Ayurveda is a science that is known to be the world’s oldest system of health. It is an oral tradition that has been written down only in the last 5000 years. Its knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation. The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit roots “ayu” and “veda”, which means “life” and “knowledge”. The name “Ayurveda” reveals its true meaning as the complete knowledge of how to live daily life in harmony with cosmic life. It is a not only a health care system, but a lifestyle approach to living. Ayurveda supports the idea that everyone should live every aspect of life to its fullest. It also expresses a complete conscious connection to nature and its intelligence, so that you can live in a state of enlightenment. Dr. Sunil V. Joshi, MD (Ayu), in his book, Ayurveda and Panchakarma, lists seven basic concepts that help to define Ayurveda as a unique and complete “science of life”:
1. The Unchanging Nature of Ayurvedic Science. Unlike western medicine that new theories often render previous understanding completely obsolete within a short period of time, Ayurveda has stood the test of time as its basic principals have never changed due to the fact that they were derived from universal laws of nature which are eternally true.
2.The Subjective Methods of Understanding. Ayurveda incorporates a more subjective or intuitive approach to gaining knowledge in addition to objective means as it recognizes that much of life cannot be studied objectively because it is non-physical. The example Dr. Joshi offers explains that the unseen intelligence which orchestrates the process of growth and differentiation in a fetus or in the healing of a disease cannot be analyzed or investigated by the senses, even with the aid of technological means.
3.The Five Element Theory. Human life is part of nature. This idea sets it apart from other healing modalities. The Mahabhutas or cosmic elements are the fundamental principles of Ayurveda. These are intelligences that present themselves as the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. All matter consists of combinations of these five elements.
4.The Theory of the Three Doshas. All processes within the human physiology are controlled by a combination of these 5 elements. Vata is the principal that governs all motion or movement and is made up from air and ether elements; Pitta controls all transforming processes and is made of fire and water elements. Kapha is responsible for cohesion, growth and liquefaction. Kapha consists of earth and water elements. Human life can only exist with all three of these processes.
5.Prakruti: Constitution. The most useful tool that Ayurveda has to offer for maintaining an ideal state of health is that of prakruti. Each human being is born with a unique combination of the elements. And it is this combination that is responsible for the physical, mental and emotional differences among people. Ayurveda can help each person create his or her own state of ideal health, by identifying and maintaining an individual prakruti.
6.The Effects of the Seasons. Environment plays a huge role in Ayurveda. Ayurveda considers that a particularly important effect on health comes from seasonal changes and climatic conditions. Each change of season brings with it shifts in wind conditions, temperature and humidity or rainfall. As the elements in the environment change, the balance of the doshas within our bodies will be impacted. If we can recognize and respond to these changes in the environment, we will be able to better maintain homeostasis, an ideal balance of the doshas within our bodies.
7.Panchakarma: The Science of Rejuvenation. The body possesses a natural healing intelligence and is capable of constantly rejuvenating itself. When the elements or dosha become imbalanced, and the digestive capacity is weakened, toxic impurities form. When too many toxins exist, the natural healing capacity of the body gets blocked. Panchakarma is a process in which the body is purified of these toxins and the body “unblocks” its natural ability to rejuvenate.
There are many more concepts in Ayurveda, but these seven create a foundation for understanding the others. I love Ayurveda because it is such common sense.
Two “takeaways” from this concept are:
1.We are nature. The closer we stay to our true nature, the healthier we are. The farther we stray, the greater chance of illness, physical and emotional.
2.Our bodies and minds are constantly telling us when we are straying, first in subtle ways, and if we are not mindful and paying attention, in more obvious ones.
We are constantly bombarded by stimulation from the outside world pulling us further and further away from our own true nature. Living an Ayurvedic lifestyle gives you the tools to shield yourself from this pull and helps you to stay balanced. It helps you stay mindful of who you truly are and reminds you that nature, left to itself, nurtures and rebuilds.
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