Ayurveda, an ancient system of health and healing from India, has been in the news more and more lately.
Apparently, it has been helping and even correcting so-called “incurable” or “chronic” disorders by restoring sanity to our out-of-control lives, first and foremost, through the art and science of an inspired lifestyle.
Many who have benefited from Ayurveda are surprised by the immense and far-reaching benefits reaped from apparently minor lifestyle variations. Inducing health simply through living a mindful lifestyle inspired by Ayurveda, appears almost too simplistic to be medicine.
One of my students, Brittany Barrett, who suffered from ulcerative colitis (an autoimmune disease of the large intestines) is a testament to Ayurveda’s potential healing properties.
I shared her story in my book, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, because I think many people are suffering unnecessarily. Many feel hopeless and desperate when they are diagnosed with an illness.
Instead of being prescribed medication or feeling like their health is doomed forever, there is an alternative. Her personal struggle brings hope and shows the beautiful—but pragmatic—ways Ayurveda can awaken one’s health even when the prognosis is grim.
I spoke with Britt regarding her illness, and how Ayurveda has changed her life for the better:
S: Tell me about your illness and when you were diagnosed.
B: When I graduated from college, I started getting diarrhea multiple times per day. One day, I noticed blood and mucous in my stool. My dad, who was an OB-GYN, told me to contact a gastroenterologist. When they did a colonoscopy, they found the ulcers and inflammation in my colon and diagnosed me with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease in which ulcers form in the colon and cause inflammation, bleeding, mucus, and frequent diarrhea. It was a devastating diagnosis because they told me I would never be able to heal fully. I was prescribed medication where I had to take 15 pills per day.
S: What was a typical day like with ulcerative colitis?
B: My life was awful! I had to use the bathroom urgently eight to ten times per day, so I could never be too far from a toilet. I was also very depressed and had a lot of anxiety. I couldn’t hold down a regular job, because I needed to use the bathroom all the time. At that point, I was determined to heal, so I started researching various forms of alternative medicine. It was five years later that I stumbled upon your workshop on Ayurveda offered at a bookstore near my parents’ house. That’s when my life changed forever. You opened my eyes to the concept that my body wasn’t broken—it was just out of balance. And for that I am forever grateful.
S: What’s your life like now after practicing Ayurveda?
B: If I described my body as a house, before Ayurveda, it was a house falling apart. The floors were creaking. The pipes were leaking. The shutters were missing screws, and the light bulbs were broken. Ayurveda is like a home tool kit that fixed the leaks, painted the walls, and changed the light bulbs. My house now looks and feels amazing. It’s not that I am 100 percent perfect. Just like a house, our bodies need repairs on a regular basis. The difference is that I know what to do to fix what needs fixing. It’s empowered me to take control of my own healing.
S: What would you tell others who are unfamiliar with Ayurveda as a lifestyle?
B: Start small. Try a few things that resonate, and see how they make you feel. If you feel better, expand on those. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it has to start somewhere. Whatever you choose to adopt, do it with love. Even if it’s just sipping one cup of hot water in the morning before you leave the house, the impact it can make on your day can be huge.
S: Could you share one practice that’s been helpful to you?
B: Above all, I would recommend noticing how you feel after you eat. Do you feel dull or lethargic, energized or light? Start really paying attention to your body and it will tell you what it needs. Overeating is one thing that can create a lot of disturbance in the body, so I suggest starting there. Never eat until you are full. Instead, fill your stomach with half food, one quarter warm water, and leave one quarter empty so you have some room for your stomach to do the work it needs to do in order to digest your food properly.
Thus, the Ayurvedic path of reclaiming lost immunity and health begins with restoring normal digestion and healthy eating habits.
Author: Acharya Shunya
Image: Paul Sableman/Flickr
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Callie Rushton