How did you hear about ayurveda?
As long as I remember, Ayurveda has been somewhere in the background, but it wasn’t until I started practicing yoga and getting into health 3 years ago that the teachings became more prominent for me to take the time and study it.
What made you want to explore an ayurveda diet?
In 2013 I found the raw food diet, and thought it would be the answer and cure for my cystic acne. Although it came with a lot of benefits, after a year of experimenting, I was left to search further into what could be the cause of my problematic skin disorder.
I was told by different sources, and it was pointing at, that it likely could be a gut issue. Ayurveda is very much about how the gut controls your health, skin and wellbeing, as well as being more or less customized for every individual. So I naturally leaned towards trying an Ayurvedic diet next.
How long has it been since you moved to an ayurveda way of life?
I tried an Ayurvedic diet for about 1–2 months strictly two years ago, and really dwelled into it. Not just diet, but all the way to my skin care and the way I move in my asanas. Eventually I took the parts that I found worked for me and I still practice some form of Ayurveda to this day.
How has it impacted your health and wellbeing?
Through focusing on a more intuitive every-day life, Ayurveda has helped me become more communicative with my mind, body and soul. Instead of pushing, I listen more to my body and what it needs in the moment.
I can be very Pitta-dominant, and Ayurveda has helped me recognize this side of myself so I can step back and take things slow.
For example, I used to practice Ashtanga yoga, which I later came to realize was feeding my “fire” the wrong way. I became a bit too much of a perfectionist, and for every class I felt I was focusing more on others and comparing myself than actually focusing on my practice and my achievements.
I had to adjust my practice to be more of a slower form of yoga, to not overfeed the Pitta fire. Since doing that, I’ve felt more at ease, and actually genuinely enjoy my work on the mat.
Could you elaborate on the types of ailments that ayurveda has helped cure?
Ayurveda’s teachings about food combining has revolutionized my eating and helped me a lot with my digestion. I sometimes cheat and feel the affects of it right afterwards!
As for treating my skin, in many ways it was Ayurveda that pointed me in the direction that my body needed a dose of probiotics to function optimally. There’s a big focus on liver and gut cleansing foods, and both of them organs were not working properly for me. While I tried all the different Ayurvedic herbs and supplements, they weren’t adding the bacteria I was lacking.
And as for a Pitta-diet you should stay away from fermented foods, and I very much agreed upon this, because I would always have a bad reaction to those type of foods. But that was also a warning sign that something was off with my body.
As I started taking probiotics, all of my bodily issues got fixed. Even my imbalanced hormones (which I thought was causing my cystic acne in the first place) were a symptom that my liver wasn’t functioning well.
It’s true what they say, all ailments starts in your gut.
What are your thoughts on the significance of eating and living according to your dosha type?
I’m not overly convinced that you could fit every human into three categories. And while my testings found that I should in fact stay away from spicy, hot and oily foods, it all also depends on the seasons. At winter, I usually feed my fire with spicy and warming foods, as well as adding fermented foods and sharp flavors. While in the summer, these things could easily overheat me.
It should be more noted that while you have a primarily dominant dosha, what that dosha needs changes from day to day, week to week, season to season. And so I rather like to take a moment now and then to take a look at how I feel and what type of dosha I could benefit more from in my every-day life to get things done and balanced.
You have written extensively on skin care with natural products and specifically on treating acne and pimples. Can you explain how it worked for you and do the effects last even after stopping treatment?
As most people with acne, I used to use harsh, drying and exfoliating products on my skin to treat it. I didn’t have necessarily oily skin, but most products out there draw this conclusion for you: that if you got acne, your skin is oily and impure. Which is of course never the case!
When I came across Ayurveda it taught me that acne and other skin issues should be treated from the inside, but most importantly, with gentleness on the outside. Acneic skin isn't oily or impure, it is sensitive. So drying your skin out will just cause more imbalance because your skin is in fact at its core already dehydrated – and is only trying to produce more oil to fight that fact.
I began with switching my foaming and soap-based cleansers with more gentle ones. I turned more to moisturizers made for dry and sensitive skin, to then using exclusively only oils.
I noticed how much more calm my skin became within days, and I’ve kept this routine ever since.
Two months of probiotics was all it took to rebalance my gut, and my cystic acne has become less and less prominent ever since. It has at times come back, but do to lack of vitamin D, which causes hormonal imbalance in me. I now take one month of probiotics as a yearly maintenance, because our microbe is very sensitive and very few of us live the perfect stress-free life that is optimal for our gut microflora.
From your experience with a raw food diet, does it provide all the nutrients a person needs to sustain overall health and wellness?
