Ayurveda is considered one of the world’s oldest healing sciences, originating in India at least 5,000 years ago. This Sanskrit word translates as “the wisdom of life” or “the knowledge of longevity”.
In accordance with this definition, Ayurveda views health as much more than the absence of disease. Health, from an Ayurvedic perspective, is defined as maintaining a bright and clear state of the body, mind and spirit, including a balanced state of one’s natural constitution, bodily tissues and digestive system. Knowledge of Ayurvedic practices enables us to create this balance and teaches us how to make lifestyle changes to bring about and maintain a state of mind-body equanimity.
Just as we all have a unique fingerprint, each person has a particular pattern of energy—an individual combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics—which comprises our unique constitution (dosha). But doshas are like anything in life; they are fluid and affected by circumstance, emotion, or even the seasons. Thus, Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to individual health, believing that all aspects of life contribute to balance including nutrition, lifestyle, seasons and long-term tendencies.
In taking time to understand the unique nature of a person and situation, we see that people have a mind-body type that is specific to them, and movement away from this state is the source of health imbalances. If such imbalances are not addressed, disease may develop. Thus, the early signs of imbalance serve as a wakeup call to make gentle and natural shifts like adjusting our diet, modifying daily activities and taking herbal remedies.
While Ayurvedic principles can be used to explain the complexity of not only health, but the world around us as well, there are a few simple basics:
- 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.
- The first line of defense in combating imbalances is to remove the cause of the problem. If the trouble-maker is out of the picture, the body starts being able to heal itself.
- If there are any lingering imbalances after removing the inciting cause, then balance is established by using opposites. For example, the Ayurvedic remedy to excess heat is to use something cooling. So for excess heat or acidity in the digestive system, you use cooling foods.
- A primary starting point is to support digestive fire (agni), so that nutrition can be absorbed and waste materials can be eliminated.