SONJA SHAH- WILLIAMS
We mimic the universe. Our bodies are the microcosm of the macrocosm.
Our levels of stress are often directly correlated to our lifestyle habits and external environments. Living in the city, we are consistently exposed to environmental and lifestyle stressors that disturb our state of equilibrium. Factors like excessive work, insufficient rest and improper diet, all work to exert mental and emotional strain on our bodies.
To alleviate this stress, it is important to establish a holistic routine that restores equilibrium in the body. Speaking with Ayurvedic specialist Sonja Shah-Williams Bsc (Hons), at London’s Grace Belgravia, we explore the therapeutic and practical techniques of Ayurveda to counteract stress and restore balance to our bodies.
THE PRACTICE OF AYURVEDA
Developed 5,000 years ago in India, Ayurveda remains one of the oldest medicinal practices in the world. Dedicated to the holistic treatment of mind, body and spirit, Ayurveda is a system of healing that considers numerous lifestyle and biological factors that cause imbalance within the body. By assessing the unique profile of each individual, Ayurveda uses diet, movement and massage to bring the mind and body into balance.
According to Ayurvedic theory, all individuals can be characterised by three main mind-body profiles or types – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Derived from the five primal elements (fire, water, aether, earth, air), these doshas are energetic and functional systems present within us all. For most of us, our constitution is defined by one or two dominant doshas. Depending on our profile, we express the physical and mental characteristics that correspond to our relevant doshas.
Within Ayurvedic teaching, our three doshas are directly affected by two primary factors – ageing and seasonal shifts. External factors such as stress also have an effect on our body’s doshic constitution
In the table below, we outline the general profiles and characteristics of each dosha and its corresponding elements. By identifying your Ayurvedic constitution, you can begin to introduce lifestyle and dietary changes that encourage healing and restore balance in your body.
BALANCING YOUR DOSHA
SONJA SHAH- WILLIAMS
Like increases like, opposites work to correct the imbalance.
THE IMBALANCED BODY
Ayurveda teaches that our lifestyle choices such as diet and stress have a direct impact on our internal state of equilibrium.
Beginning with diet, what and how we eat is fundamental to informing our overall health. According to Ayurvedic principles, when the digestive system is compromised, the body cannot be healthy. In her experience treating patients, Shah-Williams observes often most people don’t eat at the right time, and don’t wait for food to be digested before eating again. This type of disrupted eating can create illness and lead to long-term digestive problems.
Another contributing factor to imbalance, stress is considered to be the ‘biggest ailment to modern life’. Stress is a preoccupation of the mind that deals with the synapses and nervous system. When stressed, the mind fixates on a subject and becomes increasingly preoccupied. Often, when in a state of stress, we check our phones and look to our screens for relief and distraction. This exposure to industrial light further exacerbates our already erratic mental processes.
To guide the body into a state of equilibirum, Ayurvedic practice recommends introducing qualities and practices from opposing doshas to correct these imbalances. For example, if there is an excess of the heat or pitta element, a cool bath, and a cold drink will help to pacify the qualities of pitta. Conversely, indulging in activities that aggravate the heat element, such as lying in the sun, eating chillies or having a hot bath, will exacerbate one’s heat (pitta) qualities.
To balance the elements within the body it is important to consider factors such as diet, exercise, change of the seasons, age, and body type. As the expression of these elements is unique to each individual, every Ayurvedic remedial course should be tailored to suit your profile. The following guide introduces the dietary and exercise choices that are suited to each mind-body type.
Sonja Shah-Williams BSc(Hons) is qualified Ayurvedic Therapist, consulting privately at Anala Ayuvedic Health in North London and as part of the Grace Belgravia Medical and Wellness Clinic. She is passionately committed to helping clients alleviate modern- day stress, prevent and manage chronic diseases and understand the cause and effect mechanism involved in all health issues. After conducting a detailed consultation to establish her clients’ constitution type and decide where any imbalance lies, she creates individually tailored programmes of nutrition and lifestyle adjustments.