Aye Ayurveda?

While studying hundreds of dietary theories, Ayurveda was one of the most interesting to me because as old as this practice is, it acknowledges and embraces the individuality of each person. The short version of Ayurvedic philosophy is that “everything is poison, or everything is medicine”. It all depends on what benefits your body and what does not, thus emphasizing everyone has a unique health pattern, and no one approach can cure-all.  Like all holistic health systems, Ayurveda emphasizes the unshakable connections between the body, mind, and spirit. In Ayurveda, perfect health is defined as “a balance between body, mind, spirit, and social wellbeing.”

Ayurveda is ancient Indian medicine. The primary source of Ayurveda medicine is the Charaka Samhita, which is an ancient written text in Ayurveda medicine in the Sanskrit language. It is felt to be one of the oldest and the most important ancient authoritative writings on Ayurveda. The meaning of Ayurveda is “knowledge of life.” This path of knowledge is over 5,000 years old, and it aims to bring a sense of peace, purpose, joy, happiness, and everlasting spirited health to those who practice it.

Ayurveda medicine can apply to everyday life. It highlights the idea that every single one of us is unique and no two human bodies have the same- bio-individuality. What may work for someone may not for another. Five elements of Ayurveda medicine are also considered the fundamental building blocks or pillars of nature. All things in the universe, both living and nonliving, are joined together. In fact, everything in the universe is actually made of the same five gross natural elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. In Ayurveda, there is such a strong connection between oneself and the environment around them. When we are connected to our inner self, our environment, the people around us we create balance which ensures us good health. When we retain this balance, by interacting with our environment in a positive and healthy way, we will remain healthy.

However, when we disrupt our balance by our lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, stress and relationships, we create physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances. These imbalances can introduce and create an environment that is susceptible to disease. We, as human beings, are ultimately responsible for our choices and actions that can either create or disrupt harmony and balance.

Now I do not advocate for any one particular diet, practice, or other, but instead, I try and focus on the elements of different holistic practices that will bring myself the benefits I am seeking and Ayurvedic Medicine happens to be the one I am choosing to focus on.

True to Ayurvedic medicine, everything is experienced as a mixture of 20 different Qualities, or attributes, which describe everything in our Physical and Mental world.

  • Oily, Dry
  • Heavy, Light
  • Slow, Sharp 
  • Soft, Hard
  • Slimy, Rough
  • Viscous, Liquid
  • Gross, Subtle
  • Stable, Mobile
  • Cloudy, Clear
  • Cold, Hot

An excess or deficiency in one of these qualities can lead to an imbalance in health. These opposites serve as a guiding light to effectively diagnose and treat an ailment. Ayurveda believes that only opposite qualities can combat the ailment. For example, when you are happy, it might feel light, mobile and clear. Anger might feel hot and rough. These qualities also instruct us how to find balance in our diet & lifestyle. When the weather is hot and dry, we might find that our body, mind or emotions become hot and dry as well. We could try taking a stroll in cool, light, moist air, cool or moist foods can help too, such as watermelons, or berries. Maybe even a heavy, cool nap. When the body is experiencing something cold, wet and heavy, like a mucusy cough, it can be helpful to drink some channel-opening, warming, sharp, dry ginger tea or to sit in the hot, dry, sun for 20 minutes.

Ayurveda medicine also applies the principles of the three doshas and prakruti.  Ayurvedic philosophy refers to prakruti, as the specific constitution that people are born with. Prakruti is established at birth and is a unique combination of physical and psychological characteristics that affect the way each person functions. Prakruti never changes but can be constantly influenced by a myriad of factors whether they are internal, external or environmental, like day and night, seasonal changes, diet, lifestyle choices, and more. Ayurveda teaches that three qualities, called doshas, form important characteristics of the prakruti, or constitution. These doshas are called vata, pitta, and kapha, and they all have a specific impact on bodily functions.

The Vata Dosha is the energy within ourselves that is responsible for controlling all the motions in our body. This includes the beating of our heart, blinking, blood circulation, and breathing. If your Vata dosha is in balance, then you will have vitality and creativity in your life, but if it is not balanced, then you will experience more anxiety and fear. 

More: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-philosophy-ayurvedic-medicine#

The Pitta Dosha energy is responsible for controlling your metabolism, including the percentage of nutrition in your body, your digestive system, your body’s temperature, and your body’s method of absorption. If your pitta dosha is balanced, then everything is in sync and is working in balance. This will provide you with contentment and boost your intelligence. On the other hand, if your pitta dosha is not balanced, your health will deteriorate, you will experience anger almost all the time, and you may begin to develop ulcers.

More: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-philosophy-ayurvedic-medicine#

The Kapha Dosha controls your immune system, growth, body moisturization, and internal water supply. If it is out of balance, it will give rise to feelings of envy and insecurity, but if it is balanced, you will experience feelings of forgiveness and love.

More: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-philosophy-ayurvedic-medicine#

Individual doshas are constantly fluctuating and are influenced by eating, exercising, and relating or connecting to others. Many factors can cause imbalance, including a poor diet, too much or too little physical or mental exertion, chemicals, or germs.

The Ayurvedic approach?

Ayurvedic Medicine practices both preventative medicine and curative medicine, much like traditional medicine.

Preventive medicine seeks to create and maintain health and longevity within the individual by emphasizing and defining each person’s prakruti (or constitution) and creating daily regimens and habits to create balance and support of that prakruti.

These routines and habits can include everything from diet and exercise to herbal therapies, massage, meditation, and social behavior and positive relationships.

Curative medicine seeks to heal illness by one or more of these approaches

  • Internal measures, including shodhana (detoxification) and shamana (methods used to improve quality of life via palliative care).
  • External measures, including snehana (oil treatments), svedana (steam therapy using herbal steam), and use of herbal pastes.
  • Surgical methods, including removal of tissues, organs, and harmful growths
  • Mental and spiritual therapies, called daivya chikitsa
  • Herbal measures, including rasa shashtra (the use of various herbal and trace metal formulations)

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It is important to note that only a trained Ayurvedic practitioner can accurately determine a person’s prakruti and dosha. This classification is based on a thorough examination, which includes observing one’s facial features, body build, way of walking, speech patterns, pulse, and much more. For more information, see What Happens In a Visit to an Ayurvedic Practitioner.