AYURVEDA: What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a medicinal and health lifestyle which was developed thousands of years ago by the sages of India. Ayurveda has been used for wellbeing and health support in India for a very long time, long before medical evidence was able to support that there is indeed an ‘mind-body connection’ when it comes to our health.
It is believed that Tibetan Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in the Ayurvedic lifestyle.
The online dictionary (dictionary.com) defines Ayurveda as “the traditional Hindu system of medicine, which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.”
The word Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that translates literally as Ayur: life and Veda: science or knowledge. Ayurveda is now widely accepted as one of the most powerful and sophisticated mind-body health systems in the world.
There are two main guiding principles of Ayurveda;
- The mind and the body are inextricably linked and connected.
- The mind has more power than anything else to heal and transform the body.
Ayurveda actively promotes that freeing ourselves from illness is dependent on expanding our own intrinsic awareness, bringing that awareness into balance, and then extending that balance out into the body.
Meditation often forms a significant part in Ayurvedic practices. Meditation itself induces a restful state, whereby the breath and the heart rate slow. Scientifically, this results in a reduction in the production of stress hormones in the body, such as Cortisol and Adrenaline. It also means that the production of the neurotransmitters that support wellbeing are increased (Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, Endorphins).
Meditation is just one of the practices of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. There several other very important parts of Ayurveda. These parts (although developed within Ayurveda a very long time ago) cross over into modern health, wellbeing and medical practices very well.
The primary ideals of Ayurveda include:
- Eating a colourful and flavourful diet.
- Making sure you get abundant and restful sleep.
- Living your life in tune with nature.
- Exercise – the ‘tuning in’ of the body.
- Learning to relax, restore and ‘take it easy’.
- Strengthening your digestive power.
In Ayurveda, the ‘Tri-Dosha’ is also very important. This involves recognising that humans are part of nature and as such, three fundamental energies heavily influence our inner and outer environments: structure, movement and transformation. These are known as Kapha (Earth), Vata (Wind) and Pitta (Fire). It is accepted that these three forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body.
The three forces of the Tri-Dosha are believed to shape our nature and character, and we each possess and unique blend and proportion of each of them, although one (sometimes two) of these will usually dominate our character. This follows through into our body type.
For example, if ‘Kapha’ is dominant in our nature we are likely to be easy-going, nurturing and methodical. If ‘Vata’ is the predominant force within us, then we might be thinner, lighter, more energetic, enthusiastic or changeable. When Pitta is the lead force within us, then we can be more goal oriented and intense, with a strong appetite for life.
In Ayurveda, whatever the blend of forces within us, they can be balanced or imbalanced. This affects how are mind and body are working together and the results of imbalance can often be clear in our behaviour.
Overall, we can see that the traditional science of Ayurvedic medicine is designed to bring the body into balance so that it may heal itself. Like yoga, the goal of this fascinating system, over thousands of years old, is to discover and balance the needs of the mind. This in turn supports and maintains good wellbeing and health throughout body and mind together.
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