J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 60.
A: We give and give and give, especially as women, we tend to do that and then we can feel really depleted and exhausted and, you know, burnt out as a result.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Welcome back to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast. I'm Jen Riday, women's happiness expert, and my mission is to help you take back control over your time, life, and happiness. So many women feel burnt-out and resentful after years of meeting everyone else's needs, but never their own. Too many women believe they're not good enough and are failures because they aren't living up to their potential. I show women how to let go of busyness and guilt and to find balance, positivity, productivity, and purpose again through this podcast, through the free Vibrant Happy Women Facebook group, and through my online programs, Time Mastery for Women and the Vibrant Happy Women Academy. You can learn more at jenriday.com. On our last episode, I spoke with Beth Kempton, all about the freedom keys that can help us overcome that feeling of being trapped. You know, when your toddler is screaming and you feel like you want to leave the house and run away, but you can't, so instead you might go into the closet and snack on a bunch of Oreos? Well, neither is the best approach. Beth talked about 8 freedom keys; things that we can add to our lives that will make all the difference in feeling free if you haven't listened to that episode go back and do so; you'll find it at jenriday.com/59. In today's episode, we'll be talking with Ananta Ripa Ajmera and she wrote a book called ‘The Ayurveda Way’. Now Ayurveda is the world's oldest healing system, it's the science of life and it's all about the body, mind, spirit, and 5 senses; a very holistic approach to health. Ananta shares so many nuggets of wisdom in this episode such as ‘health is your birthright’, and that we need to give only when we're feeling full, which in other words, we don't give from an empty cup, and she describes the practice of healthy selfishness. So many of us feel it's selfish to take care of ourselves, but in this episode, you'll hear what healthy selfishness means and how you can apply that in your life. So if you love yoga like I do and you kind of like the thought of a body, mind, spirit, holistic plan for your health that includes all the aspects of your life, you're going to love this episode; so let's go ahead and dive in.
Hey, everyone, welcome to Vibrant Happy Women, I am talking with Ananta Ripa Ajmera today. She's committed to making Ayurveda understandable and applicable to a diverse modern audience. She teaches Ayurveda lifestyle, stress management, and meditation at yoga and business conferences and for clients including ABC News, Stanford University, and California probation departments. Ajmera studied yoga and Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya… (is that… am I saying that right?).
A: Yes, Acharya Shunya, mm-hmm.
J: Oh, I'm getting… I'm on a roll today.
J: … and serves as branding and yoga studies director for Vedika Global; Acharya Shunya’s school. Her writing is popular on Mind Body Green, Elephant Journal, and The Huffington Post. Welcome to the show, Ananta.
A: Thank you so much, Jen, it's a pleasure to be here with you.
J: I am glad you're here. I used to kind of look into the Ayurveda ideas and I can't wait to hear what you have to say. But first, let's start with a quote from you that you'd like to share today.
A: Sure. I think, you know, my favorite quote is actually from an ancient text called the Upanishads, and it says, “When you sow a thought, you reap an action.”
A: “When you sow an action, you reap a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. And when you sow a character, you reap a destiny.”
J: Hmm, so that's powerful. How have you been able to apply that in your life?
A: You know, every morning, Jen, I actually wake up and it's a traditional practice in the Ayurveda lifestyle to actually look at your hands first thing in the morning. And I affirm, you know, my first thought as being one of abundance, power, knowledge, and creativity, all residing right there in my own hands. And so by the first thought that I think, I'm really setting the canvas for being able to paint the rest of my day as I wish.
J: I love that, it seems similar to setting an intention for the day, would you agree?
A: Yeah, yeah, definitely, it's an intention, it's also an affirmation because I think, you know, we're so often taught to believe that everything worth having in this life is somewhere outside and it has to be attained, you know, by doing something. And by affirming that actually everything that I am searching for lies within me, it's just a very empowering way to start the day.
J: Nice; that is super empowering actually. Well, take us to your low point and tell us about that and then how you've, you know, moved through that and are living the life you are today.
