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November 7, 2018

Healing Women Series • Julie Bernier

“What comes slowly lasts.”

Julie Bernier is an ayurvedic practitioner in Malibu, California. As the founder of True Ayurveda, Julie teaches the art of self care: the realignment of our relationship to ourselves and the world around us.  Through ancient ayurvedic wisdom and practices, the body regains balance allowing us to live our happiest and healthiest lives. It is a practice that asks us to return to our inner wisdom. It’s about living life in harmony with nature’s rhythms; those of the sun, the moon, and the seasons. This is where balance and healing can be found.

 

 

What are some general principles of ayurveda for those who are not familiar with it?

Ayurveda is a system of healing that comes from ancient India. It’s based on nature, making it timeless and universal. And, it’s incredibly vast and deep, covering all aspects of life: from the basics of daily self care to how we feed our minds and nurture our spirits. It gives us a framework though which we can create a healthy and happy life. Ayurveda is big on disease prevention, but it’s also a very sophisticated for of natural medicine for when we do get sick.

How has ayurveda impacted your life?

A more fitting question would be how has ayurveda NOT impacted my life! Ayurveda is a part of everything I do – not because I perfectly follow the ayurvedic regimen, but because I view the world through ayurveda. It’s given me a finely-tuned awareness, of my own body, how my mind works, and my connection to nature. I feel really empowered by this awareness, both in keeping myself healthy and in having this guide for my own growth and evolution.

 

 

Have you experienced any personal struggles with your health?

Absolutely. I came to ayurveda because it felt like truth and my intuition screamed STUDY THIS ! But, at the same time, my body was really out of whack. My digestion had been off for years. I was getting my period twice a month, and it was all showing up on my face as adult acne. The initial healing journey with ayurveda wasn’t what I expected. After a few months of herbs not working as they should, my ayurvedic practitioner boldly told me that my issues were coming from my mind. And I knew she was right. I did a lot of mind work – basically, learning how to love myself – and I got better, quite quickly. It was a great lesson in the power of the mind.

Why is digestion such an important component of ayurveda? How can we improve our digestive fire?

Our health depends on the strength of our digestion. In yoga the physical layer of the body is called the “annamaya kosha” or food sheath. The body is quite literally made from food. So it makes sense that properly digested, absorbed and assimilated food created the healthiest body tissues. If digestion is weak or impaired (which could include a low appetite, gas, bloating, acidity, or feeling sleepy after eating), food isn’t properly digested. Instead of being processed as it should, it remains in the body as undigested food – a slimy, odorous substance called aama. Aama clogs the gross and subtle channels of the body and impedes the body’s natural functions. Eventually it can cause severe health issues.

An important first step in improving digestion is to stop drinking cold drinks and eating cold food, which pretty much snuff out the digestive fire. Regular mealtimes are also key. A big lunch and light dinner around the same time each day support the body’s need for rhythm.

 

Sweet plantain + coconut breakfast

 

What are simple ayurvedic tips everyone should follow?

Wake up early. This is my all time favorite ayurvedic tip. It’s hard, and some people really struggle with it at first, but waking up early can literally change your life. Getting out of bed by 6 gives us more energy, a clearer mind and an inspired start to the day. It’s magical.

Do something every day for your mind, whether it’s pranayama, meditation or spending time in nature.

 

 

What are some tips for vatas, kaphas, pittas as we transition into fall?

We all feel the effects of fall differently, as all of us are different. But no matter our constitution, our digestive strength is only moderate in fall and needs extra care. Again, warm food and drink are important! Self oil massage (abhyanga) balances the effects of dry, cool fall weather. And as simple as it is, we should bundle up and keep ourselves warm.

 

                                                                                                        Abhyanga

 

Why is it so important to eat seasonally?

As nature changes each season, our bodies needs change. Amazingly, nature gives us the very foods that support nature’s seasonal shifts, like cooling watermelon and cucumber in summer. Come fall, nature ives us apples and pomegranates to help the body expel accumulated heat. In winter, nature gives us heavy and nourishing foods like winter squashes and root vegetables, and in spring bitter and astringent greens to balance the effect of cool and rainy weather. Nature gives us exactly what our bodies need. Eating agains nature’s intelligence (like watermelon in winter) creates disharmony in the body and causes imbalance.

 

 Ayurvedic Ojas Latte

A recipe to help if you’re dealing with anxiety, general ungroundedness, low immunity, or would like to get your body ready for a baby.

Ingredients:
• 2 cups homemade almond milk
• 1″ ginger, crushed
• 3″ cinnamon stick
• 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
• 5 black peppercorns
• 5 cardamom pods
• 1/2 teaspoon ghee
• 1 date

 

How does ayurveda vue popping and cracking joints?

This shows vitiated vata in the joints. It’s common for those with a vata constitution, but it can also be be the beginning of a deeper pathology.

 

One of the greatest things ayurveda has taught you?

