A Unique Paradigm of Beauty

In a time when beauty is often equated, in many cultures, with a "fair" complexion or a fashionably thin figure or the shape of the nose, it is interesting to look back to a time when beauty was defined in holistic terms, and beauty was within every woman's reach. Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old healing system from India, has a unique perspective on beauty.

Holistic and all-encompassing, the ayurvedic definition of beauty reads thus — "Roopam, gunam, vayastyag, iti shubhanga karanam." According to ayurveda, there are three pillars of beauty. Roopam is outer beauty — personified by shining, healthy hair and a clear, radiant complexion. Gunam refers to inner beauty — the beauty that shines from within, characterized by a warm, pleasing personality and innocence of mind and heart. And vayastyag means lasting beauty — looking, and feeling, younger than your chronological age. Thus, ayurveda does not focus only on cosmetics to achieve the state of true beauty.

Roopam does not specify a type of figure or the color of the skin or the length or style of the hair. Outer beauty, according to ayurveda, is a reflection of good health — good digestion and healthy eating habits and lifestyle. The frame of the body is dependent on the type of structural components you were born with. Whether thin, medium or big, each type of body structure can be beautiful as long as good health exists.

You are what you eat. Ayurveda takes this notion very seriously. In fact, it goes a step further to say "You are what you digest." A radiant, clear complexion begins with proper nutrition, efficient digestion and assimilation of nutrients by the body, and regular elimination. It's all about diet. There are simple ayurvedic principles you can follow, even if you are a newcomer to the system.

Some of the Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians tips on diet and digestion

  • Eat your largest meal at mid-day. Your digestive fire is strongest at that time.
  • Eat to three-fourths of your capacity.
  • Focus on your food. Don't divide your attention with TV or work.
  • Don't drink ice-cold beverages. They dampen your digestive fire.
  • Try to include several different tastes at each meal — sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent.
  • Don't skip meals!
  • Include lots of sweet, juicy fruits and green, leafy vegetables in your diet.
  • Sip warm water through the day to help flush toxins from the body.

These suggestions sound simple. But how many of us really follow them? In our time-constrained, deadline-oriented society, good eating habits are hard to maintain. But good diet and digestion are crucial for long-term beauty, because beauty begins with good health. Ayurveda also emphasizes herbal supplements as aids to beauty: a supplement to help keep the skin clear through the purification of the blood; or one to internally balance the moisture and elasticity of the skin; or one to pep up the functioning of the liver. An ayurvedic dermatologist might recommend herbal combinations for any of these, or related purposes.

Sleep is second only to diet, according to ayurveda, to achieve and maintain true beauty. The body needs rest in order to rejuvenate itself. Modern research is finding out that sleep deprivation has a very adverse impact on health and well-being, but ayurvedic practitioners knew it centuries ago. Quality of sleep is as important as quantity. Here are:

The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians tips for getting your beauty sleep

  • Go to bed before 10 p.m. Staying up much beyond that can impact the quality of rest you get.
  • Start your day with a full-body massage with an herbal or aroma massage oil.
  • Drink a soothing cup of herbal tea before bed. Slumber Time Tea is designed to help you unwind.
  • Don't take your work into your bedroom.
  • Focus on calming activities as bedtime draws near.
  • Take a relaxing warm bath a couple of hours before bed.
  • Slip a sachet of dried lavender under your pillow.
  • Eat a light meal at dinner, at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.

If you go to bed right after watching a horror movie on TV, or have an argument with someone at bedtime, you're not likely to have a restful night. Cutting down on stimulants such as caffeine is also helpful. Once you start following some of these tips, you'll notice a marked difference in the quality of your sleep. This will help you feel rested, alert and yes, beautifully fresh each morning.

While diet and sleep are the cornerstones, other factors are important too. Stress management is critical. Again, a daily massage can help. Practice meditation, listen to uplifting music — anything you can do to balance the mind and emotions will be reflected in your appearance. Gunam — inner beauty — reflects the beauty of the mind and the soul. Serenity, a positive attitude, and purity of thought, word and action — all of these contribute to making you beautiful.

The Charaka Samhita, the principal ayurvedic text, recommends that you seek the company of the young at heart. Don't always focus on your biological age. Always talking or thinking about your age, or those lines you're seeing on your face, will make you feel old. Laughter, seeking new experiences, and the company of good friends can keep you looking, and feeling, beautiful, no matter what your biological age. With the dawn of a new millennium, let us go beyond the color of the skin or the height of the cheekbones to find beauty in every woman.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.