Ayurveda Demystified: A Q&A with Ayurvedic Practitioner Light Miller

Light Miller is a one-woman healing crew. Traveling extensively to teach people about the benefits of aromatherapy, Ayurveda, natural menopause, herbology, and tantra, Miller began in the natural medicine field as a naturopathic doctor until she embraced her Indian roots and followed her mother’s advice to go to school in India. It was there that she got her master’s and fell in love with medicine. Twenty-five years later she works with her husband and conducts panchakarma programs, kayakalpa treatments, and teaches a rasayana program at their home in Florida, which covers advanced techniques in Ayurveda and holistic healing. And that’s when she’s not writing books.

In the following Q&A, Miller talks about the ins and outs of Ayurveda and why she believes it to be Western society’s answer to the secrets of life.

Q. What is Ayurveda?

A. I would say it’s a science, it’s a lifestyle and it’s a way of life. It’s not just medicine, where you take a pill, get well and continue life — it’s about integrating a whole life with harmony and bliss. Ayurveda is known as the medicine of yogis, and is still a medicine of yoga. This is a 5,000 year-old form of medicine. The answers for everyone’s life were written 5,000 years ago, so now it’s time for us to begin to integrate it with stress reduction and use its teachings to learn how to create productivity, how to live happier and fulfilled, and how to allow spirit to work through you. It’s a mind body medicine that encompasses everything we are. Gem therapy, acupuncture, Chinese medicine… all of that came from Ayurveda.

How is it a way of life?

When dealing with self-health care, it’s all about how to keep in balance by doing things like eating the right foods. You’re going to recognize 10 different metabolic types. Like a blood type, everyone has essential foods, herbs and oils that they need for peak performance. Take someone who is busy, for example. There are certain essential oils to keep them calm at work. A Pitta type — type A — is in charge and likes to dominate everything, so you want to give them something to calm them in the office. I have secretaries spraying essential oils when serving tea and coffee so their bosses can do their job in a place of calmness and peace.

How does that work?

Well, the olfactory bowl is connected to our limbic system, which is the most primitive part of brain and represents a lot of who we are — that’s where we hold traumas. So if a controlling person had controlling parents, by smelling the oils, it goes directly into your system and changes your whole being. But that’s just one small aspect.

What are the others?

Yoga, meditation, being on purpose, finding who you are, working with emotions… In Ayurveda we have mantra therapy, physical therapy, and lifestyle dharma to help with such things. Many people get ill because they’re not doing their dharma. You want to be doing jobs that make you happy, but a lot work at what they hate, or sacrifice to do what they hate to do what they want. So looking at your dharma is important in Ayurveda. We look at illness as a big gift. Most people get freaked, but it’s really a possibility because most people don’t make changes until there’s a trauma, so it’s about a lifestyle. You wake up, do yoga, meditation, oil yourself so you go out into the world protected with your aura closed, and your nervous system is protected. So while a lot of it is stress therapy, the main part is cleaning house.

What is a consultation like?

When you have a consultation you learn what to eat, what to do with your life, and then the second visit looks at chronic issues. If you have headaches, why? Where is it coming from? Lineage? Food? Inherited? Every aspect of person is part of the whole person. Are they too nervous? Too stressed? We need to look at the lifestyle and take a look at what we’re doing. If you can’t control your emotions, you can’t be well.

The first thing I do is have you bring in what you’re already taking. I don’t want to change you too quickly right away. I want to make changes, but take you through baby steps to do so. So we look at how you’re living and do pulse reading, which tells me what your body is doing. There are seven levels of the pulse that go all the way into the tissues. According to what I find, I discover your body type, and then we start to work with herbs, rituals and medicines, maybe doing tai chi. I find ways to integrate a peaceful life into yours more than anything. There are ways to calm emotions and ways to deal with job stress. Then you go home with tea or herbal medicine to practice. I make an essential oil for you with medicated oil so that you can self-massage. That’s called abyangha. Let’s say you’re stressed. I’ll create a calming blend for you every day. Essential oils are so powerful that they begin to activate right away.

So I guide them through slowly. Say you’re a big meat eater, but a Pitta doesn’t do very well with beef, so I begin to take baby steps. We’d begin to cut down a little bit and add more fish and chicken. Not everyone is a vegetarian, but we’re here in America. There are more organic foods. Meanwhile, a Vata — air type — needs more grounding and roots. So my goal, once I get balance, is to get them on a seasonal diet.

Can you explain more about abyangha?

Abyangha is a tradition where first you shower, then you rub yourself with eight ounces of oil. You could shower again after, but I don’t do it. However, I find nobody in America will do eight ounces of oil. In India it’s cheap, so I use fine essential oils. Another step is to brush the skin, then do self massage, blessing the body and honoring it. It’s like people who use lotion, but it’s more ritualistic and helps relieve tension — what you need to let go of.

So what are the characteristics of the three different types — Vata, Pitta and Kapha?

Vata is air and ether. These people can eat anything because they’re always moving around, active, always talking, always doing many things. But they very easily forget their agendas, so they have to write everything down. But they’re also very creative and love to network, like a butterfly. They’re beautiful and talk with their hands. Because of that, so much movements, they have more digestive problems.

