The Three Pillars of Life
Svastha is a Sanskrit word that translates to being “established in the lower physical self and the highest soul Self.” It implies that in order to have perfect health, we must be fully in our body, grounded in the physical world, while simultaneously being deeply connected to, and established in, Spirit. One connection without the other is incomplete and imbalanced.
It sounds intense and maybe a bit intimidating. How can we consistently stay on top of nourishing our whole being, both physically and spiritually, when we have jobs and families and the everyday business of life to tend to?
Luckily, Ayurveda’s most prominent classical text, the Caraka Samhita, outlines what’s known as the “Three Pillars of Life.” The text states that when we align with these pillars, we create the foundation for a long, happy, and healthy life. These pillars are the basis for svastha, and they’re actually pretty simple to incorporate!
Proper Food -
The gut is everything. Studies suggest there’s a direct correlation between the state of our gut microbiome and the overall health and wellbeing of our mind-body. An unhealthy gut can cause systemic, pathogenetic, and even mental diseases such as Parkinson’s, IBS, depression, and so much more. The food you eat becomes the tissues that make up your being, so it’s important to be mindful of your intake.
The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet. Not every food is “right” for every individual, even if it’s considered healthy by the vast majority. Eating food that fits your personal constitution is imperative to lasting health (a local Ayurvedic practitioner will be able to give you personal guidance on this). While everyone’s dietary needs are going to vary based on their own physical make-up, here are a few general Ayurvedic guidelines that will aid in optimal nutrient absorption and proper digestion— which is paramount to a healthy body and mind.
Tip 1: Stick to whole, unprocessed, local, and seasonal foods 90% of the time. Cook your own meals at home and try to make more things from scratch (bread, tomato sauce, etc.). A cheat here and there isn’t the end of the world. Balance is key! (Check out our recipes for some seriously yummy, wholesome treats.)
Tip 2: Make lunch (between 10am-2pm) your biggest meal of the day. That’s when your digestive fire (agni) is at it’s peak, so the body is more capable of transforming that food into nourishment.
Tip 3: Eat only until you’re about 2/3 full. Consuming too much in one sitting causes the body to become overwhelmed and sluggish. Give your stomach some space (literally) to effectively process meals. Plus, if you pause when you think you’re “still hungry,” chances are a few minutes later you’ll realize, actually, you feel pretty full! (And if you’re still hungry after a few minutes, by all means, please go eat more! It’s really just a matter of slowing down and communicating with your body during the process of eating. We are naturally designed to feel full after a meal and have space in our bellies still. This is not about starving or restricting ourselves at all.)
Proper Sleep -
Ever wonder why you sleep so much more when you’re fighting an infection? Sleep is absolutely essential for your well-being. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked in our fast-paced, go-getter lifestyles. Research shows us that getting proper sleep each night drastically improves both mental and physical health. When you sleep, your body goes into repair mode, where it is able to detoxify, heal, and destress. It even regulates hormones and metabolism, aiding in healthy weight, digestion, and more.
At the same time, your mind uses the downtime to assess and absorb recent impressions it’s taken in, and transforms experiences into knowledge. That means sleep enhances memory, improves mental and emotional stability, and resets the nervous system. Adults should do their best to get an average of eight hours of sleep every night in order to fully show up during waking hours. Here are some simple sleep guidelines from the Ayurveda experts:
Tip 1: Begin wrapping up your day around 6pm, when kapha energy (slow, heavy, calm) begins to rise. Do your best to finish your work for the day before then so you can let go mentally as well. Minimize screen time and artificial lights, and focus on soothing activities such as reading, enjoying a hot bath, or chilling out with family.
Tip 2: Take our Slumber Party Herbal Powder to support your body and mind in achieving deeper, more restful sleep every night. It’s best to fall asleep before 10pm, when pitta energy (productive, powerful, transformative) begins to rise, which can give you a second wind and disturb your quality of sleep for the night. However, if we fall asleep before 10pm, that productive pitta energy is put to good use by healing the body and mind in the ways mentioned above.
Tip 3: Wake up by 6am. If you can, go outside to watch the sunrise to get the proper hormones flowing through your body. During the summer this may be more challenging as the sun can rise very early! It doesn’t have to be super rigid, but getting out of bed (and stepping outside) no later than 6am is generally a good rule of thumb.
Many people know this word as “celibacy.” While that’s not entirely incorrect, it’s also not the whole picture. The actual translation of brahmacharya is “walking with God” or “actions that are consistent with the Creator.” Think of it like this: we are all creators, co-creating with the universe every single moment. You’re either spending your precious energy in a way that serves the wellbeing of yourself and the world, or you’re not. Brahmacharya is living with consciousness and discipline. Discipline isn’t a bad or repressive practice. In fact, when we are able to practice self-discipline, we find more freedom.
Brahmacharya gives us more time to enjoy the small things, greater health and energy to experience life on a daily basis, and the capacity to be more successful in our work. It brings fulfillment, inspiration, and balance to all things.
Here are a few tips for practicing Brahmacharya:
Tip 1: Stay consistent with the first two pillars! (Wink wink.)
Tip 2: Create without attachment to the outcome. Paint, write, sing, dance, cook… whatever. It could even be creating curriculum or software! If it sparks something inside you, make it. And get loosey-goosey with it— make things solely for the sake of creating. Because you can. Because it’s fun. Because there is an artist in all of us, waiting to be actualized. Who knows? You might end up with a masterpiece.
Tip 3: Give. To yourself, your family, your community, and the earth. Offer your love. Be of service. And be yourself. We need you that way.
When we boil things down, we can see that perfect health lies in the beauty of simplicity. Proper food, a good night’s sleep, and conscious, disciplined, creative living are the gateway to a holistically healthful life. Align with the above practices and experience svastha for yourself.
**Originally written for my friends at www.WildSunWellness.com but too important not to share with you here as well. <3