The art of Ayurveda medicine is considered to be one of the oldest and most holistic medical institutions in the world. It is the traditional, ancient Indian system of health and healing. Ayurveda consists of disciplines such as aromatherapy, diet, herbal medicine, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, massage and the balancing of energies. Ayurveda is a Vedic science and is known as the sister of another well known Vedic science - called yoga.
The heart of Ayurveda lies not with the treatment of illness, but with the science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). There are two main guiding principles of Ayurveda, that the mind and body are inextricably connected and that nothing has more power to heal the body than the mind.
The history of Ayurveda
Stretching deep into antiquity, the practice of Ayurveda is believed to have been born in around 3,000 BCE - created by the Hindu god Brahma. The wisdom of this healing method has been passed down through ancient Indian spiritual texts, called Vedas. There are four major Vedas, each of which describes, in some detail, the principles of health, disease, and treatment.
The Vedas are the oldest form of literature and are written in India’s ancient language, Sanskrit. They hold Hinduism’s sacred scriptures, said to be records of revelations discovered by ancient seers and sages. The main classical Ayurveda texts begin with accounts of the transmission of medical knowledge from the Gods to sages, and then to human physicians.
Knowledge of Ayurveda soon began to spread from India, influencing other ancient systems, including Chinese medicine and the ancient Greek medicine practiced by Hippocrates. Because of its strong influence, Ayurveda is known as the ‘Mother of all healing’.
The Ayurvedic body types
Ayurveda believes that the entire universe is composed of five elements: Vayu (Air), Jala (Water), Aakash (Space or ether), Prithvi (Earth) and Teja (Fire). These five elements are believed to form the three basic humors of the human body in varying combinations, called doshas.
Doshas are the metabolic types or bodily humors that make up a person’s constitution. The doshas are the essential forces behind an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional makeup. The three doshas are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Everyone has his or her own particular balance of these elements and everyone has a unique dosha. When a person’s dosha becomes imbalanced, the natural flow of prana (life force energy) becomes disrupted. This disruption causes a build-up of toxic waste in the body, mind, and spirit, which in turn, creates disease.
Leading an Ayurvedic lifestyle in the 21st century
In the 1970s, Ayurvedic teachers from India began traveling to the United States and Europe, sharing their teachings of holistic health. Today, there are Ayurvedic colleges all over the world.
The globalised and modernised uses derived from traditional Ayurveda are a type of alternative medicine. In countries beyond India, such as Australia, Ayurveda has been integrated into wellness and wellbeing practices.
In Ayurvedic medicine, a person’s optimal health and spiritual growth starts with the prevention of disease and ill health - a complete way of living. Prevention is based on a balanced lifestyle that is in harmony with all cycles of nature.
Dosha imbalances are often the result of a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Ayurveda seeks to restore composure by treating the whole person, not just the symptom of the disparity.
A typical Ayurvedic lifestyle plan may include the following:
Recommendations are based on each person and the season or environment. Certain foods will balance or create an imbalance. Fresh vegetables, whole grains, and certain legumes, nuts, and dairy products can provide healthy balance for each dosha. In general, though, the recommendations to prevent imbalances for each dosha are:
Vata: Limit cold, crunchy, and salty foods and carbonated and caffeinated drinks.
Pitta: Limit spicy, fried, and meaty foods and excessive alcohol.
Kapha: Limit creamy, sweet, and overly heavy foods and drinks.
Regular exercise is vital for overall health and well-being. In Ayurveda, the type, intensity, and amount of physical activity required are determined on an individual basis as per your body type.
Yoga & Meditation
Calming of the mind and learning to listen to your body are essential techniques for becoming more in tune with nature and your external and internal environments. Practicing yoga and meditation helps all doshas become more balanced and in-sync.
Massage and self-massage are not just luxuries in Ayurveda, but essential parts of daily life. A soothing touch nourishes the emotions and spirit, while physically encouraging healthy circulation and the release of toxins.
Herbs are an incredibly important part of Ayurveda, used in everything from cooking, tea, and medicine, to aromatherapy. Examples of Ayurvedic herbs include Triphala, Ashwaganda, and Gotu Kola.
Ayurveda medicine encapsulates total wellbeing and connection of mind, body and spirit. Of course, if you’re interested in incorporating any of the above lifestyle changes - it would be best to visit a Ayurvedic doctor or consult with your GP.