Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ayurveda for Mothers

I discovered Ayurveda through Deepak Chopra’s wonderful book, Perfect Health. My life has not been the same since. I now have a set of practical tools at my disposal to prevent and heal most ailments, though I still have a long road ahead of me in learning the details of this amazing science.

Chopra defines Ayurveda as “a system of preventative medicine and healthcare” .He goes on to say “the guiding principle of Ayurveda is that the mind exerts the deepest influence on the body, and freedom from sickness depends upon contacting our own awareness, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body. Ayurveda teaches that every person has been given a unique blueprint by nature; this is called his prakruti, or body type. Your prakruti tells you how nature intends you to live. According to Ayurveda, your body knows what is good and bad for it; nature has built the correct instincts into you from birth. Once you notice and obey these tendencies, you will find that your physiology is capable of achieving balance on its own, with minimal effort on your part”.

I was relieved when I discovered Ayurveda because it verified what I had always sensed – that there is no ‘perfect’ diet, exercise program or type of meditation to suit everyone. There are only perfect foods, exercises and meditations for individuals. This explains why a fast jog around town invigorates my man but leaves me feeling depleted. I find stretches uplifting while he finds them tiring. The differences expand to diet. I feel energised by spicy food. He feels like sitting on the dunny for a day after eating a little chilli. He loves cold drinks. I love sipping hot tea in summer. And so on…

I read about my body type in Perfect Health and found it to be spot on (I am a Vata). I then set about doing all the things that Chopra said suited my body type – going to bed early, eating heavy foods (yay, pasta!), doing relaxing exercises and generally decreasing Vata, which can easily become anxious and edgy when aggravated. That was a few years ago. Since then, when I become unbalanced –particularly anxious – I know that I have a set of tools at my disposal to bring me back into balance.

The Ayurvedic system of medicine is perfect for mothers because it acknowledges that there is no set way that we ‘should’ lose weight, exercise, meditate or deal with emotional issues. There is no point feeling guilty if you’re friend lost all her baby weight in a few weeks while you are still round after a year. Your body is different to hers. If you’re like me, you might wonder why some women have four kids, a job and a rigorous exercise program when you only have one child and still feel you need to eat and rest more. Don’t feel guilty, just read up on your body type.

I read an article in Yoga International yesterday titled “The Art of Nurturing: Yoga and Ayurveda for Motherhood”. It talked about nourishing recipes to help with breastfeeding, oil massage for different body types and ayurvedic approaches to post natal depression: “Brimhana means ‘building’ or ‘nourishing’. Brimhana qualities are heavy, dull, cool, oily, smooth, dense, soft, stable and sticky. Increasing these qualities in your food and your life can increase energy and blood and counter the tremendous output of energy that occurs during and after birth. Other lifestyle factors can increase brimhana qualities. Surround yourself with quiet, nurturing people. Ask for what you need. This is no time to be shy; it’s a time to be cared for.”

Ayurveda is an ancient science that validates the need for mothers to care for themselves and be cared for, in order to nurture a tiny baby. Imagine if every woman was given an individualised diet, oil massage and gentle set of stretches to do after they gave birth. Imagine if it was expected that every mother would be nurtured and cared for in the weeks following birth. Imagine if every mother knew how to bring her unique body type back into balance when things got tough. This approach is a far cry from trying to beat yourself into being a ‘super mum’ who has lost all her weight and is coping magnificently with all the demands placed on her (without asking for any help). But it is a sane approach.

I am going to read up on Ayurveda and continue to educate myself on how it can help me be the best I can be, for myself and my baby. I encourage other mums to do the same (Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra) is a great start. Hopefully, this amazing system of medicine will one day be mainstream.


  1. Wonderful stuff, GP. I love it. I studied and applied some of this stuff many years ago, and now I'm keen to refresh. Thank you for an inspiring and empowering summary. =)

  2. Thanks Vera, do you know of any good books on Ayurveda? I think it's amazing and would love to learn more.

  3. I think I just read Deepak Chopra's book. I can't remember clearly now, but nothing else is coming to mind...!