What is Ayurveda?

हिताहितम सुखं दुखं आयुतस्य हिता हितम मानं च तच्च यत्रुक्तम आयुर्वेद स उच्यते

[Ayurveda is the science] which deals with what constitutes

happiness, unhappiness, wholesomeness, and unwholesomeness.

Learning About Ayurveda

Ayurvedic Medicine is the oldest holistic medical system still in existence today, originating from what is now modern-day India about 5,000 years ago.  “Ayu” is Sanskrit for “longevity” or “life”, while “veda” translates to “science.”  Ayurveda, or the science of life, is utilized to improve quality of life by creating balance in the body-mind according to the individual’s unique constitution and by addressing the root cause of illness.  According to Ayurveda, what is healthy for one person is not necessarily healthy for the next.  Additionally, what creates, for instance, a headache in one person is not necessarily the same reason for a headache in the next.

The fundamental principles of Ayurveda integrate a conception of the unification of not only body-mind-soul but of the individual with all other beings and with the universe.  Ayurveda regards man as a miniature replica of the universe and as all levels of existence as being a microcosm of the greater reality of the universe.  The universe is comprised of five elements- space, air, fire, water, and earth- and three bio-energies, or doshas– Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire with a bit of water), and Kapha (water and earth).  As such, man is also a manifestation of these elements and energies and his health is governed by their balance in his body-mind.   The proportion and distinction of these elements varies from person to person, making up a person’s constitution, or prakruti.  Maintaining balance according to the relative proportion of the elements and dosha is what constitutes individual health.

Individual health is also, as stated above as the classical definition of Ayurveda, the meeting point between wholesomeness and happiness.  What is wholesome does not always bring happiness and vice versa.  For example, eating ice cream for breakfast may bring a perceived sense of happiness but is not necessarily wholesome.  Health will be brought about by finding your individual satisfactory balance between the two.

In order to address imbalances and subsequently create preventative measures against imbalance which help to promote longevity and quality of life, a practitioner will first assess the constitution of the individual, the Ayurvedic “thumb print” or version of DNA, so to speak.  Assessment of imbalance or illness experienced by a patient is carried out by examining the tongue, reading the pulse, and asking a series of questions which delve into the nature of the imbalance.  In this way, a practitioner is able to track the root cause of illness.

Therapeutic intervention to address imbalances from an Ayurvedic perspective may include Ayurveda nutrition recommendations, breathing exercises (pranayama), meditative and mindfulness exercises, yoga asana exercises, herbal therapies, and specific Ayurvedic techniques.  Fifty percent of any Ayurvedic protocol is removing causative factors for imbalance which are generally addressed your lifestyle and diet.  Once this is done, the individual can begin to gain solid footing on the road to recovery.

 

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