A: Sure. Yeah, for me, I had gone through many years of eating disorders and had really searched everywhere for some answers and for a solution to this. I really wanted to be able to take control of my own well-being. So I went to all these online forums, I used to read books and libraries, I would, you know, talk to counselors and try to get some insight into why I was having this issue. And I searched and searched everywhere. I had lost so much weight, I was having trouble sleeping at night, I had all this unexplained aches and pains and, you know, so much anxiety and stress. And the Western doctors meanwhile were telling me that I was in excellent health, but I knew that was not the case at all.
J: Mm-hmm. So what did you do to, you know… I mean you have this contrast with doctors telling you you're fine but, you know, you're not; what a hard place to be in. How did you get out of that?
A: Yeah, you know, it took a while, Jen. I went then to college and studied business at NYU and then I got introduced to yoga there, partly because the stress went, you know, to another level being in the big city for the first time.
A: And so when I went to yoga, I was like, “Oh, wow, this feels really familiar. This feels like I'm understanding a part of my culture,” because where I went, they were teaching about the roots of yoga from India. And so I wanted to know more about it and that journey led me to India to reconnect even further with my roots where I was…
A: … taking a yoga teacher training. And then I encountered Ayurveda and it was amazing how, you know, one by one, all of these challenges like very quickly started to vanish. And I came back and I enrolled in a school in Emeryville in the Bay Area with my teacher, Acharya Shunya, and, you know, it was just incredible to study with her; it just felt like I was coming home after this long journey. And finally, you know, I found these really simple things actually that helped me to transform all these years of suffering that I had had.
J: Well, let's talk about those simple things, but first, could you give us kind of an overview of what Ayurveda is?
A: Yeah, sure. So Ayurveda literally is the science of life; it's as old as life itself. It… you know, there's many different references to how old exactly it is, whether it's 5000 years or 10,000 years, but it's definitely the world's oldest healing system from which Chinese medicine and many other theories of medicine and practices of medicine are said to have evolved. One of the sages who had discovered Ayurveda was actually known as the first to discover surgery, you know, back way in the day and they were performing all these advanced techniques before anyone, you know, had known about this. And it's a holistic system, so Ayurveda looks at 4 dimensions of the human being; the body, mind, spirit, and the 5 senses. So what you're taking in through your eyes, your nose, your mouth, your skin, you know, all of this, your eyes really makes a difference. And another thing that really inspires me about Ayurveda is how its definition is so expansive. Ayurveda is defined as that science which teaches us how to distinguish between those actions that bring us joy and those that bring us sorrow, because joy-filled actions are what give us health. And, you know, they define the joy-giving actions as those that benefit, not only ourselves , but others; so compassion and service are actually an inherent part of the practice and lifestyle of Ayurveda.
J: Wow, I'm sitting here thinking, “This is the answer to all of Western medicine’s problems,” because, like you said, it does talk about body, mind, and spirit, and everything, you know, all in one; I love it. So tell us more about how Ayurveda helped you with your eating disorder and… and how else it's helped you and other people in life.
A: Yeah. I mean, there's so many things, but I think, you know, the thing that really struck me deeply is in the unique way that my teacher has carried on this living tradition of Ayurveda. Because unfortunately, in India, you know, it's more compared with Western medicine and there was a lot of colonial rule of India for many years and foreign rules and foreign invaders. And so a lot of the traditional culture got kind of discouraged, you know, and people lost their confidence in their traditional science. So nowadays, you know, people want you to take a Dosha quiz and find out what your type is and all this kind of stuff. And so to learn from Acharya Shunya, a master who grew up living this tradition with her grandfather day after day in India has been so amazing, because she taught that the real understanding of Ayurveda is that health is your birthright; that health is your true nature. And I think, for me, being able to connect with that and to be able to connect with the idea of freeing my spirit, it has been the key to developing the willpower and the strength to be able to then, you know, make diet and lifestyle changes which Ayurveda recommends for being able to bring my body then into balance. Because, for me, the suffering that I had really started in my mind and it started from just being disconnected, you know, thinking I'm just this body and I'm, you know, just like going through the motions of life, like going to school like getting good grades and, you know, all of that. But I didn't know that I was something more than that; that I was, you know, more expensive than that. And so being told that this is actually who I am and that health is my real state, I think for me, has been very healing. So there's this whole paradigm that she has really brought to Ayurveda and to the world that we’re awakening health; you know, that health is our… our real state and that we're not really fighting disease as much as we are boosting our health and really actively working on building our health. And I think that approach has itself been incredibly transformational. And then, you know, the lifestyle practices, like I'll wake up early, eat on time, eat my biggest meal at lunchtime, eat warm cooked foods, all of these things have been incredibly healing at a physical level, you know, then to overcome the eating disorders and digestive issues and insomnia and all of these other things.
