Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, offers a holistic approach to health and well-being. In today’s fast-paced and often stressful world, introducing Ayurvedic principles to children and teens can empower them with invaluable tools to lead balanced and mindful lives.
As a researcher, mother, and clinician who works with families, I have identified useful Ayurvedic strategies that can help children foster self-awareness, healthy habits, and resilience. Here are my eight favorite ways to share this profound gift that will nurture their mind, body, and soul for years to come:
1. Simplify Ayurvedic concepts
When teaching Ayurveda to children and teens, it’s essential to present the concepts in a simple and relatable way. Use age-appropriate language and analogies to explain the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) and their characteristics. I liken the doshas to superhero qualities, for example, with Vata as the airy and creative superhero, Pitta as the fiery and focused one, and Kapha as the grounded, reliable, and nurturing hero. This approach makes the doshas more accessible and memorable for young minds.
2. Connect Ayurveda to nature
Children and teens often have a natural fascination with the world around them. Use this curiosity to introduce them to Ayurveda’s connection with nature. Take them on nature walks to observe the qualities of the seasons—such as the light and airy Vata energy in fall, the fiery and transformative Pitta energy in summer, and the cool and stable Kapha energy in winter. Encourage them to notice how these seasonal changes may influence their own energy, food choices, and emotions.
3. Share mindful eating and cooking
Introduce the importance of mindful eating to children and teens. Teach them to savor their food, chew slowly, and eat in a calm environment. Engage them in simple cooking activities, involving them in meal preparation using Ayurvedic ingredients and spices that have many health benefits (some of which I’ve personally studied1).
Over time, your children will notice that the food makes them feel physically and mentally healthier. They will begin to discover the cause-effect connections and become inquisitive. As their interest develops, you can discuss the effects of the spices and other ingredients. Together, you will create cherished memories and valuable skills, and your children will grow up knowing the kitchen as the joyous, therapeutic center of the home.
4. Enjoy Yoga, Meditation, and Breathwork
Incorporate yoga, meditation, and breathwork exercises into lessons for children and teens. These are invaluable life skills for stress management2, self-regulation3, and focus4. Yoga poses can be taught playfully and imaginatively, inviting them to embody different animals or elements to foster mind-body awareness. Teach them basic pranayama techniques, such as belly breathing or the calming left nostril breathing method, to manage stress and promote emotional well-being.
5. Encourage Self-care rituals
Encourage young individuals to establish simple self-care rituals that align with Ayurvedic principles. Teach them the benefits of oiling their feet before bedtime, engaging in calming bedtime routines, or practicing gentle eye exercises after screen time to support their vision. These rituals not only promote physical well-being but also instill a sense of self-nurturing and mindfulness.
6. Lean into Creativity
Foster creativity by involving children and teens in crafts and activities that involve mind-body. Create vision boards together, where they can express their desires and intentions for a balanced and fulfilling life. Make herbal sachets or teas using aromatic herbs like lavender or chamomile to promote relaxation and better sleep.
7. Promote Mindful Technology Use
Incorporate discussions about the impact of technology on well-being. Encourage children and teens to be mindful of their screen time and to take regular breaks from devices. Teach them Ayurvedic practices, such as eye exercises or digital detoxes, to reduce the negative effects of excessive screen use. Remind them about the gifts of nature to nurture and fulfill us.
8. Foster a positive body image
Ayurveda celebrates individual uniqueness and teaches self-acceptance. Encourage children and teens to embrace their unique qualities and appreciate their bodies. Teach them to respect and care for their bodies through nourishing foods, movement, and positive self-talk.
As an Ayurveda researcher and practitioner, I believe introducing the framework to children and teens can empower them with lifelong tools for self-awareness. By instilling the principles of Ayurveda at a young age, we nurture a generation of individuals who are in tune with their mind, body, and soul and better equipped to navigate life’s challenges with balance, resilience, and a deep sense of well-being.