Ayurveda and the Quest for Longevity

Kripalu School of Ayurveda

The first chapter of the Charaka Samhita, the oldest treatise on Ayurveda, is called “The Quest for Longevity.” Now, longevity is not the same as immortality. Ayurveda accepts that we all have seasons of our physical lives. If we wish to aspire to higher states of consciousness through the practices of yoga, then Ayurveda is our guidebook for attaining lifelong health and self-realization.

Today, nearly 50 percent of Americans live with at least one chronic condition. And stress—which is closely linked to diet and lifestyle— is a factor in the six leading causes of death—cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Five thousand years ago, the Indian sages knew that the mind was desirous of things that create imbalance—such as sweets and intoxicants—so they created a system to promote balance and, when treatable, to combat disease.  

Ayurvedic Health Counselors work with their communities to encourage mindful seasonal eating; develop plans to care for the sensory organs and soothe the nervous system; demonstrate how to use spices to support digestive health; and teach how nature can act as a tool to hone introspection and cultivate connection.

There are many simple ways to incorporate Ayurvedic practices that can foster longevity into your life. Here are a few.

Follow the sun cycle. Wake up at dawn. Listen to the birds. Take a moment to center yourself before rushing into your day. Life is precious; don’t miss a moment to marvel at the magnificence of the sunrise, and to honor the opportunity to live each day with purpose.

Get rest. Current research confirms something that Ayurveda has taught for thousands of years—that the most beneficial sleep happens between 8:00 pm and 2:00 am. Rule of thumb: Go to bed two hours after sunset, and wake up at sunrise. This means that you will sleep more in the winter and less in the summer. When you follow this rule, you will wake up feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to conquer the world.

Eat real food. As much as possible, eat fresh, local produce, grains, and pulses, and consume organic, grass-fed dairy and other animal products. Keep it simple on busy nights by steaming veggies and grains, or small lentils that cook up in about 30 minutes. Here’s a quick, delicious recipe to get you started..

Spend time in nature. There is no better way to refresh the senses, reset the mind, and take care of the nervous system than by spending time in nature. Turn off the TV, put down the phone, slide away from the laptop, and step outside. Try taking a short walk during your lunch hour or after dinner. Go outside a few times a day and enjoy three long, deep breaths. Let your gaze rest on what’s outside the window for your morning meditation. Lounge by a tree or a brook. If you live in a metropolitan area, go to your nearest park and observe the shapes of the limbs and leaves on the trees. There are no rules for how and where to admire the natural world.

Apply now to the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please email editor@kripalu.org.

Erin Casperson, Lead Kripalu Faculty and Director of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, is passionate about sharing how the ancient practices of Ayurveda can be applied to modern-day living.

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