Ayurveda 101


The Meaