by Carol Ann Donnelly
It is a well-known fact that stress causes illness. Until recently, western medicine pooh-poohed holistic medicine as unsubstantiated and unworthy of being referred to as medicine. However, new studies show holistic practices, like an ancient healing method called Ayurveda can improve the health and even change a person’s chromosomes.
Ayurveda originated in India thousands of years ago, and literally translated, means the “wisdom of life.” It focuses on balancing mind, body and spirit through meditation, diet and exercise.
Dawn Penta, owner of Contempo Hair Salon in North Providence, and now a certified meditation and yoga instructor, began her journey with meditation as a way to reduce the stress in her life.
“I was sensitive to the medicines my doctor was prescribing and I really wanted a natural way to reduce the stress in my life, so I learned how to meditate,” said Penta.
Not long after she started meditating, her family and clients noticed a positive change in her demeanor, and Penta noticed her skin looked healthier. “I was so content,” said Penta, “that I lost my appetite and I knew that wasn’t good.”
So, she began reading on the subject and discovered Ayurveda. Medical doctor and author, Deepak Chopra, has written extensively on Ayurvedic modality. Penta became increasingly interested in achieving balance and has spent several years taking classes and becoming certified in primordial sound meditation, Perfect Health Ayurvedic Lifestyle and yoga at the Chopra Center, in California. She teaches both at her salon, and she is teaching breast cancer survivors to achieve balanced health at the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.
Through her studies, Penta learned digestion is more than food intake; digestion is affected by emotions and an individual’s personal constitution. In Ayurveda, these constitutions are referred to as doshas. “So many things can affect someone’s constitution,” Penta said.
For example, medication can have an effect, as well as eating the wrong foods for one’s dosha. But, it goes beyond medicine and food. Emotions impact physical health, as does exercise or the lack of it. Humans experience highs and lows with their emotions every day. It is unrealistic to think that someone can remain happy 24-hours a day, 7-days a week forever. However, when a person is upset or anxious or sad, he/she can find the root cause of why he/she is experiencing the feeling and take responsibility for the emotion. Penta refers to it as “emotional clearing.”
Exercising and moving the body is also very important, but it doesn’t mean running a marathon or breaking a world record for chin ups. Ayurveda practices encourage yoga. There are many different types of yoga and many different levels that don’t require twisting the body up like a pretzel. Yoga, like meditation helps center a person in the here and now to achieve focus, as well as enhance flexibility, balance and strength for mind and body.
“Ayurveda is conscious choice making, and its practices can lead to good health,” Penta said.
Carol Ann Donnelly is a two-time breast cancer survivor and writer. She works for Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation whose mission is to raise breast cancer awareness, increase breast health education, enhance the quality of life for breast cancer patients, as well as their families and friends, and generate funding for local breast health programs. For more information, visit gloriagemma.org.