Yes, I believe so. There’s people who’s lived on a raw food diet in over 30 years. I can’t ignore that fact, it seems to work for them. If you want it to work, then you make it work.
But with that said, I think you also have to look at every individual’s gut ecology. Most of us have many ailments in this region, some are so imbalanced that jumping on a raw food diet and expecting rapid healing may not always work, and you may end up not being able to absorb the nutrients correctly. Then they blame the diet for their deficiencies, when maybe a parasite cleanse and/or probiotic cure could’ve helped more in strengthen the immune system and recover the balance in order to digest the food optimally to be able to sustain on a raw food diet. Note that this type of healing takes years.
So I think in todays society, it’s very deeply rooted in individuality, on how well you’ll be able to survive on a raw food diet. I’m no longer 100% raw because I’ve found it isn’t necessary for optimal health. I’m that type of person who’ll do whatever it takes to have the cake and eat it too, I will not keep doing extremes or be in a restrictive mode if I don’t see a must in doing them. And I’ve found that you can balance and enjoying cooked vegan foods by being high raw, and still be able to keep a vibrant and healthy body and mind.
I used to get the flu and other sicknesses once year, but since my switch to a vegan plant based diet three years ago, I’ve spent a total of 5 days sick (2 of them when fully raw), and I’m talking about a temporary runny nose at most.
I think as long as you keep it high raw, you’ll be able to live a long and healthy life. The human body is a survival machine, but it’s the quality in the quantity of your years you should be focusing on, and not just what makes you live longer. If being fully raw is what feeds you the best, then that’s the diet you should be on.
Does eating right mean you don’t need to exercise much?
This is such a perplex question, one which I’m actually still trying to figure out. While the right diet of whole foods will get you to a normal weight without trying, for optimal health, fitness is essential. We are made to move our bodies daily and get our heart and lymph system pumping – it’s part of our daily bodily detox.
How much, is up to the individual: fitness level and metabolism matters, and here is where your dosha constitution can help in figuring out how much and in what way you should move.
A rule of thumb is, the greater your fitness and metabolism, the less intensity you need to do, but to get there you need to push.
Then we should redefine what is “much exercise”, and switch the word for “activity”. I know that daily seems a lot to many people, but daily activity is what humans normally did for a very long time. It’s funny how as we get older, we stop being as active as when we were kids, though we have much more energy (calorie-wise speaking) as an adult to do more things. That’s why biking and walking is such great tools in your every-day life, it doesn’t feel like exercise but it gets your body moving.
I myself aim to do at least 20 minutes of high intensity or 1 hour of low to moderate activity every single day. Sounds much, but everyone can fit at least those 20 minutes! And I’ve noticed that this is the only way for me to feel fit and have the body humans were designed to have all year around.
Can you share with our readers about your ideal daily routine and how it helps you stay healthy.
Not all of my days are the same, I usually wake up and feel within my body what it needs today, and do just that. I like to start my day with the most important, sometimes that is to take it slow, but for the most part I feel like jumping to the table and continue my projects I got going on.
Waking up with positive stress/excitement makes me feel like I have a meaning to exist for today – that fuels my day. I jump into my daily tasks with a huge cup of detox tea as soon as I wake up. Because I’ve given up long ago trying to be a morning person, I usually skip the morning meditation, which only brings me stress sitting there doing nothing. Instead I believe in having mindful mediative moments spread out throughout the day, which could be: a 10 min yoga session, sitting quietly or tend to some crafting.
After lunch I like to take a break from the intensity of the morning and gather my thoughts a bit, I will either go for a walk or a bike ride. Sometimes I’m in the flow with my work, that I choose to jump back into it. I’m not the one to tell people to take a break when they’re in this mode, it’s important to let your creativity flow when it wants to, going against it just causes stress and lack of it.
I think it’s important to include something you love and are passionate about in the moment. In the end, health is a number of daily actions you do today, to feel tomorrow.
What is your advice to our readers on how to sustain an ayurvedic way of life?
In Ayurveda you’re not supposed to be rigid, but setting up some kind of routine with mindful actions to be part of your ever-day is a good way to sustain it.
And then, scheduling times for either a weekly, monthly or seasonal check-in, to look at what needs to be released and what can be improved, is a good way to keep the communication with all that is around you.
Conscious communication and emotional awareness is the key, and I think that is what Ayurveda is all about.
Isabel has a decade behind her suffering from depression and severe acne. After being on Accutane and antibiotics for the fourth time without it helping she started to look into alternative methods. Turning green both on the inside and outside she shares her journey and lessons on her blog Frivolous Girl. Her passion and goal is to teach others that “less is enough.”