Ayurveda is often misunderstood and misrepresented as being an Indian system of Holistic Nutrition. Although Ayurveda absolutely highlights the importance of diet and offers much in the way of nutritional recommendations specific for each unique individual and their needs, its scope is so much wider and broader than this. Ayurveda is one of the oldest traditional medical systems known to the world today. Original texts date back to beyond the 6th Century BC , and before that Ayurveda was an orally transmitted tradition - some claim it has existed for almost 10,000 years!
Ayurveda can be translated as: "AYUS" - Life & "VEDA" - Science = Science of Life, or more fittingly, Science FOR Life.
The Intention of Ayurveda?
Ayurveda cannot be limited to it’s etymology, nor its 7000+ year old history. It is not found only in the ways it heals, nor in the culture of India from where it arises. It is not a medical system to be adopted by the mind and it is definitely not an ‘alternative’ approach to health.
So, then, what is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is your very nature. It is your natural state.
The word literally means ‘knowledge of life’, and that wisdom is inherent in every living being, including you. Understanding this, we can begin to see that health, on every level - physically, emotionally, mentally & spiritually - is our very birthright. So often we believe the insidious thoughts that tell us otherwise, that have conditioned us to believe that imbalance and suffering is natural and that harmony and health are only for a select few. Don’t get swallowed up by that tired mind-matter. Instead, rest into the knowing that existence is found in your every cell. Breathe that in. Absorb that. This is the first medicine. You are full with the possibility to live in balance and ease.
Ayurveda simply reminds us of what we already know. It points us towards our inherent freedom and all of the ways we can live more in accordance with the natural rhythms of life. Ayurveda returns us to Nature.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it as simple as saturating yourself with Life; found in every molecule of this beautiful earth. Take time to sit under the trees, to lean against their trunks, to lie into the soft hold of the grass and to gaze into the vastness of the sky. Go pick strawberries, feel the tickle of the plants on your fingers and the earth cradling your knees, and taste the warm sweetness of the berries ripened in the heat of the July sun. Feel the aliveness of your heart, the love you have for the people in your life and the miracle of being alive. Stop to acknowledge the preciousness of each day, take time to be still, and each morning as you wake, whisper thank you to existence.
This is Ayurveda.
Ayurveda understands that each person has a unique body/mind system and as a result, each person's path toward optimal health is unique. Ayurveda highlights the importance of our diet, lifestyle and plant medicine to maintain homeostasis and a rich and liberated life. Ayurveda helps individuals to curate the types of lifestyle, food, colors, aromas, sounds, yoga and touch therapy that will create a state of balance and harmony at all levels. When the body and mind are in harmony, optimal physiology is experienced, healing takes place, and our natural freedom is accessed.
Ayurveda defines physiology in terms of three forces called "Doshas". The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata governs the physiology of motion in the body. Pitta governs the physiology of metabolism. Kapha governs the physiology of structure. Each person has all three of these doshas within them. The balance of these three doshas at the moment of conception defines what Ayurveda calls one's original constitution or "Prakruti". These doshas also fluctuate in accordance with how we live our lives, and as they increase or decrease they cause different conditions, illnesses and dis-ease in both body and mind. This is called "Vikruti". The goal of Ayurveda is to restore the proper balance of these physiological forces and in turn bring greater ease and effortlessness to our embodied lives. This is accomplished by various means, but especially focusing upon the wisdom of attuning one's senses properly and living a personal lifestyle aligned for health and wholeness. In addition, Ayurveda is one of the most advanced herbal sciences in the world. Herbal medicine plays an important role in Ayurveda and much of the plant wisdom is found in the simplicity of the spicing we use in our kitchens.
What is Health?
Ayurveda believes that full health is our birthright! The Sanskrit word for health, 'svastha', is a state in which the mind, soul, and senses interact harmoniously to experience a feeling of Self, wellness, and even bliss. Achieving this may seem like a lofty goal to those of us who have normalized disease, but Ayurveda provides a profound chest of insightful tools to help us get there.
May the gift of Ayurveda bless your life!