Ayurveda states that there are three pillars or supports that we need to build and preserve in our lives to foster our wellbeing for our physical, mental and spiritual bodies. The first pillar is our inputs (or the things that we bring into our bodies), the second pillar is the impact we create (or how we connect through our senses) and the third pillar is our immersion (or how we immerse ourselves with rest and sleep).
The following content can also be found on my podcast “On Wellness Way.”
Now, I will describe in depth how these three foundational tools hold us up to maintain our health and prevent disease.
Pillar #1: Inputs (Ahara in Sanskrit):
To feed the tissues appropriately we need food and water and breath, of course. But, the general idea of ahara is anything that we take in to nourish our body and mind.
Sense information (our perception of what is coming in) and emotions (what our mind perceives) are also things that we bring into our bodies.
Food (and water)…
…nourish our bodies. Food and water are our life (fire) and give us energy, strength, immunity & radiance.
Food also energizes the mind. It provides mental clarity and sharpness for our senses. It supports the soul/spirit through the rituals we perform during the preparation and reception of a meal.
Food has the three gunas: sattva or illumination (fresh, light and nourishing), rajas or excitable (fried, fermented and spicy) and tamas or inertia (leftovers, processed, canned or frozen – foods without much value/dull/no life). See this blog post for more info on the gunas.
In Yoga and Ayurveda, Prana is our life force. We can live weeks without food, days without water, but not more than a few minutes without air.
When we receive vibrations from objects, we absorb their impulses and then we analyze them to make decisions. The seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling of the senses creates desires that we feel we need to fulfill. And, subsequently, our minds direct our organs of action to respond and we preform or act in reaction to these impulses.
Our senses are capable of taking us on a constant wave of emotions: joy/sadness, love/anger, soothed/irritated, heated/cold, like/dislike, attached/withdrawn…and all this flow of energy moves outward into our environment.
Pillar #2: Impact or true actions (brahmacharya in Sanskrit – which is also known as celibacy or control of sexuality). I view it as how we use our senses and manage our energy.
In general, for me, this pillar describes our lifestyle or activities. It is how we use our senses to manage our energy/emotion in our daily lives.
We are all affected by our senses and our reactions to what our environment puts out.
Therefore, Ayurveda suggests some guidelines for our social behavior:
Mentally, it’s good to discriminate your actions by thinking before you react. This will avoid hurting yourself or others.
It’s also wise to neutralize your emotions (like anger, worry, greed, fear, etc.) by keeping the mind calm. A good way to do this is to spend more time developing objectivity so you can respond appropriately.
- For anger, impatience and perfectionism, any connection to water imagery will be helpful. A loving-kindness meditation that focuses on the heart would be most effective to manage these emotions.
- For worry, nervousness, tension and anxiety, mantra or repeating a sound pattern gives the mind a focus and prevents the habitual negative patterns from occurring.
- For greed and attachment, one should practice focusing on present moment awareness. When you are reading, read. When you are eating, eat. When you are gardening, be with the plants.
Honing our objectivity allows us to see others and ourselves as we were meant to be seen.
With family or your community, consider these actions:
- Speak truthfully, without insulting or hurting others.
- Compliment others.
- Respect/honor your elders.
- Be kind to animals.
- Support those in need and guide them.
These actions will help you to have a positive impact on your health and the health of your community.
Pillar #3. Immersion or Sleep (Nidra in Sanskrit): amount, time frame, quality and preparation. It is the only time when our mind is at complete rest.
I define it as immersion because it really is something we go deeply into. Sleep is the only time our mind really shuts down. Through sleep, we submerge into another realm to rest and recuperate. It purifies us and helps us to deal with toxins and the contaminants we receive from our day.
How much sleep should we have?
6- 8 hours of sleep each night is the general recommendation. But the amount of sleep you need to receive will vary based on your age, the season, your tendencies and if you have any type of illness.
What is the ideal time frame for sleeping?
Sleeping by 10pm and waking by 6am are the most auspicious times for our physical and mental well-being.
And that’s because Ayurveda says that between 10pm and 2am the body and mind are undergoing subtle digestion to process the information we receive from our five senses. It is known as the Pitta time (another complementary time period for this Pitta phase of digestion is 10am – 2pm and it’s the reason we should be eating our largest meal at noon when the digestive fires are strongest).
Be sure to check out this blog post to learn all about the doshas Pitta, Kapha and Vata.
The quality of our sleep is also important.
Healthy sleep is sound and occurs naturally.
If you are aggravated, agitated or worried, you may find yourself waking at the Vata time which is 2am-6am. This is the period where the airy, ungrounded quality of Vata is the strongest.
If you find it difficult to wake, then your Kapha is aggravated. This also occurs when one sleeps in. After 6am until 10am the pull of the Kapha energy gets stronger and stronger. It is the reason that the longer you sleep in, the longer you sleep in.
Excess sleep causes heaviness. Sometimes this happens because you are up late in the night or have more of a heavy quality generated by a rich diet or a sedentary lifestyle. Try to avoid day sleeping, especially if you relate to these tendencies.
Normally, a short catnap is okay right after a meal. And, of course, day sleeping is fine for those who work the night shift or those who are sick, elderly or very young.
To prepare for sleep…
…it is wise to eat early… around the time of sunset if possible. About an hour or so before sleeping, relax, take a bath, massage your head and feet, drink warm tea or milk and avoid any stimulation (arguments, stress related activities or even computer/phone time). By following this routine, you should get better quality sleeping time.
When we give the body adequate rest after the day’s activities, we are healthier, have more vitality and exuberance and can mentally stay alert and focused and peaceful during the day.
So, those are the pillars: our inputs (things we bring into our bodies), impacts (how we manage our actions) and immersions (our sleep and rest). These are the routines and practices that help to support our health and the health of those around us.
They are aptly labelled as pillars because they are crucial to keeping our structure upright. And, like support beams and posts of a building, they allow all of our parts and elements to stay organized and keep the inner spaces functioning successfully so that our spirit can thrive in an ideal dwelling place.
Another concept that helps to identify our pillars are the layers of the body which Ayurveda calls Koshas. I discuss this on my podcast, “On Wellness Way,” which can be found on Spotify or iTunes.
Be Well! Namasté, Kim.🌱💜