Many people in the west are turning to the world’s oldest holistic medical system, Ayurveda, to restore the balance between their body, mind and spirit. Ayurveda’s main principle is to achieve physical and mental harmony in alignment with our true natural state. Whilst western medicine is comparatively young, Ayurveda has been practised for more than 5,000 years originating from ancient India, although its relevance remains very much in the here and now. “A complete system was given to mankind from the Divine creator, to improve the quality of life, by being one with the universe. Acknowledging that we are not a greater species than any others . . . Once we calm our ego and sense of entitlement, we allow nature to heal our body and mind the way it was built to.” ~ Unknown ~ Have you ever been to a health professional with an ailment and been prescribed medication off the bat without any question of what you eat or whether you exercise? Isn’t it common sense that when it comes to your health, that all aspects of your life should be reviewed holistically? It’s madness how such important factors are largely ignored in “modern” medicine, which has its place, but there are also other options out there. This article aims to share another way; Ayurveda, a science with all its mystical charm that is grounded in good old common sense. If you are open to the potential that Ayurveda offers to help you with your health, your life, your happiness, keep on reading. Ayurveda holds an incredible wealth of information and wisdom to educate yourself on self-care and health based on the mind-body connection. Ayurveda looks at you as a whole package. Whether you are feeling low, have gastrointestinal problems, diabetes or anxiety, Ayurveda teaches how everything is interconnected. Without a doubt, your mind and your body are linked. Be warned though, delving into Ayurveda will prompt you to reevaluate your entire lifestyle from your use of cosmetics, changing your sleep patterns, to embracing the power of herbal medicine. Despite Ayurveda’s age, it is still very much relevant to today’s world not to mention it goes hand-in-hand with Yoga, Ayurveda’s more widely popularized sister science or should I say “BFF” if we are keeping with the times?! Either way, if you are open-minded, looking for a new perspective, wishing to educate yourself more about your health or simply seeking something more, Ayurveda is a great place to start.
What does Ayurveda mean? The Sanskrit word “Ayurveda” is composed of two words: “Ayur” means life, and “Veda” means science, knowledge, wisdom, translating to the science or knowledge of life. In Ayurveda, the whole journey of life is considered to be sacred, and to live life to our fullest potential in alignment with our Dharma (life’s purpose), we must be in a state of balanced health and equilibrium of the mind, body, emotions and spirit. The healing science of Ayurveda recognizes that we are all unique and as such recognizes there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health. Instead, Ayurveda prescribes an awareness of our bio-individuality and of how our lifestyle and nutrition practices must be specifically tailored to our identified needs. We are a diverse, wonderful, beautiful bunch and Ayurveda celebrates this within its objectives to maintain optimal health as well as restoring health for those dealing with imbalances.
Where to start with Ayurveda? It is important to understand your life first and foremost in Ayurveda. A life without purpose is no motivation to follow the path of health. Ayurveda’s premise is that life itself is a continuity of consciousness, it is the union of body, mind and soul, much like you may hear in a Yoga class, to breathe and unite your mind, your breath, your body, your being. By listening to your needs by noticing your body’s signals, you become more conscious, aware and clear-thinking. The alternative is zombie-mode, functioning on auto-pilot, out of touch with your body with counterproductive results, maybe painfully bad decisions or life choices that result in unhappiness. Eating terrible foods all the time for instance, rather than listening to the lethargy, headaches and pains that result, would be a slippery slope towards depression and sickness. You can avoid all this with an end-goal in sight, a life purpose. Once you are living with your sense of purpose, Ayurveda treatment also involves a physical, internal purification process, followed by a special diet, using herbal remedies, massage therapy, yoga and exercise as well as meditation. Ayurvedic routines and practices allow you to be at one with your body, to be more aware of the present moment so you can feel truly alive and mindful. The phrase “live long and prosper” springs to mind! I’ve never even watched Star Trek but maybe they knew about this ancient wisdom too.
