+ Ayurveda 101
Ayurveda is a holistic medical system based on achieving physical and mental harmony with nature, with the main principle of restoring balance between the mind, body and soul. The science has been practised for more than 5,000 years and originated from ancient India. The sanskrit word Ayurveda is composed of two words: "Ayur" meaning life, and "Veda" meaning science, knowledge, wisdom. Translating to the science or knowledge of life. In Ayurveda the whole journey of life is considered to be sacred, and to live life to our fullest potential we must be in a state of balanced health and equilibrium of the mind, body and soul. The healing science of Ayurveda recognises that we are all unique, there is no one-size fits all approach, but awareness that our bio-indivudality requires lifestyle and nutrition practices that are specifically tailored to our unique needs. Its objective is not only to restore health in a person dealing with imbalance but to maintain optimal health in a normal healthy person.
the science of life
Ayur = life + Veda = science.
HEALING FROM THE ROOT
As a holistic health system Ayurveda is prevention orientated, it aims to prevent illness and dis-ease in the mind and body, and when treating disease it goes directly to the root cause, analysing why the imbalance manifested in the first place. Through this you are able to heal accordingly from the root, reverse imbalance and gently restore equilibrium. The mind-body connection is a cornerstone of Ayurveda. You are not treated as a symptom but as a whole person with unique physical, mental and emotional needs. Imbalance is not numbed or disguised but treated from the root. Signals of physical, emotional and mental symptoms is your body's way of communicating with you that something deeper within needs to be healed.
NUTRITION & LIFESTYLE
Ayurveda teaches you to reconnect with your body and how to listen to the signs and signals it is trying to communicate with you. It teaches you the tools and awareness to maintain or restore balance according to your unique mind-body type known as a Dosha. Ayurveda is about teaching you the tools to empower you to transform your health, wellbeing and vitality. At the core of this healing science is the mind-body connection and digestion. The experiences and food we digest creates who we are and gives us the freedom, energy and mobility to live the lives we desire. What is more empowering than understanding what sustains and gives you life? Through nutrition, lifestyle, daily self care practices, routines, movement and thoughts we can restore harmony, balance and vitality into our busy modern lives- in a time when now more than ever we need guidance the most. Ayurveda is a complete way of life that not only improves ones health, but also their well being, behaviour and state of mind. With just a few small changes to a persons daily life, it is possible to live the Ayurvedic way with the knowledge and tools for their unique mind-body type.
In Ayurveda we are connected to nature and the intelligence of the universal five elements of ether/space, air, fire, water and earth, which give rise to the three energies known as a 'dosha'. These energetic forces are known as Vata (ether + air), Pitta (fire + water) and Kapha (water + earth). These doshas are the language used in Ayurveda to describe the energy that exists in everything within and around us. They govern our physical and mental processes, these Dosha's are dynamic and are are constantly changing in response to our environments, the seasons, the food we eat, our emotional being and any other sensory experiences that feed our mind and body. The doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha are in our environments and within us, and are constantly working together to keep us in balance.
dosha = energy
The 3 Doshas / energy types = Vata (air), Pitta (fire) + Kapha (water).
Ayurveda was first practiced in India over 5,000 years ago as a guide to help people live in sync with nature and thrive with optimal health in their changing environments, which are always evolving with the cycles and seasons of nature. Ayurveda is a part of the "Vedas" which are the most ancient books of knowledge. The Vedas are ancient books of knowledge offering guidelines on how to live your life for optimal well-being. In Indian tradition the sacred texts of the Vedas are considered to be eternal (without a beginning and without an end). Ayurveda being a part of these Vedas is also considered as eternal, and to have existed as long as the 5 elements of life; space, air, fire, water, earth have existed.
The knowledge of this ancient practice was initially passed down as an oral tradition until 1000 BC, when it was then inscribed as part of the sacred Vedic sciences. In India Ayurveda was banned under British rule between 1835 and 1947, however fortunately survived its underground status until India reclaimed its independence, and Ayurveda became a recognised medical system.
Ayurveda is said to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest and most developed medical systems there is, the entire foundation of the Western health system and practices such as Chinese medicine and Macrobiotics all originate from Ayurveda. The medical system evolves around treating the holistic health of a whole person; mind, body and soul according to their unique bio-physical energy type. Ayurveda is certainly not intended to replace modern medicine, but rather to give people the tools to support their wellbeing according to their specific needs, leading to emotional and mental wellbeing and longevity of good health. It is a guide on how to live in harmony and balance with your mind, body and environment.
