“It takes courage and determination to find balance in an imbalanced society because you aren't getting any help. Your environment is always going to be more powerful than you but your persistence will inspire others and eventually, your solitary light becomes a firework display that lights up an ever-darkening sky.”
Tarik is a qualified and experienced yoga teacher/trainer for the British Wheel of Yoga, and an Ayurvedic practitioner. He runs workshops and courses in yoga and Ayurveda for yoga practitioners and teachers, and specialises in training yoga teachers with an Ayurvedic approach. He also runs a small Ayurveda clinic in King’s Cross, London. Tarik has been teaching yoga since 1997 and has had a wide variety of training including in the Iyengar, Satyananda and Scaravelli traditions. His main approach is to help students establish a sound physical practice that is appropriate for their Ayurvedic constitution as a foundation for deeper, subtle meditative work. He can be found giving talks and advice on yoga and Ayurveda on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. For more information please visit his website www.yogawell.co.uk.
“Money is just numbers on a screen these days — and love is still free!”
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
Ayurveda is the perfect receptacle for holding everything i consider dear in life. It was formulated from some of the most profound schools of philosophy in the world and promotes a truly holistic view of life that has order as its driver but love at its heart. It takes effort to live an Ayurvedic life, but it is a labour of love that honours human life with a reverence for all the natural cycles in which we live. It uses profound and far-reaching maps that reveal landscapes hidden to ordinary perception. It uses the metaphorical five elements, the three Doshas, Vata, Pitta, Kapha, astrology, yoga, mantra and many other tools and perspectives that put us into a magical world that is greater than what we see with our five senses. It has saved not only my health but also my soul because it always offers a way forward and a way through the quagmire of life's difficulties, if you look deeply enough. That's why Ayurveda means “Knowledge of Life.” It is far more than just an ancient healing system. It is an entire world view.
When did you discover it? How long have you been practising it?
I came into Ayurveda by accident really. In my early thirties, I became a yoga teacher and I was already fully immersed in the path to yoga. I had left my full time job as a lecturer and decided to spend some time living in an Ashram. I had no idea what I would do next or where life would take me. Then, I overheard a random conversation about a new degree in Ayurveda that was starting in London back in the early noughties and my light bulb just came on! Within weeks, I had signed up and I was on my way to creating a new life. I graduated in 2003 and have been practising and teaching ever since.
What drew you to Ayurveda?
I had already spent a number of years training in other health modalities like aromatherapy and massage, but I really wanted to go deeper and devote myself to one of the so called “big guns.” I had already spent many years learning western astrology, so I wanted a system that would build on that. Ayurveda uses the same 5-element theory and integrates many aspects of yoga and Indian philosophy, so it felt like the natural choice as opposed to Chinese medicine (which I subsequently went on to study) or osteopathy.
Has it helped you with anything major?
Yes. It has helped me manage back pain, depression, weight gain and inflammation. My health has gone through many ups and downs but Ayurveda has always held strong throughout.
Is Ayurveda part of your everyday life or just for your medicine cabinet or fall-back routine?
One of the most important things I learned about Ayurveda is knowing how to use it. It is not enough to follow textbook advice. Herbs and treatment interventions all have an individual response to your constitution. The highest skill in Ayurveda is intuitive discrimination, which is something yoga has helped me cultivate. The right herb on paper might be the wrong herb for a client and that skill is not easily learned.
What are your top 3 Ayurvedic tips that have worked for you?
1. To make yoga an integral part of your daily routine. Ayurveda without yoga loses its potency very quickly.
2. To be willing to keep revisiting your lifestyle, daily and seasonal routines. Things are changing all the time. You have to keep applying the basic principles again and again. Adjusting to change is at the heart of Ayurveda and there is no end to it.
3. To always put Vata imbalances at the very top of the list when you are unsure about what is going wrong. You can be sure that if you are unwell for long enough, it will always be involved.
What surprised you most about Ayurveda?
That how practitioners apply the rules is not always true. The true skill of being a practitioner is to really enter into the heart of the client and try and find out what is really true for them. There are the rules and then there is real life.
Did you integrate it gradually or overnight for any particular reason?
I am still trying to integrate it! It took me a good 10 years to adjust my diet and lifestyle adequately to have a lasting impact on my health and wellbeing.
Do your children/family eat an Ayurvedic diet? And if they do, do they know it’s Ayurveda or do they just think of it as home cooking?
I come from a Cypriot heritage. My family don't follow Ayurvedic protocols in the classical sense but this is part of the skill of practice. There is no point in trying to introduce Indian culture to a Cypriot grandmother. The true value of the teaching is to use the skills to identify what is going wrong and use Ayurvedic principles to correct them. This will not necessarily include eating ghee or drinking takra (lassi). Ayurvedic principles can be used to adjust any diet and lifestyle imbalance regardless of the cultural origin.
What is your favourite Ayurvedic recipe or go-to ingredient?
My own version of kitchari with spices, onions and a hint of garlic.
How does Ayurveda fit into your day-to-day routines?
I am a yoga teacher and practitioner so I try to start early with meditation and practice and try to make lunch my biggest meal unless I am eating out to socialise. I am aware of Vata-aggravating social elements like blue screens and coffee and it is always useful to marry and apply the latest scientific discoveries with ancient Ayurvedic thought. Science confirms what Ayurveda always seemed to know but could't prove.
What do you wish was easier in our society to make an Ayurvedic lifestyle more accessible?
What worries me the most is the entrenched scientific paradigm on which the NHS is based. Even if one percent of the budget was spent on promoting so-called "unproven" treatment protocols, then wellness stats would improve dramatically. It has already been proven with other modalities like acupuncture.
Do people around you/in your circle of friends know about Ayurveda?
Not really. It is slow to take off in this country because it is not a quick fix like acupuncture. It is more of a lifestyle fix and that takes a lot of courage, time and effort. We are caught up in a giant social machine that consumes our time, energy and creativity in exchange for money. The true value of life is being sold out to virtual value, which is all that money is. Money is just numbers on a screen these days — and love is still free!
What’s the one thing you would encourage everyone to try or you think would benefit the majority of people’s health for the better?
To go to bed earlier. Lack of sleep is one of the biggest stressors and any other changes come a poor second to its importance. Coffee is fine (unless Vata is completely out of control), but drink your last cup by lunch time, especially if Vata is the main problem.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Keep trying. It takes courage and determination to find balance in an imbalanced society because you aren't getting any help. Your environment is always going to be more powerful than you but your persistence will inspire others and eventually, your solitary light becomes a firework display that lights up an ever-darkening sky.