What is Ayurveda ?
Ayurveda (आयुर्वेद Sanskrit) derives from two distinct Sanskrit words ‘Ayus’ meaning life &‘veda’ meaning deep knowledge. Ayurveda thus encompasses the knowledge of every aspect of life – health, wellness, lifespan and longevity, based on the balance and harmony within the trinity of mind, body and spirit.
Ayurveda is a comprehensive holistic healthcare system dating back to about 5000 years. Ayurveda is an art of daily living that has evolved from deep philosophical, spiritual and practical insights and have been perfected over centuries of practice and wisdom. Ayurveda places great emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health through diet and lifestyle, proper cooking methods, yoga and meditation practices, proper exercise, nutrition as well as cleansing and rejuvenating Ayurvedic therapies. If one does fall sick, then Ayurveda provides excellent natural remedies comprising of customized and personalized herb, diet and lifestyle plans.
Philosophy of Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, the universe is made up of five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. A vital representation of these elements in the human body is in the form of the three elemental energies or “doshas”- Vata Vata (Air and Space): All movements fall under Vata. The purview of Vata includes functions of movement of sensory and motor impulses along nerves, circulation of blood through the body, transport across cell walls whether it involves cell division or just entry and exit of molecules and cell division. Being the dominant dosha, Vata controls the function and movement of the remaining two doshas as well. It resides in the large intestine, pelvis, bones, skin, ears, and chest. People with Vata as their main dosha are quick-thinking, thin, fast, and are susceptible to anxiety, dry skin, and constipation., PittaPitta (Fire and Water) controls hormones, enzymes, metabolism and the digestive processes and resides in the small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, skin, blood, and eyes. People with pitta as their primary dosha have a fiery personality, oily skin, and are susceptible to heart disease, stomach ulcers, inflammation, heartburn, and arthritis. and KaphaKapha (Earth and Water) is responsible for strength, immunity, stability and growth and resides in the mouth, stomach, chest, lungs, joints, head and sinus cavities. People with Kapha as their main dosha are calm and have a solid body frame.They are susceptible to diabetes, obesity and sinus congestion..
Understanding your unique constitution (Prakruti)
Ayurveda believes that an individual’s constitution (prakruti) is established at the time of conception – analogous to our genetic code. The constitution is a blueprint with physical and mental characteristics, susceptibilities to disease and emotional response, which do not change throughout one’s life. This unique constitution is determined by the dominance of one or more of the three doshas – vata, pitta and/or kapha. These doshas or energies are not static but dynamic entities which get influenced by internal and external factors such as emotional and physical stress, improper food combinations and choices, physical trauma, or seasonal and weather changes.
Once you gain understanding of your own unique body type and how these factors affect you on a constitutional level, you can take appropriate actions to nullify or minimize their effects. You can make choices that will lead you toward greater health and well-being. In this sense, Ayurveda empowers you to understand and gain control over your own state of health. You will not only learn to nurture your body but also your mind and spirit, setting you on a path to the best health possible for you.
From the time of birth until death, the body is engaged in maintaining life. That is its sole purpose and mission, and each cell has the intelligence to do so. Yet in the modern, fast paced world, the levels of stress and environmental imbalance make it hard for your body to stay healthy and your mind to remain calm and positive. This in turn starts creating and accumulating toxins in your body, ultimately affecting you at the cellular level. From an Ayurvedic point of view, the three doshas vata, pitta and kapha play an important role in the maintenance of cellular health and longevity:
- Vata, which is closely related to the life energy (or prana), governs all life functions.
- Pitta governs digestion and nutrition.
- Kapha maintains longevity on the cellular level.
Ayurveda offers different therapies that may support your individual constitutional harmony while promoting cellular rejuvenation and overall vitality and immunity. The key to optimal health is to help your body eliminate toxins and reestablish the constitutional balance of the doshas.
Another very unique and important concept in Ayurveda is that of mental typing. There are three elemental ‘qualities’ in the universe – sattva, rajas and tamas. In humans, they dictate the mental faculties, disposition and demeanor of individuals. This is another consideration that is used in chalking out the Ayurvedic care plan for the client. You can read more about sattva, rajas and tamas here.
How does an Ayurveda consultation work?
In an initial Ayurvedic consultation, the Ayurvedic practitioner determines your prakuti or body type based on a questionnaire that covers questions from bowel movements to the texture of your hair. The Ayurvedic expert examines the tongue and observes the appearance of the skin, lips, nails, and eyes. The practitioner asks questions about your health, diet and lifestyle and does a detailed pulse or nadi exam. The ‘mental type’ of the client is also ascertained. Based on the assessment, the practitioner then creates a customized lifestyle management plan, which includes diet, exercise, herbs, yoga, meditation, and massage. The consult also has an integral part of client education where the client learns about their constitution and are educated about how to use this knowledge and understanding to not only choose the right food but also to understand and improve relationships with people. Especially with a woman client, not only she is helped but her entire family benefits from the profound and eternal wisdom of the Ayurvedic principles.