When you unroll your yoga mat, sprinkle turmeric in your latte, or soothe your sniffles with ginger tea, do you know you are participating in Ayurveda, a holistic healing system that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago?
Because Ayurveda is still relatively unknown in Canada, we spent time with Ayurvedic practitioner, Director of the new Canadian Ayurveda Association, and Okanagan Ayurveda founder Erica Mueller to find out more. Our conversation just scratched the surface of what we discovered is an incredibly simple —and complex—way of looking at our health.
“Ayurveda,” explains Erica, “which means ‘the science of life,’ treats body, mind, and spirit as one, and seeks to balance the essential elements that give us a pure, natural state of health. There is no ‘mind-body connection’ in Ayurveda—it’s all the same thing.”
These essential elements, in addition to yoga, include diet, cleansing, rejuvenating treatments, exercise, sleep, meditation, and massage.
A yoga teacher who opened the first Bikram studio in Kelowna, Erica was first introduced to Ayurveda about 20 years ago through Deepak Chopra’s book Perfect Health. Years later, while studying to become a yoga therapist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, she attended a lecture about Ayurveda—and, as she describes it, “a light when on.”
“Everything made sense for the first time in my life. Although I’d always been into health and fitness, this made sense at a much deeper level, as a practice in conjunction with the natural world. I knew this is what I needed to do.”
So, Erica began her studies with traditional Ayurvedic teachers at the Kerala Academy in California, where she returns next year to complete her doctorate. She’s also done an internship at an Ayurvedic hospital in southern India.
Three and a half years ago, she opened Okanagan Ayurveda, which integrates Ayurveda with yoga, as therapy.
The oldest natural healing system in the world, Ayurveda teaches us to live in harmony with the basic laws of nature, based on the belief that we are not just physical beings, but also expressions of energy, and consciousness. Every expression is distinct and unique.
“Everyone has a divine blueprint,” explains Erica, “a unique constitution determined at conception. Ayurveda sees illness as a manifestation of imbalance, and works to address the root cause, not just the symptoms: physical, energetic, or emotional. I use a diagnostic tool to look at the qualities and elements that make you who you are—your dosha—and to determine the best plan of action for improved health and well-being.”
A Way of Life
Ayurveda is a way of living that teaches our body its innate rhythms. Food and lifestyle are the basis for everything; the first priority is to clean up toxins in the body.
Most of us in North America, she says, have lived out of balance for a long time: lots of stress, not eating regularly, poor sleep patterns and digestion.
“We believe that poor digestion causes all disease—mental or physical—so when I do an assessment, I need to find out what your digestive system is like, and if it’s working properly. If it isn’t working properly you create Ama in the body (a white sludge that infiltrates the intelligence of the body), and starts to create disease.”
The art of eating, Erica says, is sacred. “We are making our temple, and we can’t do that when we are on the computer, or on the phone! We confuse our digestive system, and have forgotten our innate intelligence. Your body knows—but, if you’re imbalanced, it’s not giving you the right messages. Our bodies speak to us all the time—we’re just not listening.
“Ayurveda is the art of mindfulness at its essence. Many of us go to the yoga mat to be mindful. I teach people to make their life mindful.”
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.