Ayurveda can contribute to your child’s growth. Discover how plus, a self-assessment tool.

Ayurveda can contribute to your child’s growth. Discover how plus, a self-assessment tool.

Ayurveda contributes to your child's growth
Ayurveda contributes to your child's growth

Have you been doing these exercises with you child? Did you know Ayurveda can contribute to your child’s growth?

Six months ago, I was directing the filming of an online class with Ayurvedic experts from around the world. It was a transformational project for all of us. Imagine eight adults from the filming crew recording on camera but also, totally immersed. At a certain moment during the filming, the expert talking on camera asked the future audience (we were not live) some soulful questions. By the end of it, half of us were crying. It was one of those moments when you realise how important it is to stop, be still, and ask yourself how you are doing and being in the world.

Later on, I realised I was not doing enough of those exercises with my son, and because he’s a pre-teen, he needs it more often. So, I decided to pay more attention to this area of his life. For this, I knew I needed Naina and I invited her for an interview. I knew this way we could provide more support to you, as a parent, grandparent, or caregiver in discovering how Ayurveda can contribute to your child’s growth and provide you with a useful assessment tool to help you. This way more parents will enjoy a happy and healthy life and teach their children the same early on.

Naina Bajaria is from the UK and is passionate about health and wellbeing from a holistic perspective. Her first qualification is in pharmacy, where she spent many years dispensing medication to patients in the community. After realising that health requires more than just symptomatic treatment, she embarked on courses in nutrition, mediation and yoga to understand more.

With a fascination for plants and natural healing, she went on to complete a Masters in Ethnobotany. Shortly afterwards, the incredible science of Ayurveda found her, and it allowed her to apply much of what she had learnt already into one complete healing system. She went onto studying a diploma in Ayurveda at the Ayurvedic Institute in the UK under Dr Deepika Rodriguez.

All the while, Naina spent time travelling, researching and practising a lifestyle in accordance with the Yogic and Ayurvedic scriptures. She feels that it is time to unite allopathic and holistic systems of health to become the best possible versions of ourselves and evolve in a more conscious way. We, at the How People Learn Project, believe the very same.

Join our conversation by reading my interview with Naina below and by sharing your thoughts and follow-up questions on our Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

Naina Bajaria - ayurveda children's growth - How People Learn book
Naina Bajaria - ayurveda children's growth - How People Learn book Olimpia Mesa

Olimpia: I’ve learned from you that the health and creativity of a person is based on how much good feeling they have, how much emotional, physiological, and psychological nourishment he or she receives. Can you please explain what is Ayurveda teaching us about the “intake”?

Naina: Ayurveda teaches us that everything can be nourishment; it all depends on how we perceive and then transform the experience. If we look at the concept of agni and ojas. In this case, agni is the fire principle in the body that enables us to transform food into tissue nourishment. But it goes much further than this.

It also enables us to transform our experiences into consciousness. Ojas is the nourishing principle of the body. It provides immunity and strength. We need ojas to sustain us and provide stamina. Interestingly, it is innately connected to the heart organ and love.

Therefore, we can see that everything in life can be transformed into nourishment. Even our bad experiences. If we can strengthen our agni and build our ojas, we lay in good stead for the road ahead in life. Especially for our children, too. Ayurveda recognises that it is very important to teach our children how to transform any life situation into a point of growth and expansion. This has multiple knockon effects, like building confidence, less fear, less anxiety and an ability to tackle challenging situations in life with love and ease.

It is important to recognise that everything is nourishment in Ayurvedathe environment in which we live, our conversations, our food, what we watch on the TV, what we see on social media. All we have to do is look at a baby seed sprouting and know that it requires a nurturing environment to grow. We also know that each species of plant has different needs, and our children are no different.

Ayurveda can contribute to your child's body growth spirit How People Learn
Ayurveda can contribute to your child's body growth spirit How People Learn square

Olimpia: What are the best foods to grow on?

Naina: I would recommend a plant-based, whole-food diet with the inclusion of carefully sourced animal products. Foods like ghee, dates, soaked almonds, milk and rice are foods that can build ojas. Light spices, such as cumin, fennel, turmeric, rosemary, basi, and black pepper are excellent to maintain healthy agni. Avoiding items that are packaged and pre-cooked is advised and you should try to eat fresh where possible. Warm, cooked foods are preferable to raw, but we should have a good balance between the two.

Olimpia: Fats are very important in brain development. What are the best fats to grow with according to Ayurveda?

Naina: In Ayurveda, we can get fat from animal products, such as yoghurt, milk and ghee. Foods that are ojas-rich are also very good for brain development, such as dates and soaked almonds.

Ayurveda can contribute to your child's body growth How People Learn book
Ayurveda can contribute to your child's growth body 2

Olimpia: Working with you, I’ve learned that the three functions of the mind—learning, retaining and recalling knowledge—are known as dhi, dhriti, and smriti in Ayurveda. Can you tell us more about this?

Naina: Sure, firstly though, I want to explain how Ayurveda recognises the mind as a separate entity to “us”. It has its own channels and pathways, both in our body and outside it, too. We call these the five “sheaths” or “koshas”. The Manomaya Kosha exists just outside of our physical body and is part of what Ayurveda calls our “subtle” body. Therefore, when we look at the functions such as dhi, dhriti and smriti, we can be less attached to them and understand them simply as functions of the mind.

I say this because what we commonly do in Western thought is assume that our mind is “who we are”. Therefore, we can start to think that we are what we know. Learning, retention and recalling are features that we use in order to intellectually understand knowledge. When we complete our degree, we can often start attaching or forming an identity around this accumulation of knowledge and begin to see it as “us”. When such a thing is at risk of being lost, this is when we suffer or feel like less of a person.

Ayurveda allows us to create some distance between the mind, body and our true nature, and this therefore creates less entanglement when we use our faculties, such as learning, retention and recalling. We can sit more powerfully in them and know that such knowledge can come and go but the everlasting truth is that of our true nature, not of the mind.

Olimpia: When my son was a baby, I was giving him a massage every day. I stopped doing this five or seven years ago, and after working with and learning the Ayurveda way, I regret stopping. Is it important for parents to give their children a massage every day or at least every other day?

Naina: Yes, absolutely! Massage is hugely important for various reasons. But not to worry if you stopped, as so many of us are also not familiar with such practices. Massage is enormously beneficial on both a physical and emotional level. Oil itself is very good for calming what Ayurveda calls the “vata dosha”. The vata dosha is the one we really need to keep in balance to alleviate most diseases.

Because vata dosha is connected to dry and rough quality, the oil helps to counteract it and prevent it from increasing in the body. Oil is also very good for nourishing and lubricating the tissues of the body. What is so beautiful about oil massage is its intricate connection to love and touch. By connecting to your child in such a beautiful practice, you can both benefit from building your relationship, as well as knowing that you are providing nourishment energetically to your child through touch and love.

Olimpia: Most parents and educators know that routines create safety, stability and trust for a child’s nervous system while supporting their physiology to develop healthy habits. What most of us do not know is that in Ayurveda, a daily routine is considered critically important to overall health and wellness.

With what kind of routines can Ayurveda help families with?

Naina: Yes, routine is incredibly important to get into the “rhythm” of life! You only have to notice when you are performing a repeated activity that the more comfortable you become in it, the faster you can move through it with ease. But it is also important to not fall asleep at the wheel either! 😉

Ayurvedic routines that the family would benefit from are the dinacharya (daytime routine) and nighttime routine. Thinking of the practicality, it would be ideal if waking time was early (around 6am) for all the family and began by doing some kind of activity that would bond you. This might simply be having breakfast or even doing some deep breathing together before you all go your different ways.

In the evening, spending some time together is important, but keeping it light and nourishing. Less TV and more communication and talking time. Sleeping around 10pm is ideal for the parents so that they are able to get good sleep to wake up early the next day. This syncing of rising and sleeping with the movements of the sun and moon will help the family to get into a natural rhythm, which has incredible benefits for the human body.

Ayurveda can contribute to your child's growth sleep How People Learn

Olimpia: What do you wish you did more as a child for your development in all three dimensions: body, mind and spirit?

Naina: As a child, I think it would have been beneficial for me to have some kind of practice that enabled me to connect to myself. To be able to understand what my true nature really is. Although I believe everything is karmically set out, the soul is given what it needs in order to grow. If I had such nourishment as a child, it would have saved me a lot of unnecessary searching through alcohol, food, smoking, drugs and relationships later on in life.

Understanding our relationship to the cosmos provides immense strength to a child, and it reduces their need to search for who they are in other dead-end ways. Saying that, I also feel this is all part of life and our journey, and I do not regret any of those paths that I ventured down because I now know they are dead ends and sometimes we simply have to walk it ourselves to realise that.

Had my parents been aware of Ayurveda, I feel that my body would have benefitted from fewer allergies and heat-related disorders. Also, having knowledge of my individual constitution, it would have been great if I were encouraged into subjects that support my qualities and gifts. However, as I said before, the path was set out for a reason and was all necessary for my growth.

Here is a small but smart self-assessment tool that can help you determine if your family’s lifestyle is Ayurvedic.

 

1. I schedule daily walks for me and my child.

Not at all …… Sometimes …… Quite often ….. All the time

Hint from Naina:

Ayurveda considers walking a magnificent exercise. It balances all body types without putting excessive strain on your body. It calms the mind and nourishes the senses.

 

2. I create/buy a fresh lunch for me and my child every day.

Not at all …… Sometimes …… Quite often ….. All the time

Hint from Naina:

Foods that are processed, canned, frozen or packaged are harder to digest and thus create toxins. Also, because they are old, denatured by processing, or include harmful ingredients, such as chemical preservatives, they no longer contain nature’s intelligence. Rather, they create toxins and block nature’s intelligence from reaching the cells. According to Ayurveda, both children and adults can benefit greatly from a fresh and warm lunch in a settled, quiet atmosphere and focusing on their food when eating.

 

3. My child drinks a glass of water every day.

Not at all …… Sometimes …… Quite often ….. All the time

Hint from Naina:

Water flushes out accumulated toxins and keeps your digestion smooth. Go for warm water sipped throughout the day. Water is an excellent healer.

 

4. My child drinks a glass of milk every day.

Not at all …… Sometimes …… Quite often ….. All the time

Hint from Naina:

At the end of a tiring day, when you or your child cannot seem to close your eyes, don’t be frustrated. Instead, drink a glass of warm milk. Milk should be organic, free of additives and boiled with a pinch of cardamom before it is drunk in order to make it easier to digest. Drink it alone, away from meals, to avoid indigestion.

 

5. We sit down and close our eyes.

Not at all …… Sometimes …… Quite often ….. All the time

Hint from Naina:

Teach your child to take a “just-for-me” break right here, right now. Teach yourself and your child to disconnect from the outer world and tune into your own self. Even if you do this for a minute, you will feel a sense of well-being and healing.

 

6. Every weekend, we sip child-friendly herbal tea.

Not at all …… Sometimes …… Quite often ….. All the time

Hint from Naina:

All-natural, caffeine-free teas prepared from nature’s healing herbs are a perfect way to relax and recharge. Choose from among Ayurveda’s wide range of gourmet beverages to pick the flavour and blend that suits your unique dosha type and your needs.

 

7. I massage my child weekly and do self-massage.

Not At All …… Sometimes …… Quite Often ….. All the Time

Hint from Naina:

The skin thirsts for our touch and attention. When warm, verbalised oil is rubbed gently all over the skin, our body and our mind feel pampered and relaxed. Treat your skin to the magic of self-massage (abhyanga) today. And enjoy teaching this Ayurvedic ritual to your child early on.

 

8. Our child has good friends that she/he can call on when they need help.

Not at all …… Sometimes …… Quite often ….. All the time

Hint from Naina:

According to Ayurveda, people whose company makes us feel happy and loved are like medicine. They heal and restore us. Keeping in touch with such people nurtures our own hearts.

 

9. We have our own family skin pack.

We certainly do …     Not quite   ….. Not yet

Hint from Naina:

Ayurvedic healers recommend using totally natural products on your skin, preferably with ingredients that are also safe to eat. Choose from foods like honey, organic rose water, cucumber, oatmeal, ground blanched almonds, milk and yoghurt to prepare packs that will exfoliate, cleanse, and moisturise your skin.

 

10. My child practices mindful breathing.

Not At All …… Sometimes …… Quite Often ….. All the Time

Hint from Naina:

Mindful breathing improves the flow of oxygen and other vital nutrients to the tiniest channels of the body, giving you an instant sense of well-being.

 

11. We all go to bed early.

Not At All …… Sometimes …… Quite Often ….. All the Time

Hint from Naina:

Ayurvedic physicians emphasise and reemphasise the value of good sleep, simply because rest is the basis of dynamic activity.

 

12. We all rise with the sun.

Not At All …… Sometimes …… Quite Often ….. All the Time

Hint from Naina:

This will be easy to do if you go to bed before 10 pm. Waking up early gives you time to concentrate on your morning ablutions and prepare a good, nourishing breakfast. In addition, it gives you time to enjoy the early morning calmness of nature and meaningful conversations with your child.

 

13. We have a good breakfast every day.

Not At All …… Sometimes …… Quite Often ….. All the Time

Hint from Naina:

Skipping breakfast particularly irritates Sadhaka Pitta, a subdosha of Pitta. An imbalanced Sadhaka Pitta can result in irritability and unsettled emotions. Some suggestions for breakfast: cooked apples eaten first thing in the morning can help to create ojas, which is the final and most refined by-product of digestion. Ojas contributes to enhanced vitality, strength, immunity and overall well-being. Sweet, juicy fruits are excellent cleansers as they help to eliminate impurities from the body.

According to Ayurveda, it is recommended that cooked fruits be eaten first thing in the morning, about 30 minutes before other breakfast items, such as hot cereal.

 

14. We decorate our dining table.

Not At All …… Sometimes …… Quite Often ….. All the Time

Hint from Naina:

Make each meal a celebration. A pleasant table, set with sparkling cutlery, crisp, clean napkins, and appetising colours whets the appetite and promotes good digestion.

 

We know how to spice up your dinner plate.

Turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom — these and other spices used in Ayurvedic cooking not only add aroma and flavour but also healing goodness to your food. Turmeric is an antiseptic, cumin aids digestion, coriander cleanses the system, fennel settles the stomach and cardamom cools the system. Spices add good flavour and have a yogavahi property, which means that they support digestion and make the nutrients easily available to the body.

 

15. We bond with nature daily.

Not At All …… Sometimes …… Quite Often ….. All the Time

Hint from Naina:

When you spend time with flowers, butterflies and trees, you connect in the most intimate way with the earth, of which Ayurveda believes we are all an integral part. This sense of connection is tremendously soothing, particularly for those of us who are under stress.

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