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What is Ayurveda?

History of Ayurveda

What does the word mean? Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word derived from two roots: aur, meaning life, and veda, meaning knowledge. It means “the knowledge of life.”

Ayurveda is one of the oldest traditional systems of medicine still widely used today. In the ancient texts, they teach how we, as humans, can be in health through diet and lifestyle choices. Our goal is to be in our natural state of balance, which is how Ayurveda defines health.

It evolved as a spiritual practice in India between 3-5,000 years ago. It was developed as a way to bring humans closer to God, or to the universe or energy force. It’s not a religion, but its purpose is to create a clarity and purity of the body and mind so you’re better able to connect with God, or some higher life force. They believed when you live in health, which is our natural state, you can be fully in service to humanity and live purposefully.

Think of it like this… all ancient cultures had their own “knowledge of life” passed down generation to generation. Almost all of them described the nature of natural phenomena and energy as being composed of several basic elements. They balanced energy forces to harmonize individuals with nature. In the US, we’ve accepted bits and pieces of this knowledge - you’ve probably heard of Chinese medicine, acupuncture, feng shui, and homeopathy. And yoga. While Ayurveda and Yoga, which is a sister-science to Ayurveda, both developed in India thousands of years ago, Yoga has increased in popularity and become mainstream. Ayurveda is still a new concept. We generally label this type of knowledge as “alternative” or “holistic” medicine, which isn’t widely accepted by Western medicine, though I am beginning to see the term Integrative medicine more and more. So, Ayurveda is a form of holistic medicine, and is only beginning to get traction in the US.

What is this knowledge of life? Ayurveda provides foundational tools for:

· Interpreting the laws of nature. What’s that mean? Understanding self and environment. In ancient Ayurvedic texts, there is extensive knowledge of how the human body works; not just our physiology, but our mental and emotional states; and how we relate to nature, our environment.

· Identifying various states of health or imbalance. This goes into detecting and diagnosing. Ayurveda provides in-depth knowledge of disease states. There are six stages of the disease process according to Ayurveda, and it’s not until stage 5 that the disease manifests - in western medicine, this is usually the 1st stage - when you’d see the doctor. So, it’s a form of preventative medicine, and its focus is finding and treating the imbalance in its earliest stage. Again, we’re looking for balance, but that’s not always possible. In that case, the best we can do is learn the first signs of imbalance, diagnose, and take action to prevent disease.

· Charting a course toward improved well-being: This is the “take action” part, where your given recommendation to rebuild health. Ayurveda provide detailed knowledge of nature-based lifestyle and medicine. In Ayurveda, food is medicine - plants, meats, fruits, minerals. We use food to maintain, prevent, and treat disease.

So, let’s take this in for a minute. We now know Ayurveda is the knowledge of life. It offers us a user’s manual for health. But it was developed thousands of years ago. We live in a different world… it’s fast-paced and high pressure; there’s too much to do, and not enough time in the day. Is it still relevant?

The answer is yes, if we choose it. It seems we’re moving farther and farther away from being in-tune with ourselves, with nature, and being a part of nature. I see that loss in a way that’s affecting our health in a negative way. Practicing Ayurveda brings us back home. It isn’t the quick and convenient way to go; more often than not, you’re working against the grain of our society, but maybe there’s something to learn. Maybe you’ll find some truth in this. And as a science and system of holistic health, it’s increasingly being recognized, respected, and adopted for its ability to alleviate disease and improve physical and mental well-being.

Let’s look at Why Ayurveda is important today.

Why is Ayurveda still relevant today?

Like I said, it’s preventative medicine. It will show you how to support your immune system and minimize the stressors that can lead to imbalances and disease. It takes time for disease to build in the body, and without treatment, it becomes more complicated and complex. When you know your natural state of balance, it’s easier to identify when an imbalance begins. That’s the time to treat.

It’s nature-based medicine. Ayurveda believes all disease begins in the digestive tract, so food is your first medicine - to maintain, prevent, and treat disease.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Ayurveda offers extensive insights about food and health based on each person’s unique constitution. This is important to keep in mind as you learn the doshas, in particular. Not everything will apply to you, including the general recommendations you read on websites.

It provides the knowledge and tools for self-healing, which requires us to be informed and aware; aware of ourselves and everything we come in contact with. This path is not the fastest, easiest or most convenient route. You have to prioritize health. You have to be conscious of your food choices, and listen to your body. You have to build trust in yourself as the expert on you. When you build this awareness and trust, it changes your relationship to food.

I hope that helps give you some foundational insights into Ayurveda. Feel free to contact me for a free Discovery Call to see if Ayurveda will benefit you!

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