Ayurveda is the science of life. This comprehensive system includes all aspects of our lives: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It’s a system of natural health that’s roughly 5,000 years old! Known as the “mother of all healing,” it’s regarded as the oldest healthcare system in the world. Are you wondering why you haven’t heard much about it? Well, it’s going through a revival now. The British colonization of India resulted in a massive decline of ayurveda. Western invasion invited allopathic medicine and left India’s native medicine behind. It wasn’t until Mahatma Gandhi came along that ayurveda really took off again.
It’s simply called medicine in India. There are ayurveda pharmacies on many street corners, and even in the Delhi airport. I felt lucky to find this pharmacy that carried ayurvedic medicine since I had begun to come down with a cough during one (of many) flights back home. It’s inexpensive, simple and it works. One can pick up things for headaches and stomach upsets, to herbal shampoos and medicated eyeliners.
Ayurveda encompasses nutrition, herbs, massage, meditation and yoga. In addition to internal medicine, there are branches of ayurveda for pediatrics, gynecology, psychiatry, surgery, toxicology, and aphrodisiacs. Where western medicine treats the disease, ayurveda treats the person. Diet is tailored to your individual needs. Herbs are selected for their medicinal properties as well as chosen according to your constitution.
Your individual constitution is made up of the 3 doshas, or energies. The doshas are a combination of the 5 elements: ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. We have all the elements in us, just in different amounts.
- Vata-ether and air
- Pitta- fire and water
- Kapha-water and earth
Ayurveda mainly deals with disease prevention, but the disease treatment is extremely effective. And it’s gentle. Nutrition is the first line of prevention and treatment. If you consume too many foods with similar qualities as your main dosha, you can go out of balance. Foods that help YOU heal could be aggravating for me. This is why, in ayurveda, we always look to the person before giving treatment. Imbalance manifests as disease. By changing your diet, to include less aggravating foods for your constitution, you can help prevent disease.
While nutrition is a large part of ayurveda, it’s not the only thing. Lifestyle is another big factor. Ayurveda seeks to balance all things. If your job is super hectic and you barely have a moment to eat while at work, it will be even more important for you to make time to relax after work. You would want to have a calm, slow dinner of nourishing foods. On the other hand, if your job is very sedentary and there are lots of snacky foods around, you will need to have a light dinner and find ways to be active outside of work. This will balance the heaviness of your job. Choices of exercise should be taken into consideration for each person as well. Someone with a light build and busy schedule should be doing more grounding exercises, such as hatha yoga, instead of marathon-training. People that tend to be really hot should be swimming instead of doing hot yoga. Starting to make sense?
I’ll be adding more in-depth posts on the doshas, elements and my recent trip to India later on. Stay tuned.