Ayurveda

Ayurveda
The Science of Life

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Ayurveda - The Science of Life

Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Although suppressed during years of foreign occupation, Ayurveda has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and throughout the world. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. Early Greek medicine also embraced many concepts originally described in the classical ayurvedic medical texts dating back thousands of years.

More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life,Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential. Providing guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and the proper use of our senses, Ayurveda reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.

Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Earth), these primary forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If Pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, and goal-oriented and we have a strong appetite for life. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical, and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate.

For each element, there is a balanced and imbalance expression. When Vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty focusing. When Pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader, and a good speaker. When Pitta is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive and irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammatory condition. When Kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive, and stable but when Kapha is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, weight gain, and sinus congestion.
An important goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of balance, and offer interventions using diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatments, music, and meditation to reestablish balance.

A simple questionnaire can help you determine which ayurvedic element is most lively in your nature. Take the dosha quiz here. Answer the following questions as honestly as possible and see which element(s) receives the highest score.

The Chopra Center's approach to health and wellbeing fuses the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda with the most advanced developments in modern allopathic medicine. We offer ayurvedic lifestyle consultations. We also teach the practical tools and techniques of Ayurveda at all of our programs, seminars, workshops, and retreats. Bring Ayurveda into Your Life

FAQ

Ayurveda FAQs

What is Ayurveda?
Is Ayurveda a form of holistic medicine?
How is Ayurveda different from conventional Western medicine?
What are the doshas?
What is the Ayurvedic perspective on health and illness?
What are Ayurveda's guiding principles?
Can Ayurvedic medicine help with physical injuries?

Q: What is Ayurveda?
A: Ayurveda is a system of preventive medicine and health care that developed in India more than 5,000 years ago. The word Ayurveda comes from two Sanskrit root words: Ayus, or “life,” and Veda, meaning “knowledge” or “science.” Ayurveda is therefore usually translated as “the science of life.” However, a more precise translation would be “the knowledge of the lifespan.” Ayurveda offers practical tools, insights, and information for living in balance and health, without interference from illness.

Q: Is Ayurveda a form of holistic medicine?
A: Yes. Ayurveda is a healing system that treats the whole person – the integration of body, mind, and spirit – rather than simply treating individual symptoms. For instance, we know that ongoing stress damages our immune system, and when the immune system is weakened, we are more vulnerable to disease and illness. We also know that when our mind experiences pleasure, our brain releases healing chemicals to our entire body, creating feelings of happiness and well-being as well as promoting health.

Ayurveda takes holistic medicine a step further, treating people not as isolated individuals but as an inextricable part of the whole universe. In India’s ancient Vedic tradition, there is an underlying intelligence that flows through and connects everyone and everything in the universe. Ayurveda sees life as the exchange of energy and information between individuals and their extended body – the environment. If our environment is nourishing, we thrive; if our environment is toxic; we may become sick. Therefore, learning how to eliminate toxicity and surround ourselves with a healing environment is the key to health.

Q: How is Ayurveda different from conventional Western medicine?
A: In contrast with conventional medicine, which has devoted a lot of effort to isolating the differences among various diseases, Ayurveda focuses on the unique qualities of individuals, pointing out that diseases differ mainly because people are so different.

Ayurveda teaches that all health-related measures — whether an exercise program, dietary plan or herbal supplement — must be based on an understanding of an individual’s unique mind-body constitution or dosha. By knowing a patient’s dosha, an Ayurvedic doctor can tell which diet, physical activities, and medical therapies are most likely to help, and which might do no good or even cause harm.

In addition, while Western medicine has tended to treat the symptoms of disease, Ayurveda seeks to eliminate illness by treating the underlying cause. For example, for a patient suffering from depression, an allopathic physician would likely prescribe a standard course of antidepressants and, perhaps, therapy.

An Ayurvedic doctor, on the other hand, would seek to understand the root imbalances contributing to the depression. The doctor would look at the patient as a whole, taking into consideration his or lifestyle, activities, diet, recent stressful events, beliefs, and mind-body constitution. The Ayurvedic practitioner would then recommend a treatment plan taking all of these factors into account.

Ayurveda doesn’t reject the use of antidepressants and other prescription medications – in fact, Ayurveda’s central principle is that we should make use of whatever healing modalities will restore health and balance to the body, including herbal remedies, dietary changes, pharmaceutical medications, meditation, exercise, psychotherapy, and so on.