J: Mm, so that's so powerful. You were mentioning you had to kind of heal yourself almost mentally or physically… mentally or spiritually before you could have the willpower to do the physical part, could you expand on that?
A: Yeah, yeah, because, you know, it's… it's interesting there. We all kind of have that inner knowing, right, that inner voice that will speak to us and tell us like, “This is not the best choice for you,” you know? (Laughs)
A: Like, I knew I probably should be eating, I had an eating disorder and I didn’t want to eat. But it wasn't about food, it was really about control. And so we all kind of know that what… you know, certain habits are not helpful for us.
A: We know better, but we don't do better. And I think, to really act in our own higher interest, there is a kind of turning inward and a kind of practice of self-love that is really important; that was really important for me. And I remember being struck by how my teacher had taught that in the Ayurveda tradition, there are these 3 different types of relationships that we have. One is with objects, which definitely, right? Like, even to talk to you, I have to have a relationship with my object; my phone…
J: Yeah, yeah. (Laughs)
A: … to be able to have the conversation.
A: So whether it works or not, it becomes an issue, you know? (Laughs)
A: I can have some reactions to that. And certainly, we have those kind of interactions with our objects. The next kind of relationships is with people. So people, animals, you know, those who are living with us who we talk to and interact with, and of course a lot of emotions and things can rise to the surface in those relationships.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
A: And most of us spend our whole lives just going back and forth between people and objects, but Ayurveda teaches us that we have a third relationship in life that we can cultivate, and that's actually with our own higher self. And this is a relationship that very few people ever even get to know about, much less actually start to develop, but this is the doorway that opens and the invitation that becomes available when choosing the Ayurveda way of life.
J: Mm. So I know lots of our listeners are, you know, into personal development, would that be kind of the same type of idea, cultivating that higher self, or is there more… more details about that than I'm not understanding?
A: You know, I actually have a book, Jen, it's divided up into these sections of healing your physical body, strengthening your mind and freeing your spirit. So in the ‘freeing your spirit’ part, I have written about some practices that you can do to… how to actually love yourself and some ancient rituals for your morning; so it different ways that you can start your day and in a positive way that all, you know, help us to really connect with our higher self and our deeper knowing. So one of those is you can actually oil your body; and that's something I love to teach and the workshops that I do and I've written about in the book. And the book is full color so there's pictures and illustrations throughout to help you see exactly, you know, how to do these different things. But oiling the body is so great in terms of really loving yourself and connecting with your spirit, because even the word ‘oil’ in Sanskrit, the language of yoga and Ayurveda, actually means ‘to oil’ as well as ‘to love’; so the word is ‘Sneha’, and it means ‘to oil’ and ‘to love’.
A: And so and you apply this warm oil to your body, you can apply it to the soles of your feet and your…. the top of your head and your… the back of your ears at night before you go to sleep and just, you know, spend a little time on it.
A: Not like applying moisturizer, but you really give it your intention, give it your love. And it has a way of really like ensuring amazing quality sleep and it connects you to you, you know, so that's really, really wonderful. And you can do your whole body also in the morning and the daytime before a shower or you can just do your feet and that will have a very powerful rejuvenating benefit so it'll, you know, give you more longevity, more stamina, more energy to do things, keeps your skin really glowing and supple. And so there's really like a lot of layers to the benefits of that practice, but it's just one example of the different things that you can do. And my book actually offers 108 of these easy, simple, efficient and inexpensive practices that you can try from the Ayurveda tradition.
J: Whoa, that's so awesome. And what's the name of the book?
A: The name of the book is ‘The Ayurveda Way’ and the subtitle is ‘108 Practices from the World's Oldest Healing System for Better Sleep, Less Stress, Optimal Digestion, and More’.
