Balancing Act: Staying Healthy as an Active Woman
For many women today, it's hard to find a moment to breathe, let alone take care of your health. Whether you're working in the office or in the home, raising your children or caring for elderly parents — it's a balancing act just to get through the day.
Yet taking care of yourself and staying in balance mentally and physically is central to meeting all the demands of your family and career.
"Women today have so many areas of life to attend to, it's important that they set aside time to maintain their own health and happiness," says Sankari Wegman, an ayurvedic expert at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa in Fairfield, Iowa. A wife and mother of children aged three and five, she herself juggles work, teaching and home life.
Here she offers five simple suggestions from Maharishi Ayurveda to create more balance today.
1. Capture the Key to Balance
"The key for women to stay in balance is to take care of Vata dosha," Sankari says. "When Vata dosha goes out of balance, it can manifest as worry, stress and tension. And because it is fast-moving by nature, it goes out of balance easily and then leads the others. So Vata dosha is the key to staying calm and healthy."
Vata dosha, which is the mind-body operator that governs movement in the body, is quick, rough, dry, and irregular by nature.
"To balance Vata, it's important to maintain a regular daily routine, starting with a consistent, early bedtime and waking time," Sankari says. "Regular exercise, regular sleep, regular meditation, daily yoga, daily abhyanga (ayurvedic oil massage), regular mealtimes — all of these things help keep Vata dosha in balance."
2. Involve the Entire Family
Where will you find the time to add these extra items to your daily routine? For Sankari, the solution is to involve the entire family.
"It can be hard to fit anything new into your already-busy life," Sankari says. "But the good thing is that your family can do it with you. Then you don't feel separate from your family while taking care of your health."
For example, when she's doing her daily yoga asanas, her children follow along. "They don't have to do it perfectly, but they are learning healthy habits that will stay with them for life," notes Sankari. "When you have a regular daily routine, the whole family is on that routine and benefits from it."
3. Set aside time for activities that make you happy
Once or twice a week, arrange for your husband or friend to take care of the kids so you can take a break from your chores and responsibilities.
"Taking dancing classes once or twice a week in the evening, or meeting a friend for a walk early in the morning — these are things I do just for me," Sankari says. "I get to exercise and share time with friends. I think it's really healthy for women to take a break, to do something that brings joy, whether it's taking a painting class, meeting friends for breakfast, or going to the gym."
Sankari likes exercising with her friends, because they help motivate her. "The key to balancing Vata dosha is to be regular, so combining exercise with meeting friends is a great way to bring more encouragement and support to staying on a healthy daily routine."
4. Rest to de-stress
The importance of good sleep and daily meditation cannot be overestimated.
"There is a tendency for women to do so much for others, to get tired, so you need to make sure you schedule time to rest and rejuvenate with your daily meditation," Sankari says. "Even though time is tight, you can juggle your schedule to make time. Alternate with your spouse, or meditate before the children come home. Just having that focus, the rest you gain in meditation goes a long way."
Sankari and her husband, Keith, follow a set morning routine, where one practices the Transcendental Meditation® technique and the other starts the children on their ayurvedic oil massage, bathing and breakfast. Then they switch roles, so they both get to meditate.
"They see us meditating, and they see it as Daddy's turn, Mommy's turn," Sankari says. "And now that my son is five, he is doing the children's meditation, so he takes his turn too."
Sankari says she doesn't feel guilty about the time she spends away from her children, because her children like it when she meditates. "When you're rested you dive within yourself and replenish, and you come out with more love, more to give."
4. Eat wholesome, fresh, warm, cooked foods
Eating regular, cooked meals helps balance Vata dosha and leads to strong immunity for the whole family.
"Learn to eat those foods that are healthy for your body type, and avoid those things that are hard to digest," advises Sankari. "If you are tense or worried, for instance, it's not a good idea to eat salads for lunch every day. Rather, you'll want to soothe Vata dosha and eat warm, fresh, cooked foods and warm drinks."
Preparing home-cooked meals is healthier and draws the family together. For example, for winter breakfasts, Sankari prepares hot rice cereal or cream of wheat, with cooked apples and raisins that she soaks overnight.
"This is something the kids love and is good for my husband and me too," she says. "It's so important for women not to skip breakfast, to sit down for a warm meal rather than eating on the go. It helps start the day right and balances Vata dosha."
If the family has to eat outside the home at lunch, one ayurvedic option is to prepare kichari (a full protein made of rice and split mung-bean dhal) that cooks inside a small thermos, along with steamed vegetables.
"It doesn't have to be complicated — you can provide a simple home-cooked meal that is much healthier than what you or your children would purchase," Sankari says.
For the evening meal, it helps to have part of the meal prepared before you come home from work, so you don't feel pressured and hungry while you cook. You could prep the veggies in the morning, or prepare soup or veggies with grains in a crock pot.
"Even making fresh flatbreads (chapatis), is an easy thing to do, once you get the hang of it," Sankari says. "Kids love forming the dough into balls and rolling it out."
Sankari finds that her children have become accustomed to warm foods and drinks, and even request them. "I've been giving my older son warm water or warm Organic Calming Vata Tea, and now he doesn't crave cold drinks. The warm foods and warm drinks support good digestion and won't throw Vata out of balance, thus contributing to better immunity."
5. Give your body extra support with herbal food supplements
Taking herbal food supplements can help reduce stress and boost immunity.
"Vital Lady is ideal for increasing energy levels and clarity of mind, and helps a woman balance so many tasks at work and at home," Sankari says. "For women over 40, Rejuvenation for Ladies helps restore that youthful glow. It promotes cellular regeneration, which slows both biological and psychological aging."
Sankari keeps Bio-Immune in her medicine chest to help purify toxins and to support the body's natural immune response. She also recommends taking Maharishi Amrit Kalash regularly to rejuvenate the mind and the body and improve immunity.
Stress Free Mind is ideal for anyone who is under mental pressure at work, or who is prone to worry, anxiety and mental tension. Stress Free Emotions helps us handle emotional stressors that are causing irritability or sadness in our lives, whether from the family, money pressures, or work relationships. Sankari cautions that because they are potent, it isn't necessary to take a lot to get results — just follow the directions on the bottle.
Since Vata dosha also governs the cycles of a woman's life, such as menstruation, it's important for the busy woman to give her body extra support, Sankari says. "Smooth Cycle helps us to maintain monthly cycles that are balanced and even blissful. And for the menopause years, Midlife for Women I and Midlife for Women II help prevent Vata disturbance and help keep the menopause years symptom-free," she says.
Sankari recommends consulting an expert in Maharishi Ayurveda to learn which herbal supplements and dietary and lifestyle recommendations are most effective for your mind-body type. And whenever you're taking herbal supplements, she advises following a regular routine and eating the right foods for best results.
While creating balance in your life can take some effort, it's an investment well worth making.
"Every stage gives a flavor of the next stage," Sankari says. "You may not feel you have the time, but if you take care of yourself now, it helps you feel healthier in the future — so you can support and enjoy your family in a blissful way for many years to come. Sometimes it's hard to see the big picture, but taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do for your family."
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.