Conscious living and timeless wisdom of Ayurveda with Geeta Vara
We chat with Geeta Vara, London-based, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Author of Ayurveda – Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellbeing in our conversation series that focuses on promoting mindful, healthy and eco-conscious living. Inspired by her Indian roots, Geeta brings the timeless wisdom of Ayurveda to her clinic, workshops and wellness retreats. Geeta helps her clients to resolve a host of complaints and health conditions through herbs, diet, nutrition, lifestyle coaching, therapeutic treatments, yoga, breathing and meditation. Geeta talks about her approach to conscious living by discussing the benefits of Ayurveda and gives tips on how we can become the healthiest version of ourselves.
First off, can you give us a brief description of what Ayurveda is?
Ayurveda is a science that is over 5000 years old but the wisdom is just as relevant today as it has ever been. in fact more so. A practitioner is able to interpret and demystify the science. Ayurveda can span from day to day health rituals for preventative health all the way to full blown disease reversal and management to surgery in some cases. It is by no means exclusive and the universal knowledge is for everyone to enjoy and take benefit from. The day to day rituals are transferable and applicable to anyone anywhere. everything is adaptable and personalised based on your entire life (relationships, work, environment, spiritual inclination, seasons, climate, lifestyle).
Depending on your beliefs it could be seen as a luxury, but in India, it is a way of life (for those who choose it). Ayurveda is a huge subject area. Ayurveda means science of life so encompasses everything. This is the unique science that helps us align to true selves and with nature.
The main concepts are:
We are a microcosm of the entire universe (macrocosm) and made up of the same stuff (ether, air, fire, water and earth), just in different compositions. Everything is essentially energy and we are constantly vibrating. Nothing is permanent and everything can change, decay or heal.
Everything can create a balance or imbalance, therefore anything in excess can create disease and anything can be medicinal. The secret is in knowing what and how. That is ayurveda.
Since food, breath, water, senses, etc is our main source of energy. We pay a lot of attention to taking care of these. We look at the processes that take place in the body and look to regain the natural and optimal function of the body and mind back to your natural state (prakruti).
o Sister science of yoga
o A 5000-year-old system of medicine
o Suitable for both preventative and curative healthcare
o Personalised to the individual (not a one size fits all approach)
o Treats the root cause not just symptoms
o Healing through diet, lifestyle, herbs, yoga, breathwork, treatments and cleansing processes
o Where spirituality meets science (for me!)
o teaches us to align with nature and our authentic selves.
What does your job as an Ayurvedic practitioner involve?
I offer health consultations that cover a wide range of conditions, helping to identify the mind-body type. Prescribing herbs for balancing health where necessary and addressing gut health issues as a primary focus. I offer tailored therapeutic treatments and help clients get started on breathing and meditation. My offerings extend to wellness coaching, virtual wellness retreats and my book that was published in 2018.
How did your journey towards Ayurveda begin and what made you decide to become an Ayurvedic practitioner?
I have my first undergraduate degree in business and marketing, but always had an interest in holistic health so training in western diet & nutrition and anatomy, physiology and massage. Sitting at my marketing job I decided to take a leap of faith and change career paths. Ayurveda was the most complete and holistic medical discipline that I found. I was immersed on my own spiritual journey so this was the perfect path for me. Ayurveda is part of my life purpose or as well call it in sanskrit my ‘dharma’. Growing up I was always immersed in Ayurveda in a very passive way so it really felt like a totally natural transition for me so I went on to formalise my studies with an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in ayurvedic medicine.
How can Ayurveda help us achieve optimal health and well being?
Ayurveda should feel natural, easy and intuitive. The scriptures date back as far as 5000 years and Ayurveda recommends following a diet and lifestyle that is suitable to your local environment and upbringing. Taking natural herbs that are available from the land that you reside. Ayurveda is a profound and exact science. Ayurveda is about getting you back to the way nature intended your mind and body balance to be. You are unique and so getting to know yourself is the key to preventative healthcare. When we apply the many principles and practices of ayurveda as a preventive system of wellness we can expect to feel lighter, more vibrant, have good levels of energy, clarity of mind and balanced emotions. You will feel confident, creative, have lustre in your skin, hair and nails, have efficient digestion, strong immunity, physical strength and strong fertility (when of age).
What does a typical day look like for you at your practice in West London?
When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. My days can really vary. Seeing clients in person in a clinic set up, really allows me to deeply read their energy. Every session is different and my job is to really get to the root of why the client is having health issues and they may come from an emotional or mental cause. Sometimes clients gloss over the deeper aspects of their dis-eases. This is what really builds the picture and helps me to understand their story. My aim really is to help clients walk away with an insight into themselves that they can use to make changes to their health and life.
We start with an analysis of the natural body state, imbalances, and habits. Then, by addressing the current symptoms, focusing on gut health and stress reduction, I help clients with tools to help them listen to their bodies. IThe aim of the first session is to unveil the root cause of the problem and make changes for healing, starting with diet and lifestyle.
Could you tell us a bit more about the doshas of Ayurveda?
Doshas are central to ayurveda and the entry point for most people who don’t know anything about ayurveda. Ayurveda explains that everything in our world is made up of the five basic elements (space, air, fire, water and earth). The elements vary in density. These elements combine in various ways to create the doshas – the doshas govern all the functionality within us. The doshas have distinct qualities and when we get to understand the qualities we can then understand the foods, herbs, spices, ingredients and activities can either be balancing or imbalancing depending on the qualities of that item.
The doshas also influence the stage of our life, the seasons, the time of day too. So understanding the doshas can help us to understand far more than just what foods to eat.
Example: Vata has qualities that are cold, light and dry (more as well) so if we eat foods that have the same qualities we will create an increase/aggravation to this dosha, and this is especially the case if vata is dominant in one’s constitution. E.g. crackers, salads, popcorn, cold water, and raw foods share the same qualities at vata. But warm, cooked foods with spices will be balanced. Just like a calming yoga practice would be more suitable to a vata type than a vinyasa flow yoga sequence.
What are some simple changes from Ayurvedic medicine that people can incorporate into their daily lives to achieve more balance and equilibrium?
Ayurveda is holistic and encompasses all of the above. diet, nutrition, yoga, herbal medicine, treatments, detoxification, rejuvenation, breathing, meditation, treatments and spiritual growth.
My top five simple tips to bring instantaneous balance to us:
- Listen to your body: if you’re feeling hungry, then eat! No hunger? Don’t eat. It’s that simple, but you would be surprised at the number of people who can’t set apart real hunger from routine or a craving.
- Create diversity into your diet, to support a healthy gut microbiome.
- Morning cleansing rituals can set a precedent for the whole day: oral cleansing, neti pot for sinus cleansing, self-massage, drinking a glass of hot lemon water, doing yoga, breathwork, and meditation.
- Make lunch the main meal of the day. Breakfast is not the most important as our digestive power is not as strong as at lunchtime.
- Sleep is a fundamental pillar of health. How and when you sleep has an impact on the quality of your rest and it has a critical impact on your overall health.
What does wellness mean to you and how do we become “well” in our hectic everyday lives?
Wellness is about living in alignment and harmony with our circadian rhythms, seasons, age, strength, doshas and digestion. Wellness doesn’t start once you already have a health condition. It is all about prevention being the cure in my book! Small changes if they are the right ones for us can have a hugely transformative impact on our wellbeing. Sleep cycles, eating habits, and living more consciously is the secret to wellness. It must go way beyond nutrition or supplements and herbs.