J: Ooh (Laughs). This sounds amazing. Okay, so, again, that's ‘The Ayurveda Way: 108 practices…’ and then I won't… I'll stop there.
J: But everyone… I know so many of our listeners are working on self-care and they want better sleep and they want less stress, so I am definitely going to get my hands on this. Now, remind us, is the book already available?
A: Yes, it is out in all bookstores and on Amazon and all your book vendors online.
J: Awesome. Okay, and I'll remind our listeners they can find links to the book on our show notes page at jenriday.com/60
. So let's talk about some of your favorite things. So what is a habit that has contributed to your success?
A: My favorite habit that I really do feel has contributed to my success is waking up early by 6 o'clock in the morning. It's actually recommended in both the yoga and Ayurveda traditions to wake up by 6:00, ideally have some time between 4:00 to 6:00 AM; it's considered the… what's called in Sanskrit as the Brahma Muhurta Period, and it's a time when the whole universe is charged with a lot of positive energy and vibrations.
A: And, you know, there's 3 different layers of the mind that we learn about in Ayurveda psychology. So one is Tamas, which is like inertia where you don't want to get out of bed, you might be having depression or struggling with a lot of bad habits or unconscious, you know, desires or addictions or, you know, any of these things kind of go in that layer of the mind. Then there's a layer of the mind that's associated with action, passion, activity, motion, getting things done, being productive.
A: Very helpful to get out of the… the first state which is the inertia or Tamas. So you need that Rajas state. But then, Ayurveda psychology reveals that there's a third state of the mind called Satva, and this is corresponding with balance. So Satva comes from the root where it's ‘sat’ which means ‘truth’, and the true nature of the mind is actually to be clear, productive, cheerful, focused, compassionate, to have all of these great qualities that we're all looking for. And when we wake up early in, the morning the whole universe is charged with this quality of Satva and it's actually easier to get up from bed at this time because there's a lot of the air and space elements present in the atmosphere. So Ayurveda talks about the 5 states of matter; air, space, fire, water, and earth.
A: And all of these different elements, they are… they're in the atmosphere at different times of the day. So when you are learning how to live in alignment with them, then it has a great benefit. So when air is there, you know, it's easier to get up, to get moving, to also have movement of the bowels. So even with my digestion, it really improved from just waking up earlier, everything would flow smoothly in the morning on time as it needed to, and I got to have all this inspiration come in from meditation and yoga and to be able to have time also then for all of those morning practices that started my day in a great way.
J: Well, so waking up early and everything you talked about, the yoga and the meditation, they sound brilliant and awesome and everyone would want that. So and then I look at the typical Western lifestyle of stress and busy and rushing and frazzled and frantic, and what advice would you give us for one step just to start kind of thinking along the lines of Ayurveda? What would be the most important first step? Because it almost seems overwhelming to get to that place where you're at, which I would love to be at and so many of our listeners would as well. (Laughs)
A: Yeah, yeah, I'm so glad you asked me this question, Jen, because what I've encouraged throughout my book is to really go slow; and I tell it to all my students and all the different workshops and classes that I teach. Really go slow and make anything that you choose sustainable. So if someone were feeling inspired about waking up earlier, what I would say is, “From wherever you are, if you're waking up say at 8:00 AM, then try just moving back 15 minutes at a time or even 10 minutes at a time. So the next morning, you could go to bed 10 minutes earlier and then wake up at 7:50. And then, you know, you can keep gradually working your way back, and that way, it's a more sustainable change.”
A: But in terms of like a single practice to recommend that would have a really great benefit from my book, I would actually say the very first one of choosing warm cooked foods would be very beneficial to health, because digestion is considered the key to a good overall health in Ayurveda.
A: And you want to keep your digestive fire in a state of balance. So if you think about the laws of physics, whatever has heat will expand and the coldness will constrict. So when you think about food traveling through the body, when you have warm food, it's able to travel more easily without getting constricted, you know, along the way so it goes and…
A: … transports everything, all the nutrients, to where it needs to go. So that is something that will make a big difference in your digestion to just choose that whether you're eating out or whether you're cooking. And, you know, then with the improved state of digestion, which is seen by having an elimination every day, ideally in the morning, but once that starts to happen, then, you know, health just starts to awaken naturally because digestion is that root of health.
