Ayurveda (pronounced) “EYE-yer-VAY-da” may be the oldest continuously practiced health system in the world, dating from two thousand to five thousand years ago.
Ayurveda can be loosely translated as the “science of life” .The classical texts the “Charaka Samhita describes Ayur, or “life” as being made up of four parts: the physical body, the mind, the soul and the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) Contrary to Western models, which traditionally have focused mostly on the physical body, Ayurveda has always given attention to the health of all four of the fundamental aspects of life. This system looks at the whole person- using diet, biorhythms, herbal medicine, psychology, wholesome lifestyle, surgery, and therapeutic bodywork to address the root cause of disease. Whereas, Western medicine excels at resolving acute situations, Ayurveda stands out as a preventative medicine- seeking to halt the progression from imbalance to disease by addressing the underlying causes early on.
Ayurveda recognizes that every human being is a microcosm (a small part or reflection) of the macrocosm (the big picture or universe) Our minds and bodies are made up the same elements that make up everything around us, and we are moved by the same energies or forces that move the oceans, the winds,the stars and the planets.
The philosophy behind Ayurveda is simple: just as the cycles of sun, moon and tides, and the seasons ebb and flow- so do we. The introduction of artificial light, global food transportation, and our busy schedules makes it easy to get out of sync with nature’s rhythms ( link to my Daily Rhythm blog)
Ayurveda and Yoga stem from the same philosophical roots and share the goal of creating union between microcosm and macrocosm. Yoga is a pathway for navigating the connection of the mind and body with the larger world around us. In modern times, when many suffer in body and mind due to a lack of connection, the shared goal of Yoga and Ayurveda to unite mind, body and spirit is exactly what we need.
Ayurveda often uses the movements and breathing techniques from yoga to access the energy body, which is very helpful for managing stress and restoring the body’s natural rhythms.
If you get out of sync with nature’s rhythms- by eating processed foods, staying up all night, burning the candle on both ends, or working all day without a break- your body and mind will become out of whack.
The link between the mind and overall health is clear- imbalance in one will lead to imbalance in the other. Like a fish going upstream, going against natural currents will slow you down. Over time you will start to feel tired, anxious or depressed, and over time you will end up out of order and dis- eased.
Healthy Digestion is the most fundamental aspect of overall wellness in Ayurveda. The complete digestion, absorption, and assimilation of food nutrients create the building blocks of the body, called ahara rasa or “the essence of food”. When you chew and swallow your food, it mixes with water, enzymes and acid, and the product is the essence or juice, which is used to make tissues. In this way, healthy digestion makes a healthy body. Digesting food properly connects us to the essence of the food we eat every day and to our planet that provides this food. This is why diet is a profound aspect of Ayurvedic healing.
Ayurveda has completely changed how I look at food, nourish my body, observe and interact with my environment and how I see food as medicine not just for pleasure. Even though I do enjoy the celebratory aspects of it from time to time, food has become more of a beautiful, conscious way that I get to take care of my body, my mind, my spirit and those who I feed. Not only has learning this ancient system enhanced and deepened my connection to my 18 year old practice, it has taught me to cultivate a love, respect and awareness for my body I only ever experienced on my yoga mat. As I explore, study, implement and teach this powerful ancient healing wisdom, the more in control I feel of my own health, my own future and how I choose to feel moving forward through my 40’s and into my 50’s.
I’m so excited to keep on this path, learning, implementing, and sharing Ayurveda with all of you.
I credit the bulk of this simple, succinct definition of Ayurveda to Kate O’Donnell- Nationally Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and author of “Everyday Ayurveda Cooking” and “Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind”.