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What is Ayurveda?

Dating back 5,000 years Ayurveda is the most ancient holistic medicine in the world, and forms one branch of a vast compendium of teachings and literally means “Knowledge of Life.” Ayurveda is considered the mother of all medicine, giving rise to Tibetan, Chinese and Greek medicine. The teachings of Ayurveda form a complete system ranging from surgery to complex herbal formulas for addressing imbalances in the body. Sushruta, a famous Ayurvedic surgeon living in 220 BCE, wrote extensively on the practices of Ayurveda and he describes health in this way:

“He whose Doshas [physiologic functions] are in balance, whose appetite is good, whose Dhatus [tissue layers] are functioning normally, whose Malas [body wastes] are in balance, and whose body, mind and senses remain full of bliss [24 hours a day], is called a healthy person.” Sushruta  As quoted by Paul Dugliss. Ayurveda - The Power to Heal (Kindle Locations 171-173). Kindle Edition.


It may sound surprising to our modern readers how he equates health to bliss. How can this be so? Sushruta considers not only health in the body but health in the mind and spirit. Furthermore, good health and wellness is equated to living in accordance with nature. Everything and everyone is a part of an intricate, interdependent web woven by Nature and in connection with the Divine. To be healthy is to be fully aware of our divine nature and purpose and to live accordingly. Thus, Ayurveda’s approach to the body is holistic-- we not only are physical beings, we are energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual and universal beings. As such, we must attend to the health of each aspect in order to be living a vibrant life. The Ayurveda practitioner helps us to re-align our self-care with conscious awareness so that we can live “full of bliss,” as Sushruta describes.

Ayurveda sees each human as a microcosm of the universe that optimally functions when all layers—from the physical to the spiritual-- are free and clear of debris (toxins) and in harmony with our higher self and the Divine. We are uniquely infused with divine energy from our cells to our cosmic Being and through consciousness we are on this journey to celebrate the gift we have been given—vitality and health. So, the practice of Ayurveda seeks to prevent disease and also helps us to restore balance when disease occurs in order for us to live in optimum health and in the truth of our Being.

As our planet is made up of the elements of earth, water, fire, air and space, so are our human bodies. In order to describe the functions of the human body Ayurveda utilizes the combination of the elements to create three fundamental concepts—the Doshas: Vata consists of air and space; Pitta is composed of fire and water; and Kapha is composed of earth and water. Vata in the body is responsible for movement, transportation and communication (such as the nervous system). Pitta governs digestion, metabolism, and transformation (as in the metabolizing of food); and Kapha governs lubrication, structure and strength (as in the bone, tendons and ligaments). Everyone is made up of the three doshas but in a unique combination. The Ayurvedic practitioner is trained to observe and assess the balance of the doshas in the body, or the imbalances that manifest as disease. A thorough assessment leads to recommendations varying from digestion and elimination, to sleep quality and the ability for the body to purify toxins (physical, emotional; external and internal) from the body. Ayurveda can be considered a preventative medicine that can work harmoniously with allopathic (western) medicine.

In sum, Ayurveda:

--pre-dates western, “allopathic” medicine by 1000’s of years.

--treats the underlying imbalances and sources of disease rather than treating symptoms.

--emphasizes self-care and awareness rather than dependency on “outside experts:”

--can work in harmony with western medicine

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