J: So if people did choose… you know, they've got the warm foods down and they're going to get up earlier, would you recommend that they get up earlier no matter what time they went to bed; that they hit that 4 to 6 o'clock window and just make up the sleep later or is it more important to get the seven to 8 hours of sleep that Western medicine recommends?
A: Yeah, that's a good question. You know, it's… sleep is actually one of the 3 pillars, sub pillars, of health and Ayurveda; so food sleep and sex are really important to overall health.
A: And you definitely want to be getting enough good quality sleep at night. So, you know, if someone… say they had to wake up early because some people are just forced to in terms of jobs and commute time and all of that.
A: So if you're… you know, ideally, you would sleep earlier at nighttime so you can manage more comfortably, but if for whatever reason that happened and you had to get up early due to an emergency or working late or whatever, then what's recommended is that you can make up half the amount of sleep that you missed the night before during the daytime. So if normally you get 7 hours but you only got 4, then you can make up, you know, the 2 hours by sleeping any time in the day as well.
J: Wow, I love it; everything's covered. So, again, that is ‘The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World's Oldest Healing System’. And let's talk about a few more of your favorite things and then you can tell us your happiness formula. What is your favorite easy meal?
A: My favorite easy meal is a recipe called Khichdi which you can make out of white basmati rice and yellow mung dal lentils or even green split mung dal lentils. It's really easy to make, like I can make it in a crock pot even, get it started in the morning and then it's ready for me by evening; I just put rice, the mung lentils, and water in with some spices like turmeric, rice, cumin seeds, and some other seasonal spices and seasonal vegetables. And, you know, it's like a one pot recipe, it cooks really nicely; and I put some ghee in it because we really love ghee in Ayurveda which is clarified butter.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
A: And it's just so great, you know, I don't really get tired of eating it; I can have it throughout the year and I can make changes and the kind of lentils that I use, the kind of spices, and the kind of foods that I put into it. But it's an extremely healthy recipe and it's really delicious and it's something that is particularly good for detoxing the body; so it's great in the spring season to have that recipe a little bit more if you're feeling kind of heavy or lethargic during this time or even going through a lot of allergies or colds or coughs. Because the root of it, again, is digestion, so if you can lighten up your diet with this kind of a recipe, it's really helpful then for your lungs and for everything else. So I really love that.
J: Is this recipe available in your book or elsewhere?
A: It is, yeah, it’s in the book in the first chapter actually.
A: And there's a picture of it.
J: In the book.
J: And your favorite kitchen gadget.
A: My favorite kitchen gadget would, I think, be a blender like the…
A: I want to get a Vitamix blender. Right now, I have a magic bullet, but I want something with a little bit sharper blades because I love to grind different kinds of things, like even pomegranate peel becomes a really awesome spice to include in your food in the summer. And when you can grind it with a blender, it just comes out to a really nice powder that can then be very fresh and it smells really good and you can use it as a supply for your food, rather than buying it from outside. So…
J: Yeah, what a great idea. I can't even imagine what that would taste like; yum.
A: It's really good.
J: And your favorite book?
A: My favorite book would be actually my teacher’s book which just released on February 1st and it's called ‘Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom’. It goes into a lot of depth on all of the practices that I've introduced in my own book. And she, you know, shares her stories growing up with her grandfather, Baba, in India and it's… it's just such a beautiful book, you know, in terms of the practical instructions on recipes and so many different things that you can try from Ayurveda and just her case studies and all the people who have benefited from Ayurveda along the way. It's a very big book; it's like a… like an encyclopedia of Ayurveda lifestyle. And…
J: Mm, wow.
A: Yeah, I just I really enjoy reading it because Ayurveda’s so vast, I can never learn enough about it, you know?
J: Right, right; wow. Well, what's the best advice you've ever received?
A: Best advice I've ever received is to give when feeling full. So…
J: Mm, yeah.
