Ayurveda is a science of self-healing, it encompasses diet & nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rest & relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises, and medicinal herbs, along with cleansing & rejuvenation programmes for healing body, mind & spirit.
What is Ayurveda?
From the Sanskrit AYUR - meaning ‘life’ and VEDA – meaning ‘knowledge’ AYURVEDA quite literally means the knowledge of life and to have an understanding of Ayurveda is to have a blueprint for good mental and physical health.
Ayurveda is the world’s oldest holistic health system originating from the Indian sub–continent. It has been used for thousands of years to cleanse and restore balance to the body and mind. Despite it being more than 5,000 years old it couldn’t be more relevant to our modern, busy and stressful lives.
Since birth, every human being has had an individual combination of the three Doshas (life forces or body type): Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. They are present in every cell, tissue and organ. When the Doshas are in balance they create health. When they are out of balance, they are the cause of disease. It's therefore crucial to keep a doshic balance to promote (and restore) health and wellbeing.
Ayurved is based on the natural elements founds on earth, in all living things: fire, water, earth, air, and ether (space)— the building blocks of all life. These five elements exist in the planet, but also in the body where they represent components of your physical and mental health.
Fire is hot and powerful. It's the metabolism breaking down food.
Water is fluid and cool. It's the hydration running through your cells.
Earth is dense and grounding. It's the body compositing fat.
Air is light and moving. It's the movement of gas in the coon.
Ether can't be seen, but felt. It's the space in the gastrointestinal tract.
The five elements make up the three Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. (More information here)
What can Ayurveda help
General physical health
The principle behind Ayurveda is to find and keep a perfect balance between mind, body and spirit. All three of these areas are inseparable, meaning that an imbalance in one will inevitably affect the others. As a holistic practice, Ayurveda's purpose is to prevent illness; furthermore, when there is disease, Ayurveda doesn't cure the symptoms, it treats the cause that created the imbalance.
As an energetic system, Ayurveda strives to remedy the internal imbalances that prevent us from being the healthiest we can be. It is founded on the idea that each of us has a distinct Dosha, or body type (but not as body types are understood in the West), which in turn has individual needs that must be addressed accordingly through how we eat, move and live.
What, how and when we eat is the core of Ayurveda, which teaches us to nourish and satisfy our bodies. Digestion and gut health are central to our wellbeing and, like all other parts of an Ayurvedic way of life, are specific to each individual. If you retain only one thing from this system of health, know that by eating the delicious foods that suit your body best, you can begin to feel great in all areas of your life.
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian art of living a more healthy, wholesome life, through our diets, our routines, rituals. You can make Ayurveda part of your everyday life in so many different ways, big or small. Ayurveda asks each individual to take responsibility for their daily living. As a science of self-healing, Ayurveda encompasses diet and nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rest and relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises, and medicinal herbs (along with cleansing and rejuvenation programmes); and we can all take simple actions for prevention, self-healing, growth and fulfilment.
Ayurveda and Your Life Energy
Ayurveda believes that everything in the universe – dead or alive – is connected. If your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe, you have good health and balance.
Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas. But one is usually stronger than the others. Each one controls a different body function. It’s believed that your chances of getting sick -- and the health issues you develop -- are linked to the balance of your doshas.
In general, there are seven types of constitutions:
Every individual has a unique constitution made up of the Doshas (akin to the Western notion of DNA ). You may be 50% Pitta, 20% Vata and 30% Kapha for example.
This is why Ayurveda is so unique in its approach. The treatment given is specific to the individual – this means that what could be a healing diet and lifestyle for one person could create illness for someone else. While it is useful to understand your Dosha and how to eat and live correctly to keep it in balance, if you are already experiencing symptoms of illness it means one or more of these Doshas have been disturbed and this is when an seeing an Ayurvedic professional can help.
AGNI, the digestive fire
According to Ayurveda, all disease is caused by impaired Agni. Your Agni or digestive fire can be too high, too low or all over the place! When our digestion is not working well, it creates toxins, known as “Ama” which circulate around the body and lead to illness. Toxins can be both from incorrect food and lifestyle choices as well as emotional toxins from unresolved issues or trauma.
The first stage of Ayurvedic treatment involves getting rid of these toxins by strengthening Agni. During Ayurvedic treatment, herbs are taken to balance the digestive fire, and help to remove ama in the body while also supporting the elimination process. How? you ask. With a diet of easy to digest foods that also address the Dosha imbalance together with lifestyle changes which could relate to a person’s exercise, work and stress management.
The 6 Ayurvedic tastes
Sour, Astringent, Pungent, Bitter, Sweet, Salty
Ayurveda places great importance on incorporating all of the six tastes in your diet in order to promote balance of all three doshas.
Each dosha is pacified or aggravated by certain tastes. Therefore consuming those tastes in excess will aggravate that particular dosha.
Pacified by Sweet, Sour & Salty
Aggravated by Bitter, Pungent & Astringent
Pacified by Sweet, Bitter & Astringent
Aggravated by Sour, Salty & Pungent
Pacified by Bitter, Pungent & Astringent
Aggravated by Sweet, Sour & Salty