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  • Writer's picture Geetanjali Chakraborty

Unlocking Vitality: Ayurvedic Insights for Aging Gracefully

On March 21, 2015, I collaborated with my colleague, Ananta Ripa Ajmera, to deliver a presentation to a group of 15 seniors in Cupertino, organized by Mr. Bhupen Mehta. The majority of the audience hailed from South Asian backgrounds, with a few exceptions.

Our approach aimed at providing an immersive experience. We commenced the evening with an elucidation of Ayurvedic principles of digestion, promptly followed by a nourishing Ayurvedic dinner crafted by volunteers from Vedika. Ayurveda, as the science of life, underscores the profound significance of food in maintaining our well-being. While a single evening of dietary alteration may seem inconsequential, for those who have long lacked a meaningful connection with their sustenance, even one wholesome meal can catalyze a transformative shift.

Nourishing Mindful Eating: An Ayurvedic Experience

The act of eating is a sacred ritual, sustaining our very existence. In our session, we encouraged participants to approach this act mindfully, emphasizing the importance of chewing each bite thirty times with their eyes closed. One participant remarked, "The flavors of the food became heightened, and the eating experience felt more focused than ever. It opened my mind to a new way of relating to food and understanding its full nourishing potential." Another participant expressed joy in discovering the significance of seasonal foods and the importance of consuming meals freshly and at appropriate times.

As participants delved into their meals, we intertwined deeper theoretical knowledge about their food choices with practical application. We meticulously selected a meal and cooking method aimed at facilitating easy digestion. Understanding that not all oils suit every season, we prepared the meal using a combination of mustard oil and ghee.

One participant shared, "I learned about using the right oil for the season. I felt light in my stomach with no discomfort, enjoying a restful night's sleep."

The menu comprised barley and rice, whole wheat chapatis, pumpkin infused with herbs, and lentil soup (dal). Despite most participants being of Indian descent, many expressed surprise at the deliciousness of the meal, debunking the common myth that Ayurvedic cuisine sacrifices taste for health benefits.

Enhancing Digestion: Ayurvedic Post-Meal Practices

Following the dinner, we introduced a digestive blend comprising roasted fennel seeds (sounf) and a precise measure of roasted fenugreek seed (methi) powder. Participants were encouraged to reflect on the flavors they experienced on their palate, noting the subtle bitterness contributed by fenugreek. This intentional choice of taste was aimed at aiding digestion.

After a fifteen-minute interval, we distributed warm water infused with bishop's weed (ajwain) for drinking. For many participants, this marked their first encounter with warm water consumption during meals, deviating from the customary cold water served in restaurants. Warm water, depending on individual constitution and seasonal factors, is recognized in Ayurveda as Ushna-udaka (Ushna = warm/hot, Udaka = water). Incorporating bishop's weed helps alleviate bloating, although none of the participants reported discomfort, as our meal was thoughtfully designed for easy digestion.

Aging Gracefully: Ayurvedic Insights and Practices

Delving into Ayurvedic geriatrics theory, we explored the profound observations guiding the classification of age and the organs requiring heightened attention. Addressing a significant challenge of aging—sleep disturbances—we presented a non-pharmaceutical solution: a foot massage with warm sesame oil. Emphasizing the importance of retiring early for improved digestion, we offered practical strategies to enhance sleep quality.

Transitioning into interactive sessions, we concluded with a Yoga practice suitable for any time of day: "brahmari," or the buzzing bee exercise. This technique, involving sensory withdrawal and breath-induced resonance, effectively quiets the mind. Underpinning these practices is the integration of Hatha Yoga with Ayurvedic principles, enhancing its therapeutic potential.

Our endeavor to impart Ayurvedic wisdom in an experiential learning format was met with profound satisfaction, reflected in the relaxed and radiant demeanor of the senior participants. Personally, my connection to seniors is deeply rooted in the cherished memories of my late grandfather. It is an honor to serve this community, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my knowledge and support their well-being.

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