How will a 3,000 year old system of medicine continue to shape our future?
By Nishaa Bhojwani
There is no doubt that Ayurveda – a centuries-old medical system with an elaborate pharmacopoeia written in Sanskrit – continues to impact the way we view wellness. In the past, the widespread adoption of Western ideologies by the East led to the dismissal of traditional systems of health as nothing more than grandma’s home remedies. For a while, it seemed as though in an increasingly contemporary world backed by science, Ayurveda had lost its place.
However, the past few years have been witness to a resurgence of interest in alternative healing, with Ayurveda and its holistic approaches spreading across the globe. What was once known to the majority of our non-Indian friends as “Ayur-wha?” is now on the verge of mainstream popularity.
What makes Ayurveda so enduring is its integrated, preventative outlook on the human condition – mind, body, and spirit, which is achieved through a lifestyle of daily self-care tailored to each individual’s needs. Is this a trend? We think not. Here are six ways you’ll see Ayurveda show up in 2021.
It was only a few years ago that it was hard to find fresh turmeric in supermarkets, practically no one outside of Ayurveda knew about ashwagandha, and we herb enthusiasts were constantly telling our friends how basil could be used as a powerful flu remedy and not just in krapao gai.
Now, these Ayurvedic staples can be found in everything from supplements to teas, oils, cosmetics, and more. So much so, that it can be dizzying figuring out which products to invest in. Apart from well-known examples, even little known herbs such as giloy have been praised publicly by PM Narendra Modi and Baba Ramdev as an immunity booster, an important tool in the age of COVID-19. Considering Ayurveda’s vast and well-researched archive of potent herbs, our current wellness industry is just beginning to scratch the surface.
Recently, Bangkok has seen an increasing number of vegan/vegetarian restaurants opening their doors, which points to a collective desire to begin nourishing ourselves primarily with plants instead of animals. And while this trend doesn’t necessarily mean a strict vegan/vegetarian diet, it does emphasise filling our plates with minimally-processed foods, and focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes.
There are many reasons people are making this transformation, from food allergies to working towards a smaller carbon footprint. It could also be for moral reasons and wanting to treat animals with respect, or simply realising that our bodies feel happier and healthier when we eat this way. Whatever the motivation, this type of diet is Ayurvedic at its core, as plant-based foods inject more satvic energy into the body, which loosely translates into an elevated state of vibrancy, clarity, and lightness.
Ayurveda is all about rituals. In a holistic lifestyle, we find them peppered throughout the day in practices such as nostril cleansing (Neti kriya), self-massage (Abhyanga), breath work meditation (Pranayama), and adhering to a disciplined sleep routine. Rituals are still relevant in present-day life, think birthday celebrations and weekly happy hours, but there is a decidedly growing trend towards exploring the mind-body-spirit connection through rituals such as nature-based ceremonies and immersion in sacred sound. So how will the world of ancient Ayurveda and our modern yearning for more spiritual practices collide in the upcoming year?
Perhaps we will pay more attention to traditional mindfulness practices, maybe the movement of full moon circles and crystal healings will continue to flourish, maybe we’ll even quietly build our own rituals – waking each morning to see the sunrise or finding a few moments each day to practice gratitude – the options are limitless.
WORK LIFE BALANCE
This year has seen the unforeseen take centre stage and with lockdowns and mental health concerns on the rise, there has been an increased focus on achieving a ‘work-life balance’. Although futuristic sounding on the surface, there are decidedly Ayurvedic bones underneath this movement as we collectively strive to find some semblance of balance.
The effects of stress on the body have been documented in a plethora of studies and data shows that we are a staggeringly stressed-out civilisation, a curious state to be in considering we live more comfortably compared to our ancestors. The yearning to return to a simpler state of being is reflected in this push for more “life” and less “work”. Telecommuting, paternity leave, and flexible schedules have become the norm at many Forbes 500 companies with smaller businesses quickly following suit.
More often than not, planning a vacation can be stressful. From endless airport lines and running on a schedule that isn’t entirely yours, to overindulging so much that you return with a much fuller stomach than you intended. Fast forward to 2021, and a (hopefully) post pandemic world, we predict that a new kind of traveller will have emerged. One who, instead of spending time-off on lavish holidays in Paris and the Amalfi Coast, will opt for spiritual introspection and physical detoxification.
The demand for an environment that is nurturing, free from anxieties, and exuding positive energy, will shape the future of the hospitality industry. For example, a hybrid between a healing centre, spa, and luxury hotel, is poised to entice this new category of traveller who is looking to enhance their inner peace and boost their immunity. Thailand, a true pioneer in the wellness sector, will continue to see institutions incorporating Ayurvedic treatments and modalities into their programmes.
As we are increasingly drawn toward achieving a deeper harmony in our lives, our relationship with the Earth is also changing. Sustainable practices, shopping local, making an effort to minimise plastics, investments in electric cars, and youth led eco-activism are only a few examples that come to mind.
These are pivotal times, with visible consequences of climate change hurtling towards us at full speed. How we choose to act now has an irreversible impact on future generations. Looking at our current crisis, ancient Ayurveda could be the solution to bringing back balance on a global scale. This means seeing the earth not as an asset to be exploited, but as a living, breathing presence that is impacted by our actions.
By caring for the planet, we can in turn care for ourselves. When we truly care for ourselves, we become aligned with our higher selves, and we can see the bigger picture—our place on the earth and the interconnectedness of all things. With this perspective, it is impossible to act in a way that damages this connection. This is holistic living at its best.