What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a very deep topic, a vast, ancient, body of knowledge divined long before any other known health system. But it’s more than a health system.

I’ve been studying this subject a bit here and there for several years, and lately I’ve gotten more serious about it. Perhaps because I’m aging and my health is becoming more precious to me. Perhaps because I see so many people around me suffering. Or, just because it is one of the most fascinating subjects I’ve looked into.

The more I study it, the more intrigued I am. It is so beautiful. An elegant way to view our personal systems: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. It is a consciousness based philosophy, viewing all that we see and experience in life a result of how consciousness expresses through us and how we influence it by our thoughts, actions and beliefs.

Some basics:

• We are each born with our own individual combination of the elements of life, fire, water, air, space and earth
• The unique balance of these at birth is perfect to support each of us in our wellbeing
• As we grow and live our lives, interacting with our environment and others, we can shift away from this ideal balance.
• When this imbalance isn’t addressed, over time it can grow into an illness, disease, chronic condition or emotional illness.

Ayurveda, in a simplistic description, is a system to move the mind and body back to the original balance of elements so the whole system can function the way it was meant to, with one experiencing wellbeing: vitality, joy, and inspiration in their life.

There are three main mind/body types, Vata (air and space), Pitta, (fire and water), and Kapha (earth & water).

When a person has a Vata constitution, they have a tendency to be slim, quick moving, talkative, creative and inspiring. When they get stressed, they may get anxious or worried. If their body develops too much Vata they may get arthritis, degenerative conditions, constipation, all considered to be from too much air/space which are drying. Vata types can tire more easily and should choose gentle exercise like walking and yoga, or they could need joint replacements!

Pitta types usually have well developed, athletic bodies, with a sharp intellect, and determined, sometimes intense, personalities. Most leaders are Pittas. Under stress, Pittas may get irritable or angry. Since fire is a dominant element, if a Pitta has too much fire, they may tend to get rashes, heartburn, inflammatory illnesses, heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis. The preferred exercise for a Pitta would be moderate: swimming, biking, yoga etc.

Kapha types have a more substantial body, an earth quality, and they tend to be warm, nurturing, steady and calm. When they learn something it isn’t usually forgotten. Under stress, a Kapha will tend to avoid conflict, and when out of balance, often wishing to ignore problems, like sticking their head in the sand, with a tendency to get lethargic or depressed. Physically, if too much heavy, oily food is in their diet along with an inactive lifestyle, they will gain weight and have a hard time losing it. They can develop sinus issues, diabetes, varicose veins, and edema. Their best form of exercise is more strenuous: weight-lifting, jogging, etc. as they have great endurance. (Once you get them moving!)

Our actions and reactions, our thoughts and feelings, all combine to either support our health or impede it. If you aren’t experiencing wellbeing, know that you can find it again. A practitioner or Ayurvedic physician can prescribe foods, herbs and routines which will nudge you back into balance before a disease develops.

Western medicine is absolutely critical for urgent care, but doesn’t address many vague symptoms of imbalance like insomnia, constipation, sadness, lack of motivation or joy in life. At best, they prescribe drugs that mask these symptoms without discovering the cause.

Ayurveda can help you discover the cause and address it. It’s worked with me quite a few times when I had vague symptoms that a regular doctor would just say, “You’re fine. I can’t find anything wrong with you!”

For example, once my skin was itching for weeks and nothing I tried worked. My Ayurvedic physician gave me some herbs and practices, and it was gone in three days! He said it was my body detoxing so he helped it along. Putting lotions on it wouldn’t have addressed this at all.

It isn’t always quick like this, and in our impatience, we want speedy fixes; shifting the body and mind back to health can take some time. It may have taken years to become imbalanced, so it makes sense one needs to be patient and focus on a lifetime of healthy practices instead of immediate cures.

It is a beautiful science which views humans as an incredible orchestration of energy and information always in flux, morphing into the next thing by perception, from God consciousness into the raw elements, forming the material world and you.