Origin and Background
Ayurveda is the art and science of positive living and healing. It is a complete holistic medical system that addresses the mind, body and spirit in relation to its environment, nature, and the cosmos. It recognizes that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, meaning that we are not separate from nature. Ayurveda is comprised of 6 different but complementing philosophies that unite to form a life science that focuses on prevention and quality of life, thus emphasizing that health is not merely absence of disease. Its two main goals are to preserve health and maintain balance amongst healthy individuals, and to restore balance to those suffering from imbalances in the mind and body. “Ayur-” translates to ‘life,’ and “veda” translates to ‘true knowledge’.
Simply put, Ayurveda is the Science of Life, or the Science of Wisdom and Longevity.
Ayurveda is the oldest documented health care system, originating in ancient India over 5,000 years ago and still practiced today. It is commonly described as the sister science to yoga; yoga working to purify the mind, and Ayurveda working to purify the body. Its healing mechanisms include dietary and lifestyle guidelines, yoga, breathwork, and meditation, herbal supplements, daily exercise regimens, and natural detoxes and rejuvenations. It addresses the energy behind the natural changes of physical material by peeling back the structural layers to get to the functional layers, eventually reaching the soul level, a place where harmony, health, and longevity exist - our true nature.
Ayurveda and Nutrition
Ayurveda uses diet, lifestyle, and herbs as ongoing maintenance in our daily lives. By aligning with the natural intelligence of the body, we have the opportunity to tap into our greater wisdom. It is an applied, common sense science, both intuitive and practical, emphasizing realistic application versus conceptual knowledge. There is no one size fits all approach, nor any blanket statement to serve all, rather it is completely individualized and tailored to meet each person where they are at. Ayurveda does not treat symptoms, it illuminates the root causes of illnesses or imbalances. Because Ayurveda is functionally oriented, it is said,
“You are not what you eat. You are what you digest.”
Ayurveda looks at the qualities of foods and how they digest and metabolize in our bodies. Our digestive capacities are so revered in Ayurveda because it is what transforms food into absorbable, usable material that we can then call nutrients. The ability to digest and absorb enhances the body’s vitality. Ayurvedic nutrition goes far beyond a life of calculated eating and restrictions. It encourages us to hop off the ever swinging pendulum of polarity to find the middle path, a road of balanced diet and lifestyle practices. Selecting quality ingredients, cooking for ourselves, incorporating lots of spices and herbs, being mindful of portion control, listening to hunger cues, eating consistent meals at consistent times each day, and eating slowly and with presence are a few food habits that Ayurveda promotes.
Ayurveda is again specific, personalized, and unique to each person. Its wise science facilitates the body and mind so that it can transform, grow, and evolve with practiced awareness, presence, and mindfulness. Because the mind has the ability to be transformed, so do our bodies and how we relate to them, ourselves, environments, and the rest of the world. Ayurveda suggests simple and realistic goals that can be sustained for life and used as tools in the future to apply when needed. Ayurveda is a very complex, grand medical system. If one argues they could intellectually understand it in a lifetime, I’d argue back that it would take many lifetimes to understand it in the heart.