Q: What are the doshas?
A: According to Ayurveda there are five master elements or mahabhutas that make up everything within our bodies and everything outside of our bodies: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Space carries all the aspects of pure potentiality – infinite possibilities; air has the qualities of movement and change; fire is hot, direct, and transformational; water is cohesive and protective; and earth is solid, grounded, and stable.

Biological systems weave these five forces into three primary patterns known as doshas. They are most easily thought of as mind-body principles that govern our style of thinking and behaving. Vata dosha, woven from the elements of Space and Air, regulates movement and change in our minds and bodies. Pitta dosha, comprised of Fire and Water, governs digestion and metabolism. Kapha dosha, made from Earth and Water, maintains and protects the integrity and structure of our mind and body.

Biological systems weave these five forces into three primary patterns known as doshas. They are most easily thought of as mind-body principles that govern our style of thinking and behaving. Vata dosha, woven from the elements of Space and Air, regulates movement and change in our minds and bodies. Pitta dosha, comprised of Fire and Water, governs digestion and metabolism. Kapha dosha, made from Earth and Water, maintains and protects the integrity and structure of our mind and body.

All three doshas are present in every cell, tissue, and organ – for movement, metabolism, and protection are essential components of life. What makes life interesting is that although everyone has all three doshas, each of us mixes them together in a unique way, which determines the distinctive qualities of our mind and body.

Knowing what your dosha is provides invaluable information that will help you get in touch with your body’s inner intelligence. You can find out what your dosha is right now by taking the Dosha Quiz here.

Q: What is the Ayurvedic perspective on health and illness?
A: The guiding principle of Ayurveda and the other Eastern healing arts is the interconnection of all things. We aren’t simply an isolated collection of atoms and molecules, but are an inseparable part of the infinite field of intelligence. From this holistic perspective, health isn’t merely the absence of illness or symptoms ― it is a higher state of consciousness that allows vitality, well-being, creativity, and joy to flow into our experience.

In contrast, illness is a disruption ― a blockage in the flow of energy and information that creates a sense of separation or alienation from the field. Symptoms and sickness are the body’s signal that we need to restore balance, eliminate whatever is causing the blockages, and reestablish the healthy flow of energy and information.

Q: What are Ayurveda's guiding principles?
A: Ayurveda teaches that the mind has the greatest influence in directing the body toward sickness and health. Thousands of years before modern medicine "discovered" the mind-body connection, the ancient sages had mastered it. They developed Ayurveda as a system for contacting our own inner intelligence (or mind), bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body.

The Ayurvedic principles for restoring and maintaining mind-body balance are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago:

1) Take time each day to quiet your mind (meditate).
2) Eat a colorful, flavorful diet.
3) Engage in daily exercise that enhances flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.
4) Sleep soundly at night.
5) Eliminate what is not serving you.
6) Cultivate loving, nurturing relationships.
7) Perform work that awakens your passion.

Q: Can Ayurvedic medicine help with physical injuries?
A: Ayurveda has been used for thousands of years to alleviate every type of health issue, including physical injuries. Ayurveda contrasts with the mechanical allopathic approach to medicine in that it looks at the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—but by including consciousness, it is not excluding the physical body. For virtually every physical ailment or injury, Ayurveda offers a healing protocol.

Doshas

Doshas

According to Ayurveda, each of us inherits a unique mix of three mind/body principles which creates our specific mental and physical characteristics. These three principles are called doshas.

Dosha quiz

Most of us have one or two doshas which are most lively in our nature, with the remaining one(s) less significant. The three doshas are known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

The three doshas are known as Vata, Pitta, & Kapha

If we are predominantly Vata, we tend to be thin, light and quick in our thoughts and actions. Change is a constant part of our lives. When Vata is balanced, we are creative, enthusiastic and lively. But if Vata becomes excessive, we may develop anxiety, insomnia or irregular digestion.

If the Pitta dosha is most lively in our nature, we tend to be muscular, smart and determined. If balanced, we are warm, intelligent and a good leader. If out of balance, Pitta can make us critical, irritable and aggressive.

If we have mostly Kapha in our nature, we tend to have a heavier frame, think and move more leisurely and are stable. When balanced, it creates calmness, sweetness and loyalty. When excessive, Kapha can cause weight gain, congestion and resistance to healthy change.

Using the principles of Ayurveda, we can identify our mind/body nature and use this understanding to make the most nourishing choices in our lives. It is common for people to have a blend of characteristics and usually one will tend to be dominate.

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