An Introduction to Ayurveda
The word Ayurveda is from the Sanskrit language and translates to mean the Science of Life. Ayur- meaning life, and Veda is the sacred knowledge, wisdom, or science. It is the sister science to traditional Yoga, and therefore derived from India. Yoga as a lifestyle is not just about movement (or asana, as the postures are called), it is considered the science of the Self. In other words, it is the practice of self awareness and the Sanskrit word Yoga means "to yoke" or union. This increased self awareness eventually leads to enlightenment, or union with the Divine consciousness. Ancient sages developed the practice of Yoga in order to meditate longer. So in theory, Yoga is a spiritual practice that is implemented to transcend the limitations of the mind. These same sages are the ones who cognized Ayurveda. It was not discovered like other medical disciplines, it was channeled.
The Vedas are the oldest known texts in the world and are dated to be about 5,000 years old. Before these texts were recorded, Vedic lineages were passed down orally. That makes Yoga and Ayurveda the oldest medical sciences in the world, but they are more than just medical theory. Ayurveda is timeless because of it's very nature. The purpose of Ayurveda is to recognize that we are one with nature and to live a more balanced lifestyle with the natural rhythms of nature. It recognizes that we are all different and that dis-ease manifests differently in different people. We all have a unique constitution, and the goal of Ayurveda is to heal the root cause of imbalance. It is a complete, holistic system that treats the entire person, as well as uses integrative and palliative approaches to return to a balanced state.
Yoga and Ayurveda are a synergistic system, one cannot be utilized without the other. Both help us to achieve our true nature, and teach us that we are nature itself- connected to something greater than ourselves. Ayurveda teaches us that we are made up of the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. We use these elements to create balance in body, mind, and soul. In this way, we are all born with a unique constitution made up of three Doshas. The doshas are bio-energetic systems that are made up of combinations of these five elements:
Vata = Air + Ether
Pitta = Fire + Water
Kapha = Water + Earth
You can have any combination of these doshas in your constitution, but all three are ever present in our body. There is also the potential to be Tri-doshic, having all three doshas balanced in perfect harmony at the time of birth. However, this is incredibly rare. Our inherent constitution is called our Prakriti, and we want to maintain our doshic state as close to our Prakriti as possible. Prakriti is what perfect health looks like for the individual, and when your doshas are imbalanced that is called Vikriti. We use these doshas as a measurement system to determine the level of imbalance, so that we can return to our Prakriti. You can determine your Prakriti and Vikriti by taking a short Dosha Quiz.
By having a better understanding of our true nature, we cultivate a higher awareness of when these elements are out of balance in our mind or body. For instance, I am predominately Pitta so I know that I am inherently more prone to "firey" conditions. When my Pitta is imbalanced, that can look like inflammation in the body, gastric reflux, or a hot temper. Pitta rules the blood, liver, skin, and eyes, so excess Pitta can manifest as disease in these areas of the body. Eye problems, skin conditions, liver disease and circulation issues are all signs of a Pitta imbalance.
In Ayurveda, like attracts like. That is why we always use the opposite qualities to create balance. So when my Pitta acts up, I know I need more cooling and calming foods, Yoga practices, and herbs. Balance is an individual journey learned over time. The better you know your body and yourself, the better your ability to maintain balance in all areas of your life. Disease is created from environmental, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual imbalances. Yoga and Ayurveda give you the necessary tools to combat the root cause of disease through diet and lifestyle practices, as well as herbs, crystal, color, and sound healing, Vedic astrology, palmistry, and energy manipulation.
Dr. David Frawley is a well known Vedic scholar, and he said it best when describing Ayurveda:
"Ayurvedic medicine is certainly one of the oldest systems with a consistent theoretical basis and practical clinical application. Into it's ancient well of profound healing wisdom, some of the greatest doctors and sages have poured their finest insights and discoveries. Yet, to fully appreciate the nectar of this ancient Eastern healing wisdom, Westerners need to overcome their literal and linear process of thought to enter into a non-linear reasoning approach. Therefore, a perspective grounded in an intuitive vision of the whole rather than the microscopic view of contemporary science is necessary. The strength of Ayurveda lies in it's broad, all-encompassing view of the dynamic interrelationship between organic physiological processes, external factors including climate, life work, and diet along with internal emotional stages. In contrast, Western science takes a more particular view based upon specific molecular structure and chemistry.
Ayurveda with its Tridosha system is able to provide a complete understanding of the cause of health in terms of a metabolic balance. Disease is simply understood as in imbalance between the nerve energy (vata), catabolic fire energy (pitta), and anabolic nutritive energy (kapha). All foods and experiences have an effect on the overall balance of these respective doshas. This is proven by the fact that through adjusting the balance of diet only, many health problems are alleviated. The fundamental error of Western Medicine medicine is to treat the disease and not the patient. "
If you want to take a Dosha quiz to determine your constitutional makeup, I highly recommend Banyan Botanicals' Dosha Quiz. It will also provide insight into where you are currently imbalanced, and offer solutions to correct it. You can also schedule an initial consultation with yours truly to get to the bottom of your health problems!