We know that Yoga is excellent at strengthening the body and clearing the mind. But what about strengthening your overall health and wellbeing? Well that’s where Ayurveda comes in, the sister science of Yoga. Ayurveda is a holistic health science of the purpose to heal and to maintain the quality and longevity of life. Dating back more than 5,000 years, the term originates from the Sanskrit words Ayur translating to “life”, and Veda meaning “knowledge/science”, giving us the “Knowledge of Life” ladies and gents.
Though it is of an age-old wisdom, Ayurveda stays hip and rolls with the times (picture an ancient guru sporting lululemon’s, a hipster hat, and hailing a cab after some shopping at Whole Foods). It has evolved and adapted with the times, and provides a wellness and prevention system that works in tandem with modern medicine. Whereas modern medicine is great at emergencies, labeling, and treating illness/disease, Ayurveda is excellent at prevention, rebalancing, and bringing the body back to harmony.
Prevention is key, but requires some work on a thoughtful and attentive lifestyle. Health is not defined by yearly checkups, the latest diets, juicing, or going vegan. And there are no quick fixes for disease - a pill only provides a band-aid solution at best! It’s about getting to the core of solutions, and not just masking it. According to Ayurvedic teaching, ‘Health’ is an ongoing, participatory process that needs consistent awareness. Health needs to be thought of as a practice, no different than yoga – something we work on continuously. And that’s what Ayurveda provides. It looks at your body as a whole (one unit, one big beefcake, complete circle, nada separado) and does not segregate a particular organ or system or emotion from the rest of the picture – it’s all one.
How does it work??? Ayurveda is a science as well as an art – an art of living daily in alignment with the laws of nature. In its most basic form, Ayurveda looks at all of nature (including our bodies) through the lens of five essential elements and the interaction between them. Simply put, these elements personify the attributes and processes that govern nature. For example, in the context of our digestion, the fire element represents metabolism. And this applies to emotions as well, where fire can represent passion or anger.
From the energies and qualities of the 5 elements, 3 basic Ayurvedic principles emerge, known as the Doshas. They are…
Vata - Space & Air
Pitta - Fire & Water
Kapha - Water & Earth
Through the understanding of the doshas in your individual self, you learn to better understand your body, mind, and emotions, as well as how to keep them healthy (and not go crazy). Ayurveda provides the framework for how to read the body and understand the elements at play. In other words, learn to understand what is out of balance in your body, and discover what should be done to bring the body back into balance.
What’s important in Ayurveda is that each individual is treated as truly and completely unique. Although we are all made of the same elements, we have a unique amount of each one. Any given remedy, medication, treatment, or lifestyle cannot always be prescribed to everybody equally, regardless of how similar the illness or disease. Furthermore, our composition can change over time and even fall out of balance (resulting in health issues, even disease).
The essence of Ayurveda’s teachings is that within us, we each have an inexhaustible well of energy, creativity, abundance, and power to heal our bodies and maintain them. Ayurveda provides the guide, and it’s up to you and your efforts to follow! Remember, you know yourself best which means you are your own greatest Doctor, so make Ayurveda a part of your practice. It can change your life like it did for me.
Of course, I’ll be here to help you in your journey however I can. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I will write more about each individual Dosha.