Western Meets Eastern

This account of a medical professional delving into the knowledge of Ayurveda is an example of how western and eastern systems of health can work together. As an Axis Yoga Teacher Training student, the author has the opportunity to learn very applicable concepts of Ayurveda, Yoga’s sister science of health. In this process, she is able to apply simple preventative Ayurvedic principles to help her patients, herself and her family.

Western Meets Eastern: Patients

I would like to open this paper by stating that entering the discipline of yoga is evoking a fundamental shift in my point of view.  The things I am learning are deeply confirming of beliefs I have held for as long as I can remember, and yet new at the same time. I truly appreciate the Ayurvedic portion of this program. I have worked as an RN and as a Nurse Midwife for almost all of my working life, and while Western medicine certainly has its place, it has not escaped my notice that it is a modality which never seems to prevent illness, it simply tries to clean up after the fact in fundamentally flawed ways. Of course, not all illness occurs because of lifestyle, and there are illnesses and injuries which Western medicine is rightly suited to address. The ten factors in Health and Illness discussed in The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies is information enough to prevent most lifestyle induced disease on its own, however, simply and powerfully. I am finding that when my patients complain of anxiety, depression, back pain and fatigue – all common complaints among pregnant women, if I begin to question them along the lines of the ten factors listed in AHR I can usually identify simple dietary, sleep, exercise, and relationship factors which can be altered to address their ailments. Of course, some patients are far more open to this approach than others.

Western Meets Eastern: Self

I chose to use Ayurvedic recommendations to address some sleep issues which have I been developing over the last year or two. I do my best to maintain a clean diet and an active lifestyle with ample exercise. I find that these two measures alone facilitate a balanced state. On the down side, however, I work two or three nights a week on call as a Midwife, so I often sleep in the day a couple of days a week. I am not sure if this is the major factor in my sleep disturbances, as I have been doing this for nearly twenty five years. I think, just based on my experience, that post- menopause unfolds in stages.  Most of the literature I have read just lumps post-menopause into one state that lasts the rest of a womans natural life, but I suspect the hormonal effects of aging continue. In any case, I naturally went through menopause in my mid- to late-forties. Until about two years ago, I never had difficulty sleeping soundly at any time of day when I was tired. Gradually I began to have difficulty falling asleep, and then difficulty staying asleep. There are some nights when it takes an hour or two for me to fall asleep and then I am awake every hour or two, until about 4 in the morning. Its pretty maddening, especially when I usually only spend 4 to 5 nights of the week in my bed at night. Another factor I identified is that I am often dehydrated. I think this may contribute to my waking up frequently, as I am often thirsty in the middle of the night.  Once I started taking Yoga classes, just about 7 months ago, I began listening to Yoga Nidra tapes at night. This measure alone has been remarkably helpful. I have found that most nights a Yoga Nidra tape will quickly put me to sleep, and about half of the time I will remain asleep all night. The first step in my experiment was to make it a set ritual to listen to a Yoga Nidra tape at bedtime. After a few nights of this, I began drinking a glass of almond milk with fresh ground nutmeg in it, warmed to just above room temperature. I also placed a spray of Lavender essential oil on my pillow.  On the one hand ,I don’t want my bedtime ritual to get so complicated that I don’t want to do it. Simplicity is key, but I did decide to add one more element. I started making warm Sea Salt soaks for my feet. Some nights I am too tired, but I manage to enjoy this once or twice a week. I find this very soothing and a good time to relax and read a little. I also have stopped drinking caffeine in the late afternoon, and only eat dark chocolate after lunch, not with dinner. I also have made a concerted effort to drink two liters of water in the first half of my day. I am finding that my sleep has vastly improved just in the three weeks or so I have been maintaining these measures. When I am able to rest adequately, I feel more pleasant and balanced overall. My goal is to try to maintain these measures for the next several months, to retrain my sleep patterns. I think these will just become natural patterns of living, since I feel so much better when I am decently rested.

I chose to use Ayurvedic recommendations to address some sleep issues which have I been developing over the last year or two. I do my best to maintain a clean diet and an active lifestyle with ample exercise. I find that these two measures alone facilitate a balanced state. On the down side, however, I work two or three nights a week on call as a Midwife, so I often sleep in the day a couple of days a week. I am not sure if this is the major factor in my sleep disturbances, as I have been doing this for nearly twenty five years. I think, just based on my experience, that post- menopause unfolds in stages.  Most of the literature I have read just lumps post-menopause into one state that lasts the rest of a womans natural life, but I suspect the hormonal effects of aging continue. In any case, I naturally went through menopause in my mid- to late-forties. Until about two years ago, I never had difficulty sleeping soundly at any time of day when I was tired. Gradually I began to have difficulty falling asleep, and then difficulty staying asleep. There are some nights when it takes an hour or two for me to fall asleep and then I am awake every hour or two, until about 4 in the morning. Its pretty maddening, especially when I usually only spend 4 to 5 nights of the week in my bed at night. Another factor I identified is that I am often dehydrated. I think this may contribute to my waking up frequently, as I am often thirsty in the middle of the night.  Once I started taking Yoga classes, just about 7 months ago, I began listening to Yoga Nidra tapes at night. This measure alone has been remarkably helpful. I have found that most nights a Yoga Nidra tape will quickly put me to sleep, and about half of the time I will remain asleep all night. The first step in my experiment was to make it a set ritual to listen to a Yoga Nidra tape at bedtime. After a few nights of this, I began drinking a glass of almond milk with fresh ground nutmeg in it, warmed to just above room temperature. I also placed a spray of Lavender essential oil on my pillow.  On the one hand ,I don’t want my bedtime ritual to get so complicated that I don’t want to do it. Simplicity is key, but I did decide to add one more element. I started making warm Sea Salt soaks for my feet. Some nights I am too tired, but I manage to enjoy this once or twice a week. I find this very soothing and a good time to relax and read a little. I also have stopped drinking caffeine in the late afternoon, and only eat dark chocolate after lunch, not with dinner. I also have made a concerted effort to drink two liters of water in the first half of my day. I am finding that my sleep has vastly improved just in the three weeks or so I have been maintaining these measures. When I am able to rest adequately, I feel more pleasant and balanced overall. My goal is to try to maintain these measures for the next several months, to retrain my sleep patterns. I think these will just become natural patterns of living, since I feel so much better when I am decently rested.

Western Meets Eastern: Family

My son, who is 24, and an extremely active person, has had a disturbed sleep pattern all his life. He is physically and mentally very active, very bright and sensitive, and extremely creative. As an extension of my own initial success with the above measures, I have encouraged him to try some of the same measures. He reports that the Yoga Nidra tapes, going to bed at the same time every night, lavender on his pillow and warm milk with nutmeg have also helped him improve his sleep. I suspect he will have more of a challenge healing his sleep, because this has dogged him since childhood. While we are constitutionally similar in many ways, I am not nearly as active as he is, he develops respiratory illness from over activity far more easily than I do, and struggles with maintaining enough weight whereas I have to watch that I do not become overweight.

I am looking forward to developing a more in depth understanding of Ayurvedic remedies when I complete this Yoga Teacher program and have a little more time. Overall, I am encouraged to incorporate this approach in my clinical practice and in response to the various struggles and imbalances that arise in my own life.