Ayurveda 101: 4 Small Changes That Make a Big Difference

Ayurveda is meant to support health and prevent disease over the course of a lifetime, but there are many small changes you can make right now to see immediate results, says Larissa Carlson.
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Ayurveda is meant to support health and prevent disease over the course of a lifetime, but there are many small changes you can make right now to see immediate results, says Larissa Carlson.
Larissa Hall Carlson abhyanga

The key to true mind-body balance? Understanding your body’s natural needs—how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal—through each season. In our upcoming online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Carlson, former dean of Kripalu's School of Ayurveda, and John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa and best-selling author, demystify yoga's elemental sister science. Sign up now—winter session begins Dec. 5th!

Ayurveda is meant to support health and prevent disease over the course of a lifetime, but there are many small changes you can make right now to see immediate results, says Larissa Carlson, co-leader of our upcoming Ayurveda 101 course and the former dean of Kripalu's School of Ayurveda. "These are very sustainable practices that you can easily weave into your normal self-care routine ... little things that take a couple of minutes every day, but have a big effect," she says. Below, Carlson suggests 4 simple, Ayurvedic changes you can make in your daily life to instantly feel better, lighter, and more balanced.

1. Self-massage, or abhyanga.

In the course, I guide participants through a relaxing self-oil massage, known as abhyangaand explain how to use different oils for each season—vata (fall/winter), kapha (spring), and pitta (summer). Abhyanga supports a good night's sleep if you have trouble with insomnia, settles many vata imbalances, helps improve circulation, and is incredibly relaxing. It's also excellent for stress management and helpful when you're feeling depleted or exhausted (especially during the holiday season!). In the fall, people often suffer from rough, flaky skin, dry hair, and cracking lips. Self-massage hydrates the skin, leaving it soft, smooth, supple, radiant, and really beautiful. The massage is so simple, it feels so good, and the effects are so dramatic--it's ridiculously wonderful. In the course, I also teach many other simple and valuable Ayurvedic self-care practices, like using a neti pot, tongue scraping, oil pulling, and dry brushing.

2. Eating seasonally.

Ayurveda recognizes that the earth gives us the antidote to each season in the different seasonal harvests. It's vata season right now, so we're not seeing dandelions and sprouts in the garden--they are too cold and light. Instead, we're getting pumpkins, squash, mushrooms—heavy, dense, rich foods to take us through the cold, dry season of vata. No matter what your dosha is, almost everyone will feel better (and keep vata balanced) by eating mostly warm, heavy foods right now. Ayurveda's goal is to live in harmony with the seasons, prevent the doshas from going out of balance, prevent disease, and maintain health. If that's not reason enough, it's also more affordable to eat what's in season—it's what is usually on sale. Plus, eating local is eco-friendly!

3. Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning.

Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning supports natural movement of the bowels, instead of depending on coffee to do the work. It also rehydrates you after sleeping and helps flush excess mucus and toxins out of the digestive tract, which is good for immunity boosting. Not ready to give up your morning tea or coffee? No problem. Just make sure to drink a mug of water first.

4. Living in harmony with the daily clock.

Before my first Ayurvedic consultation in 2004, I tended to stay up late and eat late, which caused me loads of trouble in the morning. I would often wake feeling puffy and sluggish. But when I started having an earlier, smaller dinner and going to bed earlier, instead of waking up feeling foggy and congested, I started waking up feeling alert, clear, and light. It was amazing. By changing my schedule by just a couple of hours, I immediately started noticing kapha reduction, sustained energy, and better sleep. Another example of a small Ayurvedic lifestyle practice that had huge positive effects on my mind and body.

Eager to learn more? Register now for Ayurveda 101 with Kripalu's Larissa Hall Carlson and John Douillard.