Work/life balance Ayurveda-style..

I was listening to a podcast on sleep the other day. Did you know that over 30% of us (both US and German population) is “underslept” -meaning sleeping less than 7 hours per night? Given sufficient sleep is one of the top things we can do to keep ourselves well in a busy world, why the heck aren’t we prioritizing it??

Our work days our longer. The standard 9-5 day is now more like 9 - 7 or 8pm, if we are “lucky”. We aren’t just working machines, so we still want to go out and see friends, enjoy leisurely dinners and relax a bit in the evenings with nothing planned. So how to fit all that in? By cutting our sleep hours apparently.. It is the most flexile and malleable, right?? And we can always “get by” and then “catch up” on weekends and holidays..

Which brings me to this.. why is it easier to say no to sleep or down time, eating well, or exercising than it is to say no to work demands?

It’s all in how we relate to our body, or bodies, rather..

In yoga and Ayurvedic philosophy, our “body” is not singular, but rather composed of 5 layers or sheaths (called Koshas ). The outermost layer is the physical body which is made up of food that we eat and the way we nourish ourselves. We also have an energetic body made up of breath and subtle life force we call prana. We have a mental body that is composed of our past perceptions, preferences, personality traits, and intellectual interests. Also we have an intuitive body which is our body of wisdom - it allows us to receive the ways our other “bodies” communicate to us and make gut decisions based on our inner knowing. And lastly we have a bliss body that reminds us that no matter what is happening in our lives, it is alllll okay. :)

While we all have all 5 sheaths, we usually don’t experience all 5 bodies in a balanced way. We live much of our lives in 1 or 2 bodies and are unaware of the needs of the other bodies. Many people who I know are very committed to developing their work and intellectual interests, which means that they spend most of their time “tending to” the mind body. If we work all day, and even spend the time we are away from our work thinking about work, it can feel like there is “no time” to feed the physical body well (or at all) or to exercise or sleep enough (both of which care for the energetic body) let alone reflect or meditate (feeding the wisdom body). And forget about bliss. That can seem like it really isn’t possible in a life filled with all the things we just have to get done.

While caring for our bodies (all 5 layers) is ultimately for the purpose of transcending them, most of us really just want a healthy body that allows us to do the things we want to do and go the places we want to go, minimize stress, have happy relationships and a fulfilling work life.

If we are only interested in having a good job and a lot of money in the bank, then putting all of our eggs in the “mental body” basket will do that (until we can’t do it anymore that is.. )But if we do want a healthy body we feel comfortable in, a calm and easeful mind, have energy to pursue our hobbies and loves, we probably have to invest in things that feed those things too, right??

That’s why yogis and followers of Ayurveda follow dinacharya - the daily habits for thrive. We can care for all 5 bodies, starting with small, small steps EVERY DAY. We care for the physical body by eating at regular times, mainly in the day time, not too much and mainly plants. Fruits and vegetables are produced with energy directly from the sun, so they are not processed or dumbed down. Their journey from the soil to you is short, so they have more energy (prana) to offer you.

Overworking or oversocializing is, well, depleting. It uses so much of our (limited) vital energy! We care for our energy body through proper rest, sun shine and fresh air, yoga practices, and breath work like ujayyi (done in yoga classes) and alternate nostril breathing.

Most of us use our mind body ALL DAY both managing our work activities and all the other things we need to manage our households , relationships and social lives, but much of our “mind work” is on automatic and not super inspiring. A sound mental body makes intentional choices and responds rather than reacts. We care for the mental body by being aware and limiting what we put in through our senses - stupid television series, the constant stream of negative news, and being in negative environments or with negative/complaining people. Daily meditation (anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes) is the BEST daily practice for the mind body to shift into observation mode. There are tons of apps for that if you need the inspiration. I love Headspace and Waking Up.

When we have a well-cared for intuitive body, we are “in tune” with our highest self wants. We hear and then we LISTEN to how we want to eat, move, work, spend our time and who we want to be around and WE ACT in accordance with that. We care for the intuitive body by tuning into both ourselves and others who are like- minded people that help bring out our best, or “highest” self. Being part of groups is KEY

The elusive bliss body. You get a peek at it when you lie in savasana at the end of a yoga class, or when you gaze out into wonders in nature, the love in your kids or loved ones’ eyes. You can also tap into bliss by tracking the little things you are grateful (blissed) for. Gratitude journals are great for that. Or if you aren’t a writer, try consciously greeting the day when you wake up.

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda (and about it’s daily routines to “feed” all 5 bodies)? I am revamping my 10 -week coaching course to include more teaching on Ayurvedic theory, and cutting down the daily routine to the essentials I have found work best for myself and my clients. Stay tuned for when the next course starts. And check out other events below. I’m pretty excited about my upcoming retreats in Austria and the south of France. :)

Kari Zabel