I love my solopreneur life but there are times when it gets too busy and no matter how efficient and practical I am at work, I find it hard to switch off and, most importantly, quieten my mind.
I am sure my fellow colleagues will know what I mean when I say that I often feel my mind keeps spinning like the wheels of a bicycle when you stop pedalling while going downhill, especially after an intense day of interpreting.
Right after moving to London, I found that particularly difficult to handle. For the first time in my life, I could not sleep – the combination of anxiety, excitement, and the longest ever to-do list made it impossible for me to wind down.
So I sought Colette’s advice. I had always been interested in Ayurveda and I liked especially the idea of balancing mind, body, and emotions. She taught me a few tricks to regain my balance, which I still use when my busy professional life gets super busy. She has also kindly agreed to contribute the following article to my blog.
Switching off with Ayurveda
Modern life is stressful. In a city like London it can feel as if you are constantly running to meet another deadline. Since the arrival of mobile phones and social media, we are expected to be available at all times. It is therefore understandable that a lot of people find it difficult to switch off. Ayurveda, the ‘science of life’ that originated in India 5000 years ago, offers helpful treatments and simple advice and on how to slow down in order to improve sleep, reduce stress and improve energy levels.
The speed at which we live our modern lives, the constant multitasking and sensory overload gives rise to an imbalance of the element of Air. Air is light, dry and restless and can lead to symptoms such as an overactive mind, inability to switch off, lack of focus, insomnia and anxiety. You may feel exhausted, but still struggle to fall asleep. In order to counteract the light and drying qualities of air, grounding and nourishing foods and activities are very helpful.
Calming Ayurvedic practices to aid sleep
- A regular meditation practice or even something as simple as 5 minutes of alternate nostril breathing (a yogic breathing practice) calms the mind and nervous system, lowers the heart rate and reduces stress.
- Ayurveda places a lot of emphasis on having a daily routine that includes a self-massage with warm sesame or coconut oil, followed by a hot bath or shower. The skin is our largest organ of the body with an enumerable amount of nerve endings. Doing a warm oil massage is grounding and nourishing and reduces dryness and restlessness in the body, as our sense of touch is ruled by the Air element.
- Massage your feet with warm sesame seed oil before bed in order to ground yourself. Each foot contains over 7000 nerve endings that help rebalance (think reflexology!) and ground the body. It is not a coincidence that the age-old Ayurvedic classical texts state that those who massage their feet daily will never fall ill!
- Shirodhara, a treatment where warm oil is continuously poured over the forehead, is known as the King of all Ayurvedic treatments: although it is a localised treatment of the head, it affects not only the central nervous system, but also the immune and endocrine systems. Research has shown it to slow the breathing and heart rate, and reduce blood pressure.[i] The treatment induces a very deep state of relaxation, akin to a good meditation and lowers anxiety and stress.
Food & Herbs to calm the mind
- Warm cooked foods that are slightly oily and moist, are calming and grounding. Think hearty stews and soups, steamed root vegetables with grains and pulses, cold-pressed oils and ghee (clarified butter). Cold, raw, rough and dry foods will just further increase the cold and drying quality of the Air element, therefore foods such as cold salads, sandwiches from a fridge and dry crackers are best avoided.
- A cup of warm cow’s or almond milk with a pinch of nutmeg is nourishing and grounding, calming the restlessness of excess Air element. Nutmeg helps to relax an agitated mind and turn it inwards.
- Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri) is an excellent herb to soothe the nervous system, improve concentration levels and reduce levels of stress and anxiety. It is also commonly used in Ayurveda for sleeping disorders.
- Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is known as the Indian Ginseng, for its adaptogenic (helping the body deal with stress) properties. It is a nourishing and strengthening herb that increases strength and endurance in the body, but at the same time also reduces an overactive mind, anxiety and insomnia. Its botanical name, Somnifera, comes from the Latin name ‘Somni’, meaning sleep.
Making even a few small dietary or lifestyle changes can make a big difference. It is easier to start with simple changes and then finding a balance that suits your schedule and other commitments. The beauty of Ayurveda lies in the fact that it has a large ‘toolbox’ of practices to choose from according your lifestyle. For some, simple dietary changes may be easier to commit to than doing a daily self-massage, and then you may treat yourself to a massage or Shirodhara on the weekend. If you are interested in herbal treatment it is best to book a consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner, who will determine what herbs suit your body type and current condition.
[i] Dhuri, K.D. et al (2013): Shirodhara: A psycho-physiological profile in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda Integrated Medicine 2013 Jan-Mar; 4(1): 40–44.
Colette Park (BSc (Hons) Ayurveda, MSc Cinical Nutrition) is an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner, working full time within the Ayurvedic field since 2010. She holds a first class degree in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, in which diet, herbs and massage treatments play an important role in rebalancing the body. In 2011, whilst working at the illustrious Chelsea Club, Colette won the Good Spa Guide’s national ‘Most Marvellous Massage’ award. She is currently running her own clinic in Wimbledon Village and regularly lectures at an Ayurvedic Academy in London. She is also serving as an executive committee member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association.
“You are your most important resource. In the pecking order of resources money comes third in value after you and time.” Marianne Gray
- Ojas Life, Colette Park’s Ayurvedic practice in London
- Deepak Chopra Meditation Centre – The next Free Mediation Challenge starting 30 October 2017 will deal with time management
Photo by MCL – The lovely, cozy, autumnal hues of Wimbledon Park.