What is optimal health? Optimal health means a state of harmony between your mind, body, actions, and lifestyle that’s improving digesting and promoting Ojas (Ayurvedic tem for the very refined product of digestion that is responsible for strong immunity and good health). In Ayurveda digestion is the main seat of good health. When digestion is balanced (Samana), so is the health and well-being. However, when digestion (agni-fire) is effected by various factors causing it to become irregular (vishama), too sharp (Tikshana), or sluggish (Mandya); the outcome is disorder or disease. In order to have Samana/Balanced Agni or digestion, it’s important to bring balance to the 6 pillars of optimal health.
- Health Goal and Vision: It’s important to be crystal clear about what health means to you, what being healthy means to you. You can gain clarity by asking yourself specific questions about your health and setting SMART goals for each of the answers. This will allow you to plan out your health optimizing journey and keep you away from falling prey to quick fix gimmicks or another fad diet protocol.
- Stress Management: the effect of hyper-active sympathetic nervous (SNS) and its neuroendocrine response due to negative stressors or chronic stress leaves a scaring imprint on our physical and mental bodies. It weakens our immune response, and also our mental clarity and problem solving abilities, most of our actions takes place from an urgency based state. Learning to activate our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is an essential skill, one that enhances our physical and mental health.
- Restorative Sleep: Sleep detoxifies our mind and body. This detoxification occurs when the sleep completes its cycles in specific number of rounds. A disturbed sleep night or not sleeping enough can cause mental and physical fatigue activating the sympathetic nervous system, in turn activating the neuroendocrine processes to take place. This causes us to reach for that afternoon coffee or candy bar or finish the bag of cookies to fight the mental fatigue that keeps persisting. So getting a good night’s sleep, 7-9 hours that’s undisturbed and restorative is essential for a healthy mind, body, and fitness.
- Nutritious Diet: What lies on our plate and at the end of our fork is essential to our health. But, there are hundreds of dietary protocols out there, which one to choose to follow? Diets have a purpose and it’s not solely weight loss; the main purpose of a diet is to nourish your body, improve digestion, and promote good health – Ayurveda calls it a Sattvic diet. So, what is it? It comes from the Earth; it’s freshly picked, cooked, spiced up, and served. It’s a plant-based diet rich in plant based proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that nourish the mind and body, promotes longevity and vitality, and sustainable weight.
- Consistent Movement: exercise promotes health in many ways. It strengthens our bones, aids with blood circulation, detoxifies our body (sweating), conditions our heart, and helps us feel fit. The two categories of exercise: cardio or aerobic and weight training or resistance training. It’s important that we exercise regularly and consistently. An hour of cardio 5-6x/week may feel like a good conditioning and fitness routine. However, research indicates that a consistent series of movements throughout the day helps condition our bodies better than a fixated one. So, through in consistent stretches in form of yoga asanas, short high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, and brisk walks throughout your daily routine.
- Supportive Environment: It’s super important to have a supporting space, mindset, home, office, partners, friends, family members, colleagues …etc. when starting a health and lifestyle shift journey. It really helps ease and expedite the process of habit change and habit automation. So, declutter your space to make it support your journey. Start with your kitchen and fridge for nourishing foods, bedroom for restorative sleep, exercise space and equipment for consistent movement, special anchors for stress management, and frame your health goal/vision place it in a visible spot to remind yourself of where you’re heading.
When I work with my clients we spend extensive time on each of these pillars. Once we have addressed the habit shifts and set goals, we incrementally move to work on the healthy habit that slowly replaces the unhealthy/undesired habit. Once the habit is automated, we move into individualizing the 6 pillars using the Ayurveda mind-body type approach. This is where my clients feel they have discovered their blueprint for optimal health, longevity, and vitality. So, use the above pillars as a guide to restoring your health and balancing your digestion for optimal health.
To your best health,