala and Asofeotida) into your life, and start your day the Ayurvedic way (with warm water and lime, as lemon is too acidic), you will do yourself a big favour.
- One of the pitfalls of modern life is the lack of balance and view of life in extremes. How do you maintain balance in your life at particularly stressful times?
No one is balanced all the time – we’d be static and still, like a statue. Balance for me is about compensating for the dips with recuperative highs… knowing I might have a really hard week ahead, so plotting in time to get back to ‘centre’ once it’s over – a day away in the woods; a yoga session; lots of warm baths to soothe me at the day’s end; having dinner outside under the stars with my husband (in our teeny but pretty back garden!)… yoga really helps, as does meditation, which we are talking about a great deal today. Interestingly, Ayurveda is one thread of Vedic Science, as are Yoga and meditation, so they were always meant to be practised side by side. A Yoga Nidra class, or online session, connects me to my breath and self in a way that immediately puts my mind back in its place – here and now.
- What is the most useful thing Ayurveda has taught you?
That we’re bloody remarkable. That our minds and bodies are far smarter than our conscious ‘overthinking’ selves. My body had been trying to tell me things for years that I’d ignored, because I thought they couldn’t be true. Case in point – believing that raw was good for you (all year round) and despite hating my cold salads in winter, sticking with them, until I got horribly sick one year and it took me 2 months to recover! I craved warm food, I craved root veg, I craved sweet pulses and soups and stews… but I ate cold raw salad. Fool me! Now, I never ignore what my body’s saying, and when I’m craving something (in a sudden, surprising very strong way) I know this is more to do with my environment and emotions than my body… e.g. I crave very salty or very sour food whenever I’m hugely stressed out. That is my Pitta element (fire fire fire!) raging out of control and asking for more fuel for its fire. So, I know to curb the salt and sour, and balance my dosha with green leafy veg, sweet grains and light meats, lots of clean and cooling food (coconut coconut!) and very quickly, my body calms down again.