“So many years of education, yet nobody ever taught us how to love ourselves and why it is so important.”
This quote rang true for me. I was taught to be respectful of others. The concept of respect was always outward facing. What about the respect and love for ourselves?
Growing up, people would say, “you have such pretty skin, your eyes are so blue, your hair is so soft, you have such a nice smile.” So those were the attributes I learned to love. What about the rest of me? The real me? I spent the next two decades caring for and thinking of other’s needs, often before my own needs were met.
I was sick a lot when younger, with colds, ear infections, and bronchitis. I had a pediatric doctor tell my Mom to keep me home from school on the first of my menstrual cycle, because my immune system was weak. I was treated over and over with antibiotics and had my tonsils removed, due to my chronic sore throats. I had asthma on a regular basis, and was allergic to cat dander, milk, fish, shellfish, bee stings, and grasses.
My chronic colds continued into my adult life. I used to panic when a co-worker would come into work sick, afraid that they would share their germs. I was also shamed into getting a yearly flu shot, and like clockwork, I would get the flu 3 weeks later.
At the age of 34, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Six years later, I had an emergency surgery due to a ruptured ureter, where they found a severe case of endometriosis and bladder cancer. During this surgery, I had a full hysterectomy.
A few years later, under a doctor’s care, I lost 40 pounds. My diet consisted of protein drinks for four months! Shortly after that I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Really? When was this going to stop?
I desperately wanted to be healthy. I was a 46 years old woman, happily married with a fantastic career, and a beautiful 8 year-old son. Yet, I kept getting sick. I finally decided to look outside of Western Medicine and into alternative healing modalities, including Acupuncture, massage therapy, and Reiki. I was searching for something that treated my mind, body, and spirit. I started to feel better, knowing that I was taking charge of my health, yet I felt guilty for spending so much money on myself. Fortunately, my husband was very supportive, and he wanted me to be healthy and happy too.
MS is a scary disease. It is different for each person, so it is hard to track the symptoms. Anytime something was wrong with me, I would automatically think it was a relapse due to MS. I often wondered if I would wake up one day, and not be able to walk. The fear had really set in, we even sold our beautiful home, because there were too many stairs, and I feared that I would not be able to get around.
Through a friend at work, I learned about Acharya Shunya’s wisdom school. My friend suggested I attend the free community classes on Ayurveda. I felt as if Acharya Shunya was speaking to me directly. I felt at peace. I was nourishing a part of me that I didn't know existed. I could not wait to come back.
I was so thirsty for knowledge to live a healthy life. I immediately signed up for her Ayurveda course. I learned about Ayurvedic healing foods and spices seasonal routines, immunity boosting techniques, yoga philosophy, and how to cultivate a peaceful mind.
This was a very interesting time for me, and there were adjustments I made to my lifestyle. I learned to sit with my food quietly. I also learned that sipping hot water during a meal is better than drinking a cold drink. I used to drink ice-cold carbonated water. I now know, that was one of the worst things I could be doing for my digestion. To aid in digestion, you can also walk 100 steps after consuming a meal. Who knew something so easy could be so beneficial?
By the end of this course, the exhaustion had subsided. I felt invigorated and had more energy. I had not caught a cold, despite having sick people around me at work, and even at home. I was so intrigued by the realization, that by just making some simple changes in my life over a short period of time- I had already made a positive impact on my health.
I felt like I was learning a new way to be and behave. I was so grateful for the knowledge I was receiving, that I wanted to take care of my school, and could not wait to thank my teacher for her wisdom. It was time to slowly let down the walls of caution and open myself up to this healing knowledge - I was ready to trust the science.
It was time to take charge and heal myself. I decided I did not want to take antidepressants anymore. I expressed my idea to my western doctor, and she was supportive of my choice. She explained how to slowly stop taking them. I also applied what I was learning in my Ayurveda course. Through the right food choices, herbs, meditations, and lifestyle changes, I was able to eliminate antidepressants from my life.
The next big hurdle was to lower my “bad” cholesterol (HDL). My blood work revealed that my cholesterol was extremely high. My western doctor gave me three months to lower my cholesterol, or I would have to start taking medication. I had heard that this medication could have serious side effects, so I did not want to take a medication that would fix one health problem, in exchange for creating another. However, I was scared of a heart attack or stroke.
Fortunately, the newly learnt eating habits, recipes, exercise regimen, and daily care routines helped me lower my cholesterol to a healthy level. I am proud to say that six months later, my HDL levels are normal, and I have lost weight.
As I look back at the last few years, I have benefited greatly from the Ayurveda education. There are some very basic routines that I do every day to stay healthy. These rituals are a part of my life now. I have found that I am listening to my body more. I look for signs that I am on the right course. Regular elimination is one of the biggest signs that I am digesting my food properly.
A typical day starts before the sun rises, with a mug of hot water to clear the channels. Next I practice Surya Namaskar, a greeting to the sun and new day. I also chant mantras, practice pranayama (breathing), and meditation. The beauty of these practices is knowing I can take them anywhere. I travel a lot for work, and this is how I start my day, whether at home or away.
About 2-3 times a week I practice Abhyanga before my shower. Abhyanga is a technique where you rub a warm therapeutic oil on your body. This has helped me greatly with my dry skin. I have also noticed that my arms and legs look smoother and slimmer.
I have learned to give myself time in the morning to allow for proper elimination. When I am running late, I do have the time to relax and eliminate properly. As a result, I do not feel well throughout the day.
I am very lucky because my husband cooks my meals. He has been a lifesaver. He enjoys cooking and learning new Ayurvedic recipes. This is great, but my next step will be to take charge of helping to prepare these meals as well. I found out the hard way- when he travels for work, I am at a loss. I now know, proper digestion starts with the preparation of your meal.
Eating out does not have to be a problem. However, I choose not to eat out as often, so I have more control of how my food is prepared. In a pinch, I look for healthy, warm vegetarian choices.
I try not to force the Ayurvedic lifestyle on my family. I trust in the process, that when they are ready, they too will start to eat Ayurvedically. My son is fascinated in what I am learning in my teacher’s wisdom school. He has started to adopt some Ayurveda into his life. He loves the nighttime ritual of preparing spiced milk. He is also a big fan of having me rub warm sesame oil on his feet. I just love that big smile, when he is totally relaxed and happy. This is a special time for us to bond. I am trying to work cold bubbly water and ice cream out of his diet. Ice cream can be consumed, but in moderation and when it is seasonally correct.
I feel so grateful to be able to share this ancient knowledge of health with my family. My goal is to share with them preventative healthcare and encourage them to practice a healthy lifestyle.
During the last 4 years, I have not been sick with a cold; I eliminated antidepressants, I avoided taking statins for high cholesterol; and I have lost weight. I also have more energy, and have not had any new symptoms due to MS.
My journey continues, absorbing layer upon layer of teachings to create a solid foundation for a healthy lifestyle. I have a toolbox that I can rely upon. Overall, I have a feeling of wellbeing, knowing that I can help myself. I am now learning to love myself inside and out.
Usha (spiritual name)
Alchemy through Ayurveda Graduate
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind an online wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and forthcoming second book with Sounds True to be released in 2020, Sovereign Self. Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she holds live Global Satsangs once per month. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.