Ever get road rage? Ayurveda explains everything Ayurveda is also called a play of the Gunas (qualities in Sanskrit) which can be likened to twenty attributes of the body that are also present in everything including the weather, food, activities. There are ten Gunas and each is described with an opposite, for example cold-hot, oily-dry, static-mobile and rough-smooth and they provide the foundation of the diet, routines, activities, herbal medicine and lifestyle in Ayurveda. Additionally, Ayurveda explains there are three basic energies (Sattva, Rajas, Tamas). Tamas is your physical foundation and grounding, rajas give you breath and vitality, sattva is your consciousness and compassion. The balance of these qualities within you affect your temperament and response to situations. Ever get road rage? Then you are in a rajasic state which can be balanced out by eating cooling foods, eating more slowly, avoiding caffeine, doing restorative yoga poses and cooling pranayama. We all individually have these in different levels of each Guna within our bodies in varying degrees, which affect the state of our health. When you have imbalances, you experience negative emotional states. You feel rough around the edges, grumpy, jealous, greedy, short-tempered or anxious, it could be that your Gunas are out of whack! This needs addressing if you want to turn up as your best self every day. Ayurveda teaches that adjusting your behaviors, habits and routines can help amend issues relating to these energies within you. Once you are back in balance with your true nature you can feel creative, loving, calm, understanding, intelligent and start living your best life again.
Ayurveda addresses all aspects of life – The Whole Shebang Contrary to the “mainstream” view, in my opinion, Ayurveda should be the primary system of medicine instead of being referred to as alternative medicine. It has been developed and refined over thousands of years of observation and experience. For me, it’s the real deal, the real medicine, the real way of life that is in tune with nature, and we mere mortals are a part of the ecosystem. Ayurveda recognizes life has four different aspects to it that must all be addressed for optimum health: physical, mental, social and spiritual. Failing to treat the physical body holistically, as interconnected with the other aspects does not make any sense. Depression for instance, ignoring the fact a patient is lonely and needs some human connection or is eating a diet of processed foods and not drinking enough water, prescribing a pill does not address the full picture or resolve all the problems the individual faces. You can think of how each part of your life needs to be fed to maintain health and balance to prevent illness. Your physical aspect needs nourishment with good food, water, sleep and exercise. Mentally, you need to feed your mind with good thoughts and surround yourself with a positive environment. Trust is the nourishment for the social aspect of your life; find trust in the right places, people and be selective. Your spiritual aspect is the study of yourself, rather than anything religious. You may have heard of karma, where your actions therefore your outcomes are within your control. Each action you choose, whether it be physical, mental, speech or emotional impacts you and your life in some way. It is up to you to make wise choices.
How Ayurveda improves your quality of life When was the last time you woke up in the morning feeling ready to take on the world? When adopted in its entirety, this lifestyle brings a wave of general well-being to your daily life as your body and mind are in tune. That body-mind connection is a wonderful feeling. Here are some examples of the routines and benefits that can be achieved through following an Ayurvedic lifestyle:
- Cleansing rituals leave you with a clear mind not to mention glowing skin.
- Heightened concentration levels through yoga, meditation and herbal intake.
- Adequate sleep recalibrates mental and goal-based settings in your daily life.
- Ayurvedic treatments improve digestion and increase appetite and immunity.
- Digesting food, thoughts and emotions healthily.
- Feel more energetic and happier overall.
Enough waffling – What does Ayurveda actually look like? So, what does the daily life of someone who lives a life in alignment with Ayurveda look like? Depending on your body type and individual needs, it can involve many of the following: eating breakfast rather than skipping it, eating a light dinner, following balanced dietary guidelines, eating organic produce, drinking plenty of water, avoiding sleeping and waking up late, avoiding smoking and drinking, maintaining an active lifestyle, exercising regularly doing yoga or any other movement practices, using home remedies, following daily and seasonal routines, getting adequate sun exposure, following appropriate treatments and taking care of your emotional well-being. For a newbie, this might sound pretty complex and daunting, which is why it is a great idea to have some guidance from an experienced Ayurveda practitioner to assess your body type, your current health, looking at all areas of your life explained earlier, to create a tailored program to protect your health and resolve any problems. Many wouldn’t think twice about giving their car a full MOT, why not give your life the same care and attention, you deserve it.