What is Ayurveda?
If you’re new to this whole wellness and Ayurveda thing, you’re likely to have a confused look on your face and ask:
What is Ayurveda?
The word Ayurveda is made up of 2 Sanskrit words - Ayur (meaning life) and Veda (meaning sacred knowledge).
So simply put, Ayurveda is a way of life.
It is our answer to modern day madness & chaos.
Just like its sister science Yoga, Ayurveda stretches beyond the realm of body and illness. Ayurveda carries within itself millennia of wisdom that can help you stay well in body, mind and spirit.
Ayurveda has no one size fits all kind of solutions.
It is based on the belief that each person is unique and regards an individual as a microcosm of the cosmos.
Where does Ayurveda come from?
Back in the day, I remember a friend who’d traveled to India mentioning how she’d discovered this ancient Indian practice called Ayurveda. I was fascinated.
The roots of Ayurveda can be traced back to the Indian subcontinent more than 5,000 years ago, when it was practiced by ancient bearded sages (who were also doing some awesome yoga poses ).
In this short and sweet video, Charlene Ishani explains, 'What is Ayurveda?':
The 5 Basic Principles of Ayurveda
Ayurvedically speaking, all is well with you once you balance your body, mind and spirit (I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true).
Ayurveda says there are 3 types of natural elements or doshas that make up your body’s constitution which is also known as Prakriti. These doshas are called Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water & earth).
The main idea here is that if your doshas are balanced, you’ll have good health. On the other hand, if you’ve got a pesky imbalance, you’ll fall sick.
Each one us has all the 3 doshas but usually one of these is dominant in your body.
3. Treating what causes disease
Unlike Western medicine (which is a few hundred years old compared to Ayurveda 5'000 year history), true healing happens when you focus on removing the cause of an illness instead of treating its symptoms.
Ayurveda also believes prevention is better than cure.
Once the cause of the disease is taken care of, Ayurveda uses opposite energies to restore any leftover imbalance.
For instance, if excess heat is causing irritation on your skin, you can use a cooling Ayurvedic herb like neem to calm it down.
Agni (which means fire in Sanskrit) is the digestive fire or energy which supports digestion and metabolism inside our bodies.
Ayurveda says that a lot of physical issues begin in the digestive tract. So, eating foods and doing yoga poses to strengthen the agni is crucial for good health.
Understanding your Dosha - Vata, Pitta & Kapha
Are you wondering what all this dosha business is about ? I promise it’s not as complex as it sounds.
Look around yourself and observe all the elements of nature - wind, light, water, sun, earth - well, that’s what defines a dosha. Let’s go through the 3 doshas in detail.
Vata, made of air and space, happens to be the strongest of all doshas. Its qualities are dryness, lightness, coldness, roughness, movement, subtlety and clarity. It affects a number of functions like blood flow, heart function, thinking, respiration, urination, bowel movements and menstruation.
A Vata imbalance aggravates all these bodily functions. Vata gets disturbed when you have unhealthy eating patterns, fear, sadness, and sleep deprivation.
If your body type is Vata, you’re prone to suffer from anxiety, asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, skin disorders and rheumatoid arthritis.
Pitta is all about fire and water. It’s hot, light, sharp and oily. It controls your metabolism, digestion, body temperature and sensory perception. Pitta gets disturbed when you eat sour and spicy things and get too much sun. Inflammation is a sign of disrupted Pitta dosha.
If you’re Pitta type, you’re likely to get high blood pressure, infections and even heart disease.
Kapha embodies the earth and water elements. It’s heavy, oily, dense, hard, cold and dull. This dosha influences the muscular system, immune system, stability, body structure and weight. Your kapha gets imbalanced if you take naps during the day and overdose on sweets, salty snacks & drinks.
If Kapha is your dominant dosha, then you’re likely to develop respiratory diseases like asthma and lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
Ayurvedic Remedies To Balance Your Doshas
Now that you know the basic principles and the 3 doshas of Ayurveda, you might go, “Hey, wait a sec, how can I use Ayurveda in my daily life?”
Ayurveda has so much to offer - it teaches us how to live, eat & be in the world.This is the beauty of Ayurveda - being a holistic system, it gives you plenty of ways to create balance and take charge of your wellness. Here’s what Ayurveda has to offer:
- Ayurvedic diet - Food is considered medicine in Ayurveda. By eating the right seasonal foods that suit your dosha, you can maintain your vitality.
- Ayurvedic herbs - The world of Ayurvedic herbs can benefit you in endless ways. Curious what these herbs are? Read my List of Ayurvedic Herbs.
- Pranayama - This ancient yogic breathing exercise can kick stress and disease in the butt. Basically Ayurveda and Yoga work together to create healing.
- Meditation - I know meditation is not everyone’s cup of tea but re-aligning the mind & spirit with the body can make you so much calmer.
- Detoxification techniques - We interact with toxins on an everyday basis. Slowly, they accumulate in our bodies and make us ill. Ayurveda shows us how simple detoxing is.
- Lifestyle advice - Whether it’s getting more sleep or watching the sun go down, an Ayurvedic lifestyle has all the right things inspired by nature’s cycles.
Recommended Reads for Ayurveda Beginners
If you want to read further and deepen your understanding of Ayurveda, I’d like to recommend some of my favorite books and useful articles:
- Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing: A Practical Guide by Dr. Vasant Lad
- The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Dr. Vasant Lad
- In Your Elements - A Blooming Ayurvedic Guide to Creating Your Best Life by Monica Bloom
- Perfect Health - The Complete Mind Body Guide by Deepak Chopra
- The Mindbody Cleanse by Ronly Blau & Adrian Nowland
Not so long ago, I was an Ayurveda beginner too. My curiosity stemmed, in part, because I suffered a bad burnout and had a few health issues. Soon after, I started using Ayurveda in my life, slowly but consistently.
After I got my glowing self back, people around me started asking me what I was doing. I would always say try to explain ayurveda to them. I receive many a strange look. That’s why I wrote this post so that anyone can get a hang of Ayurveda in a super easy way.
I hope you enjoyed diving into this new Ayurvedic world with me and if you did, do pin this on Pinterest & share the love (and help other Ayurveda newbies like yourself)!
Still feel a bit skeptical about Ayurveda? Read my post on 20 Myths About Ayurveda We Should Forget.