Okay, ladies. We have a confession to make: We’ve been hearing a lot about living an Ayurvedic lifestyle and have been politely nodding our heads in agreement when the term comes up. We know (assume?) it’s good for us, but if we’re being completely honest, we have no idea what “Ayurvedic” really means. We figured we weren’t the only ones being left out in the dark, so we decided to ask Natasha Uspensky, LA heymama member and board-certified holistic nutritionist, wellness expert and lifestyle blogger to fill us in on about Ayurvedic practices. Natasha is an expert in blending ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with modern wellness and thrives on educating women so they can lead healthier, cleaner, and more natural and fulfilled lives. Sounds good to us! Read on to learn more about Ayurvedic actually is and how the Ayurvedic lifestyle has changed her approach to wellness…
“After a few months of putting Ayurvedic dietary and lifestyle changes into practice, I noticed that I was losing weight, had more energy, and felt less stressed out.”
When I was in school studying holistic health, I kept coming back to one philosophy over and over again. Ayurveda wasn’t a diet, or a fad, or a set of restrictive rules. This ancient Indian philosophy epitomized a truly holistic approach to health and wellness. It was a true way of living that encompassed everything from healthy eating and movement, to self-care and natural beauty. My discovery came years before Ayurveda was a buzz word, before everyone was oil pulling and drinking golden milk. I was alone among my peers in my obsession with all Ayurveda had to offer, and as the trends in the wellness world were veering toward paleo-this, and six-small-meals-a-day-that, the dietary and lifestyle practices I was experimenting with definitely put me on the fringes. But as I delved in and experimented with Ayurveda in my own life, I discovered one undeniable fact: this sh*t is the real deal.
After a few months of putting Ayurvedic dietary and lifestyle changes into practice, I noticed that I was losing weight, had more energy, and felt less stressed out. My skin (forever cursed with breakouts and enormous pores) was improving; my cravings for sweets and carbs completely disappeared; I was sleeping better, and my digestion (my personal Achilles’ heel) was stronger than it had been in years. The changes in my health and wellness were nothing short of a miracle. But as with many ancient wellness practices, I found that true, hardcore adherence didn’t completely mesh with my modern sensibilities. Going to bed at sundown and doing 20 minutes of oil self-massage every day felt restrictive and unrealistic, but I still wanted to reap the benefits of these and other Ayurvedic practices. As I refined my own approach to wellness with my first handful of clients, I found that it was totally possible to take advantage of all the amazing benefits of Ayurveda without giving ourselves over to unrealistic expectations and restrictive practices.
We don’t need to eat a totally perfect diet, or meditate for 30 minutes a day, or invest in expensive skincare products to mask our tired, lackluster skin. We just need to commit to a few powerful practices that help us feel our best as women and bring our best selves to motherhood.
Now that I’m a mama, I appreciate this more sustainable approach to ancient Ayurvedic wisdom even more. Practicing what I preach, even with a little one in tow, means that I feel more energized and balanced throughout the day, and am able to incorporate daily self-care into my routine that feels doable, easy, and yields results that are actually noticeable.
The three Ayurvedic practices below are my non-negotiables that I do everyday. They are totally doable for busy, modern mamas, but still deliver amazing results across all areas of your life, from weight and cravings, to energy and stress, to skin and aging. And best of all, focusing on just a few particularly potent practices eliminates the high expectations of perfection that can plague us as mothers. We don’t need to eat a totally perfect diet, or meditate for 30 minutes a day, or invest in expensive skincare products to mask our tired, lackluster skin. We just need to commit to a few powerful practices that help us feel our best as women and bring our best selves to motherhood.
1. Eat your biggest meal of the day at lunch.
Eating at the right times of the day to optimize digestion, fat-burning, and energy is one of the key principles of Ayurveda, and one that we commonly get wrong in this country. Our national focus on snacking, grazing and dinner-centric eating has created an epidemic of sluggish digestion, weight gain, and hypoglycemia that plagues so many women. As mothers, we often feel like our bodies are working against us — with stress, getting overwhelmed, low blood sugar, and fatigue (so, so much fatigue) making the hard job of motherhood that much harder.
Ayurveda, on the other hand, teaches us to work with our bodies. This means eating our biggest meal at a time of the day when our digestion is the strongest, our energy needs the highest, and our metabolism the fastest.
Making this one change to your eating can eliminate cravings and snacking, get rid of that dreaded 4pm energy slump, help you sleep better at night, and encourage your body to reach and maintain a healthy weight, all without massive dietary restrictions or an unhealthy perpetual focus on food.
