By the time I was 23, I was experiencing multiple health problems. My physical health, mental health, and emotional health were suffering. I had no idea why I was barely able to function but what I did know was that I should not be in this much pain at just 23. When everyone else was enjoying an abundance of energy and curiosity for life, I was barely able to get out of the bed in the morning. At the time, I was living in California and started to explore holistic health, buying books, researching nutrition, and trying yoga to find answers to my poor quality of life.
When I was 24, I moved to Ireland and met my husband who introduced me to Ayurveda. He is a traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and already had completed some study in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda immediately felt like home and a deep relief settled in, it started to make sense why I was struggling. Firstly, to be recognised as an individual was very powerful. Finally, I understood that not every diet and guideline out there works for everyone, and to understand why all the diets I was trying were not working, and possibly making me worse. To be recognised as an Individual , and to consider one’s own individual make up , is a key factor in any health journey.
To know my body type (Constitution) helped me with self acceptance, especially of my body size and shape. I will never be and should not be thin, to do so, would be unhealthy for my Kapha Constitution. I had been counting calories and punishing myself with exercise since I was 14, trying to be the standard definition of thin. To no longer look at my body with judgement for its roundness or curves is a blessing that Ayurveda gave me.
The most important gift Ayurveda gave me was I stopped taking my health issues personally and blaming myself. I stopped feeling guilt and shame or that I was lacking in some way, that if I was a better person, my struggles would disappear. Although my Doshas were out of balance, I was not, and this is an incredible distinction to have. Doshas can be brought back into my balance, and irrelevant of the status of the Doshas, who we are(our fundamental nature) remains the same and is always present with us. Thus, we do not have to identify with an imbalance but rather acknowledge it, for healing to begin.
I am often asked the question how long does it take to treat an imbalance? As if something that took five/ten years to happen can be reversed in a week, month, or even a year. By the time I was 24, I had already experienced neglect, physical and emotional abuse, assault, and numerous failed relationships. Plus, I had severe damage from being left on a prescriptive medication for six years without any supervision. To say it would take time for me to find my way back to balance is an understatement. For every imbalance there is a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspect. Often times, the Doshas are responding to our energetic patterns as much as our dietary habits, and it takes time, effort, patience and compassion to rewire our patterns. Are my Doshas completely balanced? No. Am I much stronger, happier and healthier, yes. But most importantly, I have a sense of who I am, outside the noise, the drama, the labels and conditioning, the past, and whatever everyone else thinks of me, I know who Rachel is, and that’s enough. And I have compassion for this Human journey.
My relationship with Ayurveda has not always been smooth or consistent. I have fallen off the Ayurveda wagon many times, but it is always the foundation I return to because I have known struggle.
Struggle in my self esteem, self love and relationship to myself.
Struggle in my relationship with others, friends, family, and marriage.
Struggle in my health.
Post natal depression
I don’t practice Ayurveda because I have perfect health or don’t struggle. I didn’t stop practicing Ayurveda when it didn’t give me perfect health or end my struggles. There is a line of thinking out there that says once you start doing “work”on yourself, you won’t have physical problems, or mental and emotional struggles. I would argue that our self work should enable us to meet physical ailments and personal struggles from a more empowered place. And this is why I practice Ayurveda.
I practice it for how it changed me. Every effort I made to work with my body instead of against it, brought me closer to love and appreciation for what I do have. Every habit,every disciplined choice, instilled character and strength, and a sense that change IS possible. And then quietly and beautifully, an inner voice arose amidst the chaos. An inner intelligence, a guide, a compass that always steers me back to care and sweetness started to emerge. And this is why fifteen years later, I still practice and will for the next fifteen years, because with every effort , this Intelligence continues to get louder and stronger within me. It is my Anchor even when it all goes upside down, including the world. Who I, Rachel, was born to be (Prakruti) is emerging, after years of being covered in too many layers of silt. And while the skin issues are there, and the thyroid still needs help and I AM STILL healing, the fundamental truth of myself has emerged enough for me to recognise Grace when it appears, opportunities in the struggles,
and to face the choices that I still need to make without judgement or shame.
It has given me clarity, compassion and resolve. But most of all, a belief. Belief in myself even when I fall and belief in others, that given the opportunity and with choice, the amazing beauty of Humanity can emerge. And it is Beautiful.