Winter is a time of coughs, colds, sore throats and snuffly noses. The temptation is, of course, to snuggle up at home by the fire, as soon as the outdoors becomes a hostile environment. But we tell ourselves that staying indoors is not an option. And if there are snuffles and sore throats, there’s always Lemsip and Lemsip Max Flu, to keep the symptoms at bay.
For most of us, staying in by the fire wouldn’t be feasible, even if that’s what our bodies want us to do, because most of us have to earn a living. If we didn’t go to work, there wouldn’t be any money to pay for the hospital, for one thing, if we ever really did get sick. And inevitably, later on in life, we will be both old and sick and we will need all the money we can possible save up now. So we run around like headless chickens, working as hard as we can and making as much money as we can, in order to pay the medical bills later on. Disease, for most of us is something that simply happens, without warning and seemingly at random. Just like our cars can crash or break down at any moment, we feel our bodies may do the same. And the best way we know how to deal with this problem is by having adequate health insurance, when it does happen.
Dr Don Brennan is a man on a mission to change all this. He believes that most diseases can be prevented, if we learn a totally different approach to our health. Instead of waiting until we break down, he says, the science of Ayurveda, which he has trained in, has the recipes for spotting health potential problems before they occur, and for remedying them.
A Kildare born doctor, Don Brennan was one of the first GPs to train in India, in the ancient Ayurvedic approach to health. Ayurveda means ‘science of life’ and it is the fastest growing complimentary therapy in the West. It is the science, Dr Brennan explains, ‘of what makes us happy and unhappy, as well as healthy and unhealthy. And it is the knowledge of how to empower ourselves to heal.’
In the Ayurvedic tradition, emphasis is placed on learning to recognise the ways that the body signals that it is out of balance, long before any kind of disease or illness actually manifests.
‘Pain is a very good thing,’ Doctor Brennan tells me. ‘It is an innate mechanism for informing you that things are going wrong, in order that you might put them right. But unfortunately, people haven’t got the wisdom or insight to interpret the pain, and instead they try to suppress it.’
In the Ayurvedic system, there are six stages in the development of any disease. In the very first stage, we simply begin to notice that we are not as happy or as healthy as we once were. In order to get back to health, at this stage, we simply need to understand the three fundamental principles -called Vata, Pitta and Kapha-which govern all the activities of our minds and bodies. By familiarising ourselves with these principles, we can learn to judge for ourselves what things about our lifestyle and diet need to be changed, in order to prevent us from going on to the second stage of disease, where the imbalance becomes aggravated, and then on to the other stages, which are progressively more difficult to treat.
In Ayurveda, at this time of year, we would listen to our bodies calling upon us to snuggle up, keep warm and go to bed early, adopting a gentler routine than we had in the summer, which was the time of Pitta, the fire element. In the autumn, we would naturally begin to eat warmer foods, and we would avoid cold ones. By balancing our lifestyle in order to reflect what is happening in nature, we would be attuning ourselves to health. But in reality, instead of doing these things, most of us are now pushing ourselves to work harder, in the run up to Christmas, as well as taking on new challenges, in the form of evening classes and keep fit regimes.
‘Nature goes into a rest phase, at this time and so should we,’ Dr Brennan says. ‘But instead we become more manic, and most people’s bodies go out of balance, resulting eventually in illness.’
There is tremendous hope, Dr Brennan believes, for the prevention of all kinds of diseases, including cancers, strokes, heart attacks and a whole range of others, if only we develop the awareness necessary to fine tune our lifestyles and to recognise early indications of imbalances.
‘Ayurveda empowers patients to stop doing what is causing the problem and start doing the opposite,’ says Dr Brennan. ‘And the beauty is that you get seduced by Ayurveda. Once you’ve made changes and started to feel better, you are motivated to keep on doing things that will make you feel healthy and happy, because ultimately, happiness is what we are all striving for!’
www.ayurveda.ie for more info or call 01 284 5742