Introduction to Ayurveda
A beginning exploration of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a natural system of healing. It recognizes that human beings are much more than a physical body, rather multidimensional beings with layers of emotion and intuition. The practice
of Ayurveda focuses on prevention and balance. Ayurveda empowers each individual with the tools, knowledge and understanding to take charge of their health and wellbeing.
The Principles of Ayurveda
The Five Elements
In Ayurveda, the universe, the world, all matter, and all living things (including people) are composed of five elements: Space (or Ether), Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. These elements exist not only in nature, but also in the body where they represent unique characteristics and traits. Knowing the physical and energetic characteristics of each of the elements is key to understanding Ayurveda. From a thought to a tree to a human being, the five elements are the building blocks of all matter.
The five elements combine in various ways to form three constitutional principles, known in Ayurveda as doshas. Every dosha is made up of two of the five elements with one being dominant. These are:
- Elements: Air + Ether
- Characteristics: Cold, dry, light
- Actions: That which moves things
- Elements: Fire + Water
- Characteristics: Hot, wet, light
- Actions: That which digests things
- Elements: Earth + Water
- Characteristics: Cold, wet, heavy
- Actions: That which holds things together
In Ayurveda, Agni is our digestive fire and the energy that digests anything we consume with any of the sense organs. The digestive fire is responsible for all transformation in the body including metabolism, absorption and elimination. Not only do you digest food, but also emotions, senses and experiences. Similarly, not only do we consume food. We also consume what we eat, what we look at, what we listen to, etc. What we expose ourselves to (take in through the senses) Agni is what allows us to transform it into consciousness. If Agni is not strong and burning bright, you feel stuck and depleted mentally and physically. Vitality is reduced and the disease process begins. A balanced Agni is key to good health, great living and longevity.
The proportions of the three doshas determines your prakriti, which is your natural constitution given at the moment of birth. This includes your skin color, height, hair color, and other characteristics. Even though one or two may be predominant in your constitution, all three doshas are present in each of us. How close you are to your constitutional balance will determine your physical health, mental clarity, state of vitality and sense of well-being.
Our doshas are fluid , dynamic, and ever-moving, like the seasons. Similarly, our vikriti shifts over the course o the year and throughout your life. Your vikriti is affected by your lifestyle, environment and diet. Our vikriti is our current state or present condition, the elemental makeup of your body’s relationship with our current environment.
6 Signs of True Health
Health is more than the absence of disease in the body. Health is an understanding and engagement of the inner mind. Additionally, from a more physical perspective, the six signs of health include:
- Clear, supple skin
- Clear, bright eyes
- Easy and regular elimination of urine, feces, sweat and tears
- Even energy throughout the day
- Calm and harmonious demeanor
- Sound and restful sleep, waking up refreshed
4 Pillars of Health
The four pillars of health include diet, lifestyle, quality of sleep and management of sexual energy. The four pillars incorporate the what, when and how to help build a strong foundation for health and longevity. The pillars are interrelated and maintaining a holistic balance of the four pillars creates harmony and health in the body and mind.
Principles of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is based on the following principles:
- There is no “one size fits all.”
- Food is medicine.
- Foods should change wit the seasons.
- Like increases like and opposites attract.
- You are what you digest, i.e. food, emotions, senses and experiences.
- Nutrition is anything we take in through our senses.
- Health is holistic
Ayurveda recognizes that human beings are much more than the physical body, rather multidimensional beings with layers of emotion and intuition. Ayurveda is a highly individualized approach to wellness that is based on the principles of living in harmony with the cycles and rhythms of nature.
The more you let Ayurveda
and Yoga become the basis for
your living, the easier living gets.
– Myra Lewin
Ayurveda is a holistic health system. It’s a way of living that can help each of us to claim and celebrate our capacity for wellness. Ayurveda can help us:
- Realize our truest inner nature
- Honor and develop our strengths
- Hone in on our challenge areas
- Redirect detrimental tendencies
- Maintain balance in the face of adversity
- Maintain calm in the chaos
In other words, Ayurveda is not simply about taking an herbal formula and waiting for the results. Instead, Ayurveda encourages you to be an active participant in your own journey toward healing.