Fueling your body at midday with clean proteins, whole grains, and lots of veggies gives you the energy to get through your day, balances your mood and hormones, and frees up your headspace to focus on more important things.
When you save the majority of your protein and whole grains for midday, you are naturally less hungry at dinnertime, and able to eat much less at a time of day when our digestion and metabolism are much slower, and our need for fuel is much lower. You can sit down to a light, easy, highly digestible plant-based meal of soup, salad, or cooked veggies with beans, and go to bed without a stomach full of food. This leaves your body free to detoxify, recuperate, and most importantly, burn fat as you sleep, instead of spending all night digesting your big dinner. You wake up feeling more rested, you experience less gas and bloating, and you’re able to balance your weight, all without ever uttering the dreaded D-word (diet, for the uninitiated) again.
Ayurveda is all about the frequency of movement and mindfulness over the intensity. An hour at the gym a few times a week is not necessarily better than frequent, much shorter workouts,
2. Embrace oils.
Oils play a huge part in Ayurveda, both inside the body and out. Getting plenty of healthy oils in our diet helps to lubricate the body from within, staving off dryness, premature aging, constipation, and hormonal imbalance. But using them externally is just as important.
Ancient Ayurvedic beauty and self-care practices make liberal use of oils on the body, for aesthetic, emotional, and physiological benefits. Our skin is our largest organ, covered with at least a thousand sensory neurons and a billion skin microbes per every square centimeter. That makes the skin one of the most powerful (and most overlooked) areas of the body to focus on not just for our beautifying and anti-aging efforts, but also for calming our nervous system, increasing oxytocin levels, and boosting our immunity.
Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of daily oil self-massage, and although the traditional method is a bit time-consuming, calling for 20-minute daily massages with heated oil, I’ve found a modified version to be much more practical and just as effective.
Every day in the shower, right before getting out, with the hot water still running, use an organic unrefined sesame oil, olive oil, or coconut oil (or a blend thereof), and give yourself a little full-body massage. Starting with your feet, work your way up your body, with long strokes along your bones and round strokes around your joints. Spend a little extra time on any areas you are particularly critical of, or where you experience pain or inflammation. The whole process doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes. When you’re done, just get out, and pat dry.
For face, nothing beats the oil face wash method. Every night, massage an organic face oil into your skin. I use the side of my hands to massage my forehead, cheekbones and jaw. Oil is also a lovely natural makeup remover. After a couple of minutes, place a hot washcloth over your face to open pores and allow the oil to pull out impurities. Then use the washcloth to cleanse the oil off your face. Boom! You’re done. Follow with the rest of your skincare routine, and in the morning, all you have to do is rinse your face with warm water!
Not only do these Ayurvedic oil applications lead to healthier, glowing, hydrated skin, but they also help increase the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, leading to a calmer, happier you all day long. A healthy, naturally hydrated and balanced skin biome actually helps stave off seasonal illness and boost immunity. In just a few minutes a day, you can feed your body and mind with love, hydration, and beauty that you can actually see!
3. In movement and meditation, shoot for short and often, over long and rare.
My favorite thing about Ayurveda is that it’s all about supporting the body’s natural strengths and rhythms. I love the ease that this encourages — true wellness isn’t about forcing yourself to do things that feel crappy in your body, but rather finding what feels good.
Ayurveda is all about the frequency of movement and mindfulness over the intensity. An hour at the gym a few times a week is not necessarily better than frequent, much shorter workouts, especially if you’re left feeling exhausted when you’re done. Likewise, a few minutes of deep breathing throughout the day can offer just as many benefits as sitting in meditation for 20 minutes, and is certainly more sustainable.
When I took the pressure off to make it to the gym or to meditate for as long as I used to pre-kid, I was able to do so much more and reap instant benefits.
Now, I exercise nearly every day, but for just 15-20 minutes. I alternate between light interval training, pilates, and yoga, all in the comfort of my living room, while my toddler naps. My body is toned, my energy levels are high, and I never feel fatigued after working out.
When I meditate, I use the Breathe app on my Apple Watch and just focus on my breathing for five minutes. I open my eyes to a calmer mind and more patience to deal with my kid and all that my day throws my way.
And best of all, this helps me stay consistent with my movement and meditation, making them true sources of renewal, as opposed to yet another thing I have no time to squeeze in.
Excited to give Ayurveda a go since we now all know what it means? Share how you’re practicing mindfulness in the comment section below!