Digestion is at the core of Ayurveda, all health, wellbeing and immunity lies in the digestive system. The Ayurvedic word for digestion is Agni, which is the Sanskrit term for fire. The digestive fire is responsible for all transformation in the body, including nutrient absorption, metabolism and elimination. Not only do you digest food, but you digest emotions, senses, and life experiences. If your agni is low you feel physically and mentally depleted. Unprocessed emotions cause heaviness and toxicity to the mind and body, and are just as harmful as unprocessed foods. Unresolved emotions can cause mental and physical imbalances in the body, Ayurveda as a healing science evolves around the importance of the mind-body connection. When your digestive fire is strong you are able to digest your emotions, sensory experiences, food and absorb nutrients. When your fire is depleted toxins (Ama) begin accumulating in the body, and is the beginning of imbalance and disease manifesting in the mind and body.
the 20 qualities
In Ayurveda The 20 Qualities are used to describe everything within and around us, in our physical and mental world. Everything you can hear, taste, smell and touch is experienced via the 20 qualities. There are 10 pairs of the polar opposite qualities (e.g. wet vs dry and hard vs soft). Ayurveda is the science of qualities, everything has certain qualities from the seasons and weather, to our food and experiences.
The 10 pairs are:
Heavy - Light
Dull / Slow - Sharp / Quick
Cold - Hot
Oily / Unctuous - Dry / Brittle
Smooth - Rough
Dense / Solid - Liquid
Soft - Hard
Static - Mobile
Gross / Large - Subtle / Small
Cloudy / Sticky - Clear
the universal qualities
In Ayurveda it describes the three universal qualities or energies of life as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. These energies not only in exist in nature, but within in all things, including ourselves and the food we consume. The three qualities are known as Gunas and represent the circle of life, they correspond to the creation of all living things. Everything that exists experiences the cycle of birth, life and death. In modern Ayurveda the gunas are used to describe the nature of food to behaviours and emotions, guiding us to understand how a certain ingredient or experience will make us feel.
In the cycle of life Sattva corresponds to life and maintenence. It represents purity, clarity and potential energy. Sattva evokes the qualities of intelligence, good health, focus, creativity, alterness, cooperativeness, compassion, love and lightness in the mind and body. It is most similar to the vWe all have Sattva within us, and in Ayurveda to seek sattvic qualities within our food and experiences is central for achieving balance health and wellbeing. Sattvic people are generous, energised, humble, compassionate, loving and spiritually connected. They are respectful to others, animals and nature. Sattvic foods are at the core of Ayurveda, they are fresh, natural and ripe whole foods that are full of life force or Prana. All fresh vegetables, fruits and easily digestible foods are considered sattvic, they leave you feeling grounded, energised and satisfied. Mindful eating is considered sattvic.
In the cycle of life Rajas corresponds to birth or kinetic energy. It represents movement, power and action. Rajas energy is stimulating, passionate, restless, dominating and aggressive. It can be most compared to the Pitta Dosha because it creates transformation. Rajasic people are charismatic, skilful speakers, passionate, hardworking and entrepeneurs. However, when out of balance they can be controlling, egoistic, impatient and self-centred. Rajas foods have a stimulating effect on the mind and body, these included stimulants such as caffeine, nightshades, meat, eggs,sour fruit and spicy foods.
In the cycle of life Tamas corresponds to death and destruction. It represents darkness and inactivity. Tamas is dull, dark and slow and evokes qualities of lethargy and inertia. We all have Tamas within us, it provides support and density most similar to the Kapha Dosha, which is grounded, stable and building. However domination of tasmic energy can lead to fatigue, depression, self indulgence and possessiveness. Tasmic foods have a sedative effect on the mind and body, they are low in Prana (life force) and leave you feeling heavy and lethargic. Unhealthy tasmic foods include processed foods, frozen or microwaved meals, meat, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, tobacco and alcohol. Over eating and consuming leftover foods is considered tasmic.
THE 3 ESSENTIAL FORCES
In Ayurveda we are governed by the three essential forces known as Prana (life force), Tejas (metabolism) and Ojas (life, wellbeing and longevity). We require all three vital essences to live in balanced health and wellbeing.
Prana is the essence related to the vital life force and breath, and corresponds to the Vata Dosha. Prana is responsible for respiration, circulation, oxygenation, digestion and excretion. It governs all things related to your mind, thoughts and emotions. Healthy signs of prana include enthusiasm, motivation, life force, creativity, adaptability and intuition.
Ojas is the essence related to health, vitality, immunity and well-being, and corresponds to the Kapha Dosha. It is grounding, joyful and stable. Ojas results from proper digestion and forms your bodily tissues, organs, skin and cells. Digestion is at the core of Ayurveda, the better your digestion, the more ojas you have. Signs of healthy digestion include glowing skin, peaceful energy, high stress tolerance, and strong immune system, feeling stable and centred.
Tejas is the essence related to metabolism and the digestive fire (Agni), and corresponds to the Pitta Dosha. Tejas is responsible for movement, radiance and glow. It is the subtle essence related to radiance passion, strength, intelligence, longevity and confidence. Signs of healthy tejas include a radiant personality, bright eyes, sharp mind, decisiveness, strong leadership abilities and bravery.