The diet, exercise, and community principles that keep centenarians healthy in Dan Buettner’s Blue Zone communities will sound familiar to anyone who follows Ayurveda.
Blue Zone Principles
In the best-selling book, The Blue Zones of Happiness, Dan Buettner discovered nine common lifestyle practices shared by centenarian cultures around the world. I thought it was time to revisit this invaluable insight.
In places like Loma Linda, California; Costa Rica; the islands of Okinawa; Sardinia; and Greece’s Ikaria, people are living healthier, happier, and longer than anywhere else in the world.
Buettner and his team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists studied these diverse cultures and came up with the Power 9 Principles–or the collective lifestyle characteristics employed by centenarian cultures (see below).
9 Ways Blue Zone Wisdom Compares to Ayurveda
When we compare the lifestyles of centenarians with ancient Ayurvedic lifestyle practices, we find some strong similarities:
- Move Naturally
- Blue Zones: None of the centenarians studied belonged to gyms, competed in triathlons or even worked out, but they all moved naturally throughout the day.
- Ayurveda: Ayurveda suggests exercising to only 50% of your capacity. Nose breathing exercises and yoga, as written in my book Body, Mind and Sport, are two strategies to infuse modern workouts with ancient longevity wisdom.
- Find Your Purpose
- Blue Zones: Centenarians live for something more than just surviving or making money. There is a more profound purpose that gives deeper meaning and joy to their lives.
- Ayurveda: The Law of Dharma is the law of purpose. Finding one’s dharma or one’s purpose in life is given major emphasis in an Ayurvedic lifestyle.
- Slow Down
- Blue Zones: Blue Zone centenarians do not work 60- or 80-hour workweeks, eat in their cars or in front of their computers, and go, go, go. They take time each day to socialize, pray, nap, and relax.
- Ayurveda: Yoga, breathing, meditation, and prayer are the numerous ways an Ayurvedic lifestyle embraces the need to downshift, chill, smell the roses, and be present.
- Stop Eating Before You are Full
- Blue Zones: The 80% rule, which is still practiced by the Okinawans, is to eat until you are only 80% full. Blue Zoners tend to eat their main meal at midday, and finish eating for the day in the late afternoon or early evening.
- Ayurveda: An Ayurvedic lifestyle suggests eating only until your stomach is three-quarters full. Eating is done in a relaxed environment (never on the run), and the biggest meal is at midday with early and small suppers—all Blue Zone practices!
- Eat Mostly Plants
- Blue Zones: People in Blue Zones tend to eat predominately plant-based, non-processed food with very little meat. Most eat small amounts of meat just five times a month. The American centenarians in Loma Linda, California, are vegetarians as part of their Seventh Day Adventist religious beliefs.
- Ayurveda: Ayurveda also suggests a plant-based diet, and has so for thousands of years. Meat in Ayurveda is a medicine and is used only as such.
See also LifeSpa’s 3-Season Diet Guide
- Take Joy in Small Indulgences
- Blue Zones: One way many Blue Zone people downshift is by having a small glass of wine around 5 p.m. This helps them relax and unwind and, of course, de-stress. (Generally, the Adventists in Loma Linda avoid alcohol.)
- Ayurveda: Alcohol is considered dulling for the mind in Ayurveda, so wine at 5 p.m. is replaced with relaxation techniques including yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation. Bottomline: We need to turn down the stress volume on a daily basis.
- Build Community
- Blue Zones: People who live longer, healthier, happier lives often have agroup of friends that support and practice a healthy lifestyle.
- Ayurveda: This is called sattva in Ayurveda. An Ayurvedic lifestyle includes immersing yourself in a sattvic environment, with people who are healthy, kind, and loving.
- Keep the Faith
- Blue Zones: Most Blue Zoners belong to a faith-based community. Domination doesn’t matter. As community-oriented people, they thrive and feel safe in trusted groups.
- Ayurveda: While Ayurveda is not a religion by any means, it comes from India, where worship is a natural part of daily life. Regularly loving a God (in any form) helps all of us love more freely, be compassionate, and give to others.
- Family (Given or Chosen) First
- Blue Zone: Centenarians live with their extended families. There are few old folks homes in Blue Zone communities. The elderly are revered for their wisdom and are looked up to in society.
- Ayurveda: When a couple is married in India, the wife moves into the groom’s parents’ home. Grandparents and great grandparents are respected, as they are the kings and queens of the castle.
Blue Zone research has confirmed that these are strategies and lifestyle practices that have been in place for thousands of years. The thriving centenarians we see in Blue Zones are positive proof that this ancient wisdom can deliver more than just longevity to anyone willing to try.
It’s not just about living long. It is more about living happily and peacefully, and living “the dream”–not the “American dream” to be rich by 40, but the dream in which you fully enjoy and are grateful for such a precious life.