A: Yeah. It's like, a lot of times, we… we give and give and give, especially as women we tend to do that, and then we can feel really depleted and exhausted and, you know, burnt out as a result. And I always wanted to be a giver. I always felt that I'm here to… to give and to do service and to make a difference in the world, and yet, in order to really do that, I needed to go deeper into myself. And I think this advice has been extremely helpful as a way to keep myself feeling full, you know, in terms of nourishment from my lifestyle, my choices, my self-care practices so that I'm really in a healthy state to then be able to give and to give with joy and enthusiasm and just, you know, from a feeling of overflowing and being grateful for all that I have.
J: Okay. So the opposite might also be true; we don't need to give if we're not feeling full (Laughs). I want you to give me permission. (Laughs)
A: Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, when we're not feeling full, then it's a great time to open up a book like ‘The Ayurveda Way’ and just, you know, any page you go to, you can see a simple practice that you can try which will benefit you and which will start to feed you at the level of your body, mind, and spirit. And I think when we're… we are feeling depleted when we're feeling tired, when we're feeling, you know, overwhelmed with stuff, that's really the time to turn in and give yourself permission. And, you know, it's… it's amazing because, even though Ayurveda is defined as a science that teaches you actions that benefit yourself as well as others, it's also teaching us sort of healthy kind of selfishness that you do want to take care of your own health and really, you know, give to yourself just as you are giving to others. And, you know, even the giving in Ayurveda is something that is very powerful also at a thought level, you know, like, “Can we think positive thoughts for all those who are with us in our life?” and especially those who might have some trouble with, you know?
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
A: Because that not only impacts them, but it really impacts us as well, you know, and letting go of any grudges that we may have and, you know, freeing ourselves then… then really becomes a benefit to those around us as well. So it's definitely very healthy to do what it takes to take care. And then, you know, giving is really our natural state, so once we are in a flow with that, then, you know, and we… we have received, then it's time to give back and complete that cycle. So…
J: Yeah, yeah. Well, I love that phrase, ‘healthy selfishness’.
J: Love that (Laughs). Returning to our natural state of health and that ability to give…
J: … it's beautiful. Well, everyone, you can find links to everything we've been discussing and the book at jenriday.com/60. And now, let's talk about your happiness formula. If you had to create a formula of 3 to 5 actions or steps that maximize your happiness, what would that include?
A: I would say I'm happiest when I listen to my intuition.
J: Mm, okay, excellent. So you're going to leave it at one step.
A: Yeah, I think so because I think this is where…
A: … it's easy to get stuck and get into self-doubt or, you know, judgments and things like that. And that regret often would come that, “Oh, if I would have just listened to that, you know, voice, I think I could have avoided some of these things.” So I think that looking inward and that self-trust and, you know, going within. I think writing things down also really helps me to connect and to follow through on what I can do after I've listened to that inner voice; and even just to be able to hear it better.
J: Would you say writing, yoga, and meditation would be your main 3 ways since you've mentioned all of those for going inward?
A: Yeah, definitely.
J: Okay, I love it. And finally, give our listeners a parting challenge and then we'll say goodbye.
A: So my challenge would be to really contemplate on one thing that you would like to start to incorporate into your life to benefit your health, body, mind, and your spirit, and really like think it through before you commit to it. So don't make it like a new year's resolution, but really, you know, commit to a mindful intention or resolutions that you want to do. And then I challenge you to write it down and then make that your first step to manifesting whatever your intention is. And revisit it and rewrite it and really, you know, take that one thing and plant it like a seed in the garden of your mind and see what kind of beautiful flowers start to grow in your life as a result.
J: Well, thank you so much for being on the show; I've enjoyed every minute of it. And, yes, everyone, be sure to grab her book which is called ‘The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World's Oldest Healing System’. Thank you so much for being on the show.
A: Thank you so much for having me, Jen.
J: Be sure to jump into the Vibrant Happy Women Facebook group today where I'll be asking, “What does healthy selfishness mean for you?” Also, be sure to join me next week when I talk with best-selling author, Kate Northrup, all about approaching life and business and finance and motherhood from a place of love, from an attitude of positivity, from a perspective of listening to our intuition. Kate has a unique take on life that has really helped her to thrive in business and life and with motherhood, and I loved hearing her ideas and I know you're going to love that episode. I will be back on Thursday with a happy bit, and until then, make it a great week. Take care.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.