Pitta is type A with medium build. They’re very in charge, they like to delegate and be in control, and tend to have lighter skin, blonde or reddish hair, blue eyes. They’re very in-charge. They both gain and lose weight easily, they’re athletic and love to be outdoors, but they forget to exercise. As they get older they get a potbelly and gas. They do have strong digestive fire. But being a fire type, fire or water, either can go out of balance easily. Pitta is fire and water.

Kapha is water and earth. Think of someone who is Hawaiian or Samoan, with big features and hands. They are steady and slow and like to follow routines, they’re more laid back. They have a bit of combination — there’s a lot of loyalty or commitment to work, but they’re also airy and spacey.

What are the most important things for each type to do in their lives?

Vatas need to be sure to work in a creative environment, in and around people, or doing something artful. Pittas, because of their desire to delegate, need to be a manager or a speaker — they’re very fluid with speech. Kaphas do very well behind the scenes, helping, making things happen.

Dietarily, Vatas need to be doing grounding activities and eat grounding foods, because they need help staying on the earth. They need meditation and yoga, tai chi… more calming activities. Because their bodies are already going, they shouldn’t be doing aerobics and burning fat. Pittas can be doing sports because they love to compete, so they’re good at tennis and doing things with other people on a team. Otherwise they want to win and be in charge and be aggressive. Their diet requires cooling foods — salads with mints and cilantro. They can’t eat Thai food every day, they need calming spices like coriander and cumin — not hot peppers and spice — and a lot of fresh food and beans to keep the air cooling down. Kaphas are grounded and they look at food and gain weight, so eating light foods are better. They don’t get hungry very often, so when they eat it’s a special meal. They’re the people who need to do aerobics because they aren’t motivated. They need a Pitta to be all, “Come on, we’re going running!” Kundalini is really good for them because it burns fat quickly and puts you more in charge.

Who do you see the most of in your office?

We live in a Vata society, a society that has movement and activity. They’re troublemakers because it’s air that gets movement in the body. We are always on the go, using our cell phones, our nervous system is always stressed. Unfortunately we depend on them. I see a lot of people who have a Vata derangement. Vata Pitta is the most common. I don’t see a lot of Kaphas because they need to stay home. They don’t want to be out in the world, so people have to drag them some place. Home is very important. The environment and food are very connected, so they need nourishment and a strong constitution.

How much of our “type” comes from our parents and ancestors?

Ayurveda has a lot of rituals and ceremonies where you are forgiving lineage — it’s called tarpana — and that’s about really looking at your ancestors and forgiving them. Your mother might say, “You have Uncle Benny’s attitude, your grandmother’s anger…” Lots of energy flows through lineage. But the true essence of the divine and Ayurveda is knowing and self-mastery. When we know the self and the emotions that run us, we have perfect health. It’s about learning balance.

What are some of the common misconceptions about Ayurveda?

People think it’s a Hindu thing, but it’s not. Or they think it’s a meditation thing. I don’t always do it, but I might have them close their eyes for five minutes every hour at work, but then I also have them stretch at work. People also think it’s strictly a yogic thing, but it’s a way of life — there are so many ways you can integrate into your life. People also think it’s a lot of money to go to practitioner, but for $200 I spend hour and a half with you, and I’m guiding you like a coach. In three to four visits you don’t depend on your doctor anymore, you depend on yourself.

It sounds like a very empowering form of medicine.

My goal is that you don’t depend on the doctor. You see me for four visits, I teach you about what to do. Ayurvedic specialists that are just now graduating out of college aren’t doctors, they’re consultants who guide you through the journey, finding your way out of misery and pain. I teach the person who is with me and they learn what I do.

How should a person approach life transitions, like pregnancy, serious illness, etc?

I’ve just finished a book on conscious parenting and pregnancy, but I think one of the main things is they need to be aware of what they’re doing, and be in tune with the person they’re having a baby with. Part of conscious living is about picking your right partner and finding harmony, then when you get pregnant, preparing and cleansing, making a temple that the being is coming into. If you didn’t conceive in consciousness, you need to look at your foods. The right foods are good when you’re pregnant, and you should consider the three body types because each is different during pregnancy. Stay away from chemicals, utilizing herbs and drugs. And the father should be in love with pregnancy.

I think everything should be done with sacred, conscious steps. If you’re changing jobs, get the pros and cons of why. Are you doing it for money or fulfillment? If you’re moving, make sure your moving is conducive to work. I’m in transition now — my home is in Florida, but I want to build in California. But I can’t just go crazy and have a practice there tomorrow. I have a school, I have to come every two weeks, start getting my name known, connecting with people, and then maybe in a year I will move completely. But right now with the economy, I can’t sell my house for what I paid for it. So selling and moving here will put me in chaos.

So every transition should be done with steps and ease, changes and movements. Connecting with the right people. Taking the steps — how do we do this? If you rush, act impulsive or go for the dollar, you won’t find fulfillment. You need to pace yourself through any situation. The goal of Ayurveda is fulfillment, with the mind, body and spirit working together.

What are some things everyone needs to experience about Ayurveda?

How to calm your emotions, take time for yourself, and nurture yourself first. Those who nurture themselves first are able to give more to others. If you care for everyone else and don’t take time for the self, you’re passing your survival to others. And be here now. We’re always trying to get someplace. Stop. Live in the moment.

For more information, visit Light’s website at ayurvedichealers.com.

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