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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

― Precious Mwansa-Chisa

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I have always dreamt of finding that ultimate formula to a happy and healthy life. However, I hadn’t factored in the importance of a well-functioning digestive system. I have gone through years of experiencing discomfort without really understanding its source. So, naturally I tried a million diets, exercises, lifestyle changes and therapies. Yes, a million is an exaggeration, I am only 30. The thing is, it is quite difficult to stick to some of these changes. Also, in the past few years, I have moved cities and moved house so many times that sticking to a routine becomes an extra burden. Fortunately, I do enjoy some healthy habits. Take for instance my love for jogging, dancing and intense workouts. But I also enjoy other, less healthy habits such as indulging in regular morning coffees, chocolate and cake. I know these aren’t good for my digestive health, I mean sugar, caffeine and refined carbs! Who am I kidding? But the thought of giving them up can be overwhelming.

At the start of this year, I noticed the pattern of extremes in my habits and wrote this down as something I have to look into. I decided to work on being more consistent in my efforts to achieve ultimate health. I have realised that if I were to reach my goal of being happy and healthy, I would have to do it gradually and progressively.

In that vein, I decided to dedicate this year to the development of my personal yoga practice. I wanted to explore a more spiritual side to yoga and decided to enrol in a yoga teacher’s training course at Rishikesh Yoga Teacher’s Training Centre. The symbolism of Rishikesh is what drew me to the city. Known as the birthplace of yoga, with views of the Himalayas, it seemed like the perfect place to journey into a more balanced and healthier version of me.

Lubumbe (right) in an ashtanga yoga session

Putting wellness to the test

It’s August 2018 and I am in Rishikesh, the schedule at the Rishikesh Yoga Teacher’s Training Centre is gruelling yet exciting. Twenty-eight days of submerging oneself into the wonderful world of yoga.  The daily schedule consists of early rising, including sun salutations during our hatha practice at 5:45, followed by pranayama (breathing techniques). The day continues with a healthy breakfast at 8:30, anatomy at 9:15, teaching methodology at 10:30, yogic philosophy at noon, lunch at 1 p.m. and then finally after a two and half hour break we had ashtanga yoga practice to end the day. All meals are strictly vegetarian.

With such a schedule, I became less inclined to indulge in my usual habits such as my morning coffee, which is replaced by a cup of lemon and ginger tea in the morning. I slept on time in order to rise early, fit and ready for the day. I made sure my body was well hydrated, drinking loads more water than I usually would.

I had hoped that my digestion would improve. To my surprise nothing much changed. To the contrary I was constipated, nauseous, sluggish and feeling weighed down. Everything one does not want to feel while doing inversions and all kinds of exciting yoga postures. I was hopelessly in need of a solution and fast, too. This led me to Ayurveda, an ancient system of Indian traditional medicine.

Transitioning to a travelling Ayurvedic yogi

I began to think about how to take advantage of my two and a half hour daily break and learn something to complement my yoga course. I decided on Ayurveda.

My first encounter with Ayurveda was about five years ago in Berlin. I was at a very confusing time in my life, filled with worry. An Indian friend of mine had come to visit and she was shocked at the sight of me. My usually clear skin was rough and dry and my lively eyes had become dull. My friend introduced me to a few Ayurvedic therapies I could use to help treat my skin, such as turmeric and yoghurt paste. She showed me a few spices I could use in my cooking, such as asafoetida or hing, and advised me to look into Ayurveda as a way to manage my diet and reduce toxins and waste materials in the body.

During my introduction to Ayurveda in Berlin, I only managed to scratch the surface of this comprehensive ancient knowledge. So now in 2018, back in India I decided this would be the best time to pick it up again. I found a school and enrolled into an Ayurveda foundation at the Vedarjana School of Ayurveda. I had daily classes with Dr Satinder Rusetra and we took the time to delve into the foundation of a healthy lifestyle and diet. Here is where it finally clicked. The importance of a well-functioning waste elimination system is not to be underestimated. He explained the effects of movement, change and interruption on our system. For those of us who love to travel, it is important to factor in the effects of movement on our bodies ability to digest and absorb nutrients, just like we factor in diet, location, season and time of day.

Now imagine how traveling to three continents in four months has impacted my body. I am writing this article from Berlin, after having visited Lusaka, Johannesburg, Rishikesh, New Delhi, London via Nairobi and Mumbai. I have gained a level awareness that helps to accept changes in my bowel movement as part and parcel of my traveling and movement filled lifestyle. As such changes in location, food, water, seasons, time affect my system, which is then reflected through skin and hair. In turn, I have to make some minimal changes such as using oils and adding more healthy fats to my diet in order to lubricate my internal organs and moisturise my skin.

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