Ayurvedic Survival Guide by Tarik Dervish
What does it mean to survive in the 21st century?
Our model of life is rapidly changing. In some ways, it is getting easier. It may surprise you to learn that war is actually going out of fashion. If we look at overall statistics, there has actually never been so much peace, but the battle ground of life is changing. We are threatened by overconsumption, overpopulation and overstretched resources. Our intensive farming methods have not only served to reduce the quality of our fresh food but are also the underlying cause of pandemics like Covid 19. There is less for more people in almost every way. One of the most important overall strategies for overcoming difficulty is to set an intention to do so and then work to maintain sufficient balance to act and make changes when the time is right. It is no good setting an intention if we do not properly equip ourselves to fulfil it. We will consider what tools yoga and Ayurveda can provide us with, to help navigate through the challenges of modern living.
- Managing Stress: This is by far our biggest challenge. We become very reactive under stress. If we cannot keep a cool head through the dramatic changes ahead of us, we will buckle under the pressure. Ayurveda views stress in similar ways to yoga. When the mind is turbulent, Ayurveda says it is overwhelmed with heat (pitta) and wind (vata). The result is a very rajasic or unsettled state of mind. When we are overwhelmed with heat and wind, we cannot think clearly and are less able to make wise choices. Prajnaparadha is an ayurvedic concept that means ‘crime against wisdom’ which is the underlying cause of stress that arises from unskilful living.
Traditional yoga and ayurveda teach us that the right practices can help us increase the sattva guna within our own being (clear and balanced mindset) and maintain some equanimity so that we can help rather than a hinder.
- Regular Yoga Nidra practice will help to pacify emotional upsets and help us see a clearer path to finding solutions to problems.
- Regular meditation practice helps keep the mind in a receptive alpha or theta state for longer. We come up with our best when we are in these states.
- Maintaining daily routines will prevent us from pondering over our problems for too long. Routines help to keep us present without having to exert our will to do so because we go into ‘automatic’. This means that we can remain more open and receptive to solving our problems through clear thinking and strategizing.
- Eating as well as we can. We are what we eat, as the old saying goes. If we eat rubbish, we feel rubbish. It is hard to act skilfully in a difficult world when we feel bad.
- Trust more. We can’t possibly do it all. At some point, we need to let a higher power help us out. Patanjali even suggests it when he calls upon Iswara Pranidhana. We need to know when to let go and let God, so to speak. Finding the right balance between action and inaction is a great skill that comes from intuition. Our instincts are honed over time with regular meditation and mindfulness.
- Relationships: There is an ever greater need to work together. The individualised approach to life is becoming unhelpful. All life is sustained by relationships and understanding our role as part of something bigger has never been more important. We gain nourishment by serving others and allowing them to serve us. The community spirit lightens the load and makes us feel stronger. Find others to work with and try to align at least some of your goals with the bigger agenda. We are not an island.
- Environment: In the ancient ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita, we are warned against corrupting our environment. If we spoil that which sustains us, then in the end, we too will be spoiled. We all need to play our part in being responsible and working towards a cleaner, balanced world. The battle has certainly not been lost. We need to create a better relationship with our environment, so it doesn’t let us down:
- Use less plastic.
- Eat less animal protein
- Eat fresh and local
- Re-use more, throw away less
- Support fair trade and local businesses
- Slow fixes: We have a tendency to look for quick fixes to problems that have taken a long time to form. Ayurveda promotes slow fixes, in that real healing comes from confronting the habits that have led us to that point. Many students give up because they feel overwhelmed and they feel too attached to their lifestyle. Change is difficult and it takes perseverance. Even making just one change a year can have a huge impact if you are honest enough to properly identify what changes need to be made. There is no point in blowing your trumpet about something you have achieved when the real work is still lurking in the shadows. Yoga teachers do this a lot.
The real path of yoga is gaining enough strength to face our personal and collective demons. The popular model of yoga, being a pleasant experience that brings about physical and emotional wellbeing is a kind of ruse. I remember my very first ashram experience in India which felt like a mini paradise. But when I actually went to live in one, I realised that all my demons were hidden in my suitcase. Tantra, from which modern yoga largely originates, is concerned with purifying the tattwas, the elements of the psyche that make up our prakrti or constitution. The more we can work on ourselves, the more actualised we become so we can individually and collectively become better versions of ourselves. A better me makes for a better we and our chances of survival multiply.
Tarik Dervish is a DCT and specialist in Ayurveda. He trains yoga teachers for the BWY and runs courses in Ayurveda. There will be four Live webinars on How to survive with Yoga and Ayurveda in September and the next Ayurveda in Action Online course starts in October. For more information visit yogawell.co.uk
 Scientific American. What is the function of Brainwaves? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-function-of-t-1997-12-22/(Accessed 1.7.20)
 Sharma, R,K. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthana, Chapter 3.(4th edition, 2000) Chowkhambha. India