To have compassion. I believe that everyone is a loving and a spiritual being. Sometimes, though, our actions and thoughts become clouded by our imbalances. Ayurveda has taught me how to view this experience in others and i myself with compassion and forgiveness.

 

 

What are your favorite ayurvedic herbs and when should they be used?

I love neem. It’s very bitter and tastes terrible, but it feels so good in my body. It’s main use is in skin conditions. Amalaki is another one of my loves. It’s one of triphala’s three fruits and the main ingredient in the ayurvedic formula chyawanprash. It’s considered a ” rasayana” or rejuvenator. The research on amalaki is incredible – it stands up the ancients’ claims that is boosts immunity, prevents early again and improves lifespan.

 

 

What ayurvedic herbs do you like best for women’s health?

Shatavari is ayurveda’s most important herb for women’s health. It’s used pre-conception, during pregnancy, in the postpartum period as well as in many gynecological disorders. Ayurvedic herbology is really powerful in that it’s not a “this herb is for that problem” approach – instead we choose herbs according to the person: can they digest it? Is it cooling or warming enough for the body? Is it appropriate in this season? When exactly and with what should it be given? And so, shatavari is not a one-size-fits-all women’s health herb. We have so many herbs and formulas that are chosen for not only the women’s health issue but the woman herself.

 

 

Are there any specific tips ayurveda recommends for breast health?

Breast massage! Ayurveda recommends daily self massage with oil (abhyanga) as a health promotion practice. It’s meant for the whole body, but special attention around the breasts, shoulders and armpits helps to clear stagnant lymph and prevent breast issues. In general, sesame oil is a good choice in cool weather and coconut oil in warm weather. Starting from the head and working down the to the toes, massage the body using rhythmic, gentle strokes and a good amount of oil. Massage the breasts using small circles in lines from the nipples outwards, then use gentle strokes under the armpits and around the shoulders.

In ayurveda, we take care of any specific part of the body by taking care of the whole (and vice versa). Nourishing and healthy food, proper exercise, good lifestyle habits, and care for the mind and emotions are all part of breast care.

 

 

What are some of your favorite ayurvedic practices for women? 

Slowing down during menstruation. It’s an intense time and the body is best supported by rest. I recommend NOT exercising during menstruation, or at least the first heavy days

Switching from tampons and menstrual cups to pads or Thinx is another wonderful practice. During menstruation, a downward energy called apana vata  pushes the blood out. If that blood can’t come out, apana vata’s flow is disrupted; sort of stuck. This may cause issues like cramps and low back pain. So let apana out! Choose pads over tampons.

One of the best things you’ve done for your health? Worse?

Best thing: embracing routine. I used to have no routine at all  and thought my freedom was freeing. It was actually making me ill. Bringing rhythm into my daily life has given me the freedom of good energy and a happy mind.

Worst thing: laser treatments on my face.  Years ago I went in to have some broken capillaries lasered away. A good salesman told me I needed more and sadly, I bought in. Since then my skin is very sensitive and prone to discoloration.

 

Who inspires you?

My ayurvedic teachers and mentors continue to inspire me – their teaching are deep in my heart. Right now Dr. Lad is the forefront of my mind as I travel to India to study with him. He’s an incredible ayurvedic doctor and teacher. At the core of everything he teaches is love; love for ourselves and for others.

Do you have a morning and/or evening routine? If so, what does it look like?

I have both, and I know they’re what give me such great energy and sound sleep. My morning routine sounds like a lot but over the years it’s become part of me: I wake up early, brush my teeth and scrape my tongues, swish some oil, have hot water, move my body, do pranayama and chant mantras, and on more spacious days give myself abhyanga. And, I don’t look at my phone until I’m done. That last part is especially transformational.

 

         

 

What advice would you give to women who might be struggling with their health?

Have faith that your body can heal. And know that sometimes it’s the smallest shifts that create the biggest change. In the US we have this mentality that only huge efforts bring results. It’s simply not true. Add new practices into your life slowly, as what comes slowly lasts. Get rid of bad habits gradually, so that you don’t resent the healthy path and give it up altogether. And be kind to yourself. Your body is listening to your mind. You mind must believe to get better.

 

How do you manage stress?  

Daily pranayama (yogic breathing exercises). I definitely still get stressed, though, and for me its more about prevention than cure: saying not to excess activity so that I don’t overwhelm myself and making sure I get good sleep.

How do you celebrate yourself?

What a beautiful question! I celebrate my true self – my soul – by taking care of my body – its temple.

Favorite piece of advice/wisdom you’ve ever received?

You can’t pour water into an overturned vessel.

 

 

If you could leave the reader with one thing, what would it be? 

It’s our daily self care that creates our health and wellbeing.

 

  Face Wash: Chickpea Flour + Water

 

What resources on women’s health would you recommend? ( Books, podcasts, health practitioners, etc.)

 

On rotation or favorite:

 

Where you can find Julie:

 

All images © Julie Bernier

Julie Bernier • Healing With Ayurveda

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