History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda, an ancient yet timeless holistic healing system, provides a direct path for attaining and maintaining your own health and well-being. The benefits of Ayurvedic medicine have been proven over centuries of use. Its methodologies are as applicable today in the Western world as they were thousands of years ago in India. And the best part…. You can learn to HEAL yourself!
Ayurveda is the traditional healing modality of the Vedic culture from India. It is said to have been in continual use for nearly 6,000 years. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that translates as “the wisdom of life” or “the knowledge of longevity”. Ayurvedic medicine views health as MUCH MORE than just the absence of disease. The holy men, wise seers and sages of the time, intuitively understood human physiology and the POWERFUL workings of the mind-body-spirit connection -- and long before the advent of modern medicine.
Ayurvedic medicine was originally an oral tradition, taught and passed directly from teacher to apprentice. They would BOTH learn and work side by side. Many students even lived with their teachers, for years, as they studied and learned to provide healing. The oldest written codification of Ayurvedic principles is found in the Rig Veda. The fundamentals are then laid out in several major treatises, including the texts from Charaka, Sushruta, and Vaghbhat. There are also smaller works, written over time, that explain the various branches of Ayurveda in detail. These branches include general medicine, pediatrics, surgery, toxicology, Rasayana or rejuvenation & fertility. Each branch relies on basic principles which can be applied in literally any day and age.
Ayurveda has been passed down through the centuries as a complete healing system, evolving over centuries, to meet the needs of the time, and yet remaining committed to its core principles. Various cultures have drawn upon the ideas of Ayurvedic medicine, and it continues to thrive in both the East and the West. In India, an Ayurvedic physician must undergo at least a 5-year post-graduate degree program (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) to become qualified. In the West, Ayurveda is recognized as a Complementary and Alternative Health System by the National Institutes of Health, and is blossoming in various educational institutions.
Basic Principles of Ayurveda
While Ayurvedic principles can be used to explain the complexity of not only our health, but also the health of world around us, there are several simple basics that become the building blocks for everything else:
Ayurveda’s fundamental approach to well-being is that you must reach your unique state of balance in your whole being—body, mind and spirit.
Ayurveda views the world while considering 3 constitutional principles or Doshas. These are Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
The first line of defense in combating imbalances is to remove the cause of the problem. Once the stressors are removed, the body BEGINS being able to heal itself. For example, if pollutants are bothering your nasal passages and sinuses, you can cleanse them with Nasya Oil and/or a Neti Pot.
If there are any lingering imbalances, after removing the initial cause, then you may CREATE balance by using opposites. For example, the Ayurvedic remedy for excess heat in the body, is to introduce something cooling. So, for excess heat or acidity in the digestive system, you could use cooling and soothing herbs like Shatavari.
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha: Your Viewing Lens
Once you put on the lens of Ayurveda and see things in terms of vata, pitta, kapha, and combinations thereof, the whole world comes alive in a new way. Look at the world around you! The doshas take form in endlessly interesting ways.
Composed of air and space, vata is dry, light, cold, rough, subtle/pervasive, mobile, and clear. As such, vata regulates the principle of movement. Any bodily motion—chewing, swallowing, nerve impulses, breathing, muscle movements, thinking, peristalsis, bowel movements, urination, menstruation—requires balanced vata. When vata is out of balance, any number of these movements may be deleteriously affected.
Pitta brings forth the qualities of fire and water. It is sharp, penetrating, hot, light, liquid, mobile, and oily. Pitta’s domain is the principal of transformation. Just as fire transforms anything it touches, pitta is in play any time the body converts or processes something. So pitta oversees digestion, metabolism, temperature maintenance, sensory perception, and comprehension. Imbalanced pitta can lead to sharpness and inflammation in these areas in particular.
Kapha, composed of earth and water, is heavy, cold, dull, oily, smooth, dense, soft, static, liquid, cloudy, hard, and gross (in the sense of dense or thick). As kapha governs stability and structure, it forms the substance of the human body, from the skeleton to various organs to the fatty molecules (lipids) that support the body. An excess of kapha leads to an overabundance of density, heaviness, and excess in the body.
Your Unique Constitution
The key to Ayurvedic wellness and vitality is the knowledge that health is not a “one size fits all” proposition. One must understand the unique nature of each person and situation, considering the individual, the season, the geography, and so on.
Each person has an Ayurvedic constitution that is specific to him or herself. Movement, away from that constitution, creates health imbalances. If imbalances are not addressed, Ayurveda says that illness may develop. Therefore, the early signs of imbalance serve as a wakeup call to make gentle and natural shifts in behavior to return to balance—such as adjusting diet, modifying daily activities to taking herbal remedies for a time.
Determining your prakriti (nature) —your fundamental balanced constitution—requires an assessment of your most natural state. Consider your physical structure as well as mental and emotional tendencies. Remember to think of what is most natural to you, rather than what you’re like when you are stressed or ill. Ayurveda says you can understand your basic nature and tendencies by understanding your balanced state.
Dosha imbalances (your vikruti, or current condition) can manifest in various stages, from a general feeling of unease, all the way to diagnosed illnesses with serious complications. To address this, Ayurveda presents array of treatment modalities to assist in healing. There are also various levels of commitment to the process form total immersion to slowly making slow, steady changes and progress. The goal is to reestablish your natural balance of vata, pitta, and kapha. Naturally!
For nearly six millennia, people have used the principles of Ayurveda to achieve and maintain health, peace and wellness of body, mind and spirit. The principles are as effective today, as they were long ago, in ancient India. Science is only now beginning to confirm what Ayurvedic practitioners and patients have known all along - medicine (Ayurvedic or otherwise) is more than just a reaction to disease. It’s way of daily living that promotes wellness, balance, health and harmony.
Ayurveda and Remedies
Ayurveda offers several ways to balance the Doshas and EMBRACE your optimal health well-being. The key is to find balance within a holistic approach—aligning mind, body and spirit. Ayurvedic remedies draw on several modalities:
Nutrition/Dietary modifications (Seasonal)
Lifestyle and Activity adjustments
Pranayama (yogic breathing techniques)
Marmayanga (Energetic Pressure Points)
Chakra (Energy) Alignment & Balance
Healing Bodywork & Massage
And much more!
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CURRENT SEASON: VATA ( FALL / WINTER )
Ayurveda Consists of Three Seasons:
November – February
March – June
July - October
Vata is a season of deﬁciency and change and can provoke higher stress levels. According to Ayurveda, keeping the nervous system stable through fall is our number one tool for maintaining strong immunity and staying healthy during the winter months.
Eat more foods that are Sweet, Sour, Salty,Heavy, Oily, Moist & Hot such as soups, stews, steamed vegetables & brown rice & beans. Drink warm lemon water in the mornings. And sip warm water with or without lemon & herbal teas to soothe & calm you throughout the day.
Eat fewer foods that are Pungent (Spicy), Bitter, Astringent, Light, Cold or Dry — such as: salads, smoothies or cold foods and beverages. NO ICE in your drinks during VATA season unless SPECIFICALLY instructed to do so.
SLOW DOWN. Practice MORE sitting meditations. Add in Restorative or Yin Yoga. Take more baths. Read. Journal. Self Care is such a huge component to living in harmony & BALANCE during VATA season. V is for VACATION. So take a vacation from stressors.