What do you do when you feel constantly stressed or fatigued, when annoying physical symptoms such as skin rashes or indigestion persist? Do you soldier on, go in search of the miracle cure you saw advertised on TV recently, or visit your GP and leave with a fistful of prescriptions? Or are you joining the increasing number of people who seek the advice of practitioners, such as homeopaths, who take a holistic approach to healing and use remedies derived from herbs, minerals and other natural substances?
For Anjani Helen Gregoriou the key to optimal health, joy and well being definitely lies in a holistic approach and more specifically, with Ayurveda, the healthy lifestyle system which originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Anjani has recorded two classes for Global Spiritual Studies, both of which are available on DVD. The first is An Introduction to Ayurvedic Concepts and the other is called Eating for your Body Type.
Here she talks about her own personal experience of the healing power of Ayurveda and about how we can all benefit from understanding and working with our body type.
LM: What’s the significance of the word ‘Anjani’ in your name?
AHG: This is my spiritual name, given to me by my Guru, Shakti Durga. My Guru is a very non-conventional kind of Guru in that she is a woman, white, has children, is Western and a former barrister. For me, my Guru is simply someone who is way more realized in consciousness than I am and is my guide on the spiritual path to enlightenment. My name ‘Anjani’ means the mother of ‘Hanuman’ and was bestowed on me as another name really for Hanuman. In the Hindu tradition, Hanuman is a face of the Divine that represents the virtues of faith, devotion and commitment. Hanuman is the greatest God of all because of these virtues that he has embodied. In fact he is often depicted leaping across or lifting up mountains. This is an analogy for the teaching that faith can move mountains. I was given this name because it is the name that best represents the flavor of my soul and who I truly am on the most subtle level of consciousness. It also represents my mission in this life, to serve others through teaching and helping others move more into their truth and live authentic joyful happy lives through the principles of these virtues.
LM: What led you to Ayurveda?
AHG: I found Ayurveda the same way that I found my Guru. Totally by accident – or what seemed to be anyway. I wasn’t looking for either, they came and found me. I was a corporate lawyer which was an incredibly stressful job and I had no job satisfaction at all. I had also been physically ill for over 19 years with chronic digestion problems and food intolerances. I was not able to eat wheat, diary, gluten, fruits and most vegetables. It began with bloating after eating bread. Over the years it worsened until I was so sick I could only eat boiled chicken and a tiny amount of boiled rice. My weight plummeted, I was not sleeping very well, I suffered from regular panic attacks and I was constantly bloated.
I went to see many different Western doctors and specialists and was labeled with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) but was told that nothing could be done. I then spent years visiting nutritionists, naturopaths and getting acupuncture to no avail. Finally, a friend of mine put me in touch with a spiritual teacher who told me that I would study Ayurveda. I had never heard of this and she explained to me that it was an ancient science of natural healing from India. I found a college that ran an intro course to Ayurveda and after three months of study I cured myself just with the right diet and exercise. My doctors couldn’t believe it. I guess they don’t know everything!
LM: What are the main principles or concepts that underpin the Ayurvedic health system?
AHG: Ayurveda is the oldest surviving medical system in the world. It’s over 5000 years old and is still the main form of medicine and treatment practised today in India. All modern surgery is based on Ayurvedic principles. The main principles that underpin the Ayurvedic health system are that everything on earth is made up from the five same basic elements of Ether, Air, Fire Earth and Water and that disease of the body, emotions or mind is due to an imbalance of these elements.
These elements make up the body constitution or ‘dosha’. Ether and Air constitute the Vata dosha; Fire and Air – Pitta dosha; and Earth and Water – Kapha dosha. Ayurveda (literal translation being the ‘science of life’) considers that our physical body and our mind have their own innate intelligence and if we can understand and speak their language, we can heal any disease. To find out your body type, answer the questions in this simple Dosha Test. The questions cover eating habits, physical characteristics, personality traits and behaviour patterns. Armed with this knowledge, you’ve taken the first step to establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that suits you.
Based on Ayurvedic principles, all disease begins at the subtle or energetic level in the form of limiting thoughts, beliefs and emotions that do not promote health. I have found this to be the case with all my clients. Unlike modern medicine, Ayurveda treats all aspects of a person, not just the physical symptoms, but also emotional blocks or concerns. In other words, Ayurveda looks to treat the root cause of any disease to cure it completely. This differs from Western medicine, which only treats the symptoms of disease which is not effective long term and only results in people becoming dependent on drugs for the rest of their lives. Whilst modern medicine has a part to play in our health system, it is not the only answer and Ayurveda is an incredibly effective system of medicine that can be practised alongside modern medicine.
LM: How would an Ayurvedic health consultant help someone to cope with stress, for example?
AHG: Stress manifests in many forms in the physical body as poor quality sleep, stomach or digestion problems, skin rashes, a busy mind, anxiety, constant worrying about minor things in life, inability to shut the mind off or relax and so on. Many clients come to see me for an Ayurvedic health consultation suffering from stress. It is one of the most common forms of dis-ease suffered by Western people today.
Ayurveda treats stress on all levels of the body and mind. Everyone is unique and how stress affects them personally is different. In general however, stress is an imbalance of the elements of ether and air. The qualities of these elements are light, dry and cold. To treat someone with stress, Ayurveda would look at re-balancing the ether and air elements by applying the opposite qualities to the body/mind. For example, warm oil head massage, Yoga Nidra meditation to move the energy from the head region and back into the body, grounding yoga poses, shirodhara (warm oil poured continuously on the forehead to calm the nerves) and food that is warm, moist, and grounding such as warm soups and stews. I would also help them realise their own mental and emotional triggers for stress. When a person understands what makes them stressed and puts in place daily practices to eliminate these triggers, they generally see a marked difference within days.
LM: What about body weight issues, e.g. helping people to lose weight or treating the symptoms of anorexia?
AHG: Ayurveda deals with body weight issues in the same way that it treats all forms of disease. On a mind, body, emotional and spiritual level. Ayurveda can be used to help people lose weight and treat anorexia at the other end of the scale. Ayurveda would treat the imbalance of the elements to treat body weight issues. For example, obesity or being overweight is a consequence of too much earth and/water element. The qualities of earth are heavy and stagnant. The qualities of water are sticky and moist. If you mix earth and water together you get ‘mud’. And mud sticks! So to treat this, Ayurveda would look at balancing the excess earth and water with food of the opposite qualities, light, easy to digest, and dry foods. In addition, the appropriate form of exercise to build a sweat would be prescribed based on the individual. It’s not one size fits all.
LM: Are there times when you would combine Ayurveda with Western medicine?
AHG: As Ayurvedic herbal remedies are completely natural and plant based, they can easily be taken alongside Western allopathic treatments. Sometimes, when a disease is in a very chronic state, it may be necessary for someone to take Western medicine but Ayurvedic remedies and practices can be easily adopted at the same time and in conjunction with Ayurveda. For most cases of disease however, the principles and practices of Ayurvedic medicine can be applied to great effect. My own example is testament to this and in fact, was the only system of medicine that actually cured my digestive issues.
LM: Holistic health clinics offering Ayurveda are springing up everywhere. How do people make an informed choice about who to see?
AHG: The best advice I can offer to anyone who is looking for advice from an Ayurvedic practitioner or an Ayurvedic health clinic is to ask around and get a recommendation from someone who has had success with it. I tend not to advertise. In fact, all of my clients are referrals from other happy clients. Failing this, you can ask where the Ayurvedic practitioner studied, what level of qualification they have and get some testimonials from them.
There are basically two levels of Ayurvedic practitioner: an Ayurvedic doctor (the equivalent of a Western GP) and an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Practitioner, who has studied for at least two years with clinical experience. The main difference is an Ayurvedic doctor can administer Ayurvedic compounds and herbs whereas a Practitioner will administer home remedies using kitchen herbs that are often just as effective.
LM: From an Ayurvedic perspective, what are the key ingredients of a balanced diet?
AHG: In the case of physical disease of the body or mind, an Ayurvedic practitioner would need to carry out a full health assessment and would prescribe a specific diet to re-balance the elements for the particular disease. In general terms however, there are nine basic principles behind a healthy balanced diet. The first is to be a happy chef – prepare food in a good emotional state. Secondly, be a happy eater – eat mindfully. Avoid all other activity whilst eating. Why? Because your body will either rest and digest or be in action mode. It unfortunately cannot multi task. So, if you are staring at your computer, playing on your iPhone, walking, or doing any activity whilst you are eating, then you do not allow your body to digest the food you are putting into it. Poor digestion, lack of energy and stress will follow.
The other principles are:
- Chew, chew, chew – chew solid food until it becomes liquid before swallowing to help the digestive process.
- Eat your liquids – never gulp down liquids, especially when eating. This has the effect of putting out your digestive fire (agni) and you won’t be able to digest or absorb the nutrients from what you eat.
- Tune in – ask yourself what you desire to eat. Your body will tell you what it needs.
- Avoid eating when you’re emotionally upset. It only serves to stuff down un-resolved emotions. Ultimately this leads to disease.
- Eat only when hungry.
- Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Lord and Dinner like a pauper – breakfast and lunch should be the largest meals. Dinner should be very light and before 6pm.
- Eat for your body type – adopt a food program to balance your body type or any imbalances in your dosha.
If you’re a Vata you need food that is light to digest, moist and warm to counteract the cold dry qualities of ether and air. If you’re a Kapha, you need food that is warm, dry and light to counteract the moist, damp heavy qualities of earth and water. I’ve put together a few guiding principles to help you with food and recipes. Click here to download these guidelines and some recipes for food that’s easy to prepare and yummy to eat!
LM: In summary, what are the main benefits of incorporating Ayurvedic principles into our lifestyles?
AHG: If you want to know how and why your body works, then Ayurveda is the only medical system in the world that can teach you this. Once you understand your body type, you will understand what makes you tick. You will then understand how to adopt simple daily routines to not only cure disease but prevent it. By balancing the five elements with the right diet, exercise and daily practices, you can achieve optimal health, vibrancy, joy and wellbeing no matter what your age or circumstances.
About Anjani Helen Gregoriou
Anjani is a holistic Ayurvedic Health and Lifestyle Consultant and Healer. Former corporate lawyer turned holistic therapist, Anjani offers corporate master classes in attaining and maintaining optimum health and well-being, as well as personalised consultations in her Sydney clinic.
Anjani studied Ayurvedic Medicine and Oil Therapies in Australia and then went to India to study and learn more deeply in Panchakarma (Detoxification and Rejuvenation) therapies. Following this she decided that after 30 years of practising Yoga, she would train as a yoga teacher. After all, Yoga is the sister science of Ayurveda so it made sense to combine the two. To complete the holistic circle, she went on to obtain accreditation as an Ignite Your Spirit Energetic Healer, Teacher and Mentor.
Anjani’s business, Initiate Ayurveda, was born from her passion for empowering people to initiate the necessary changes in life towards inner harmony, outer health and joyous well- being. Click here to visit Anjani’s website.
Over to you!
Do you incorporate Ayurvedic principles in your lifestyle? If so, how do they help? If not, are you interested in doing so after reading what Anjani has to say? What experiences have you had with natural remedies? With mainstream Western medicine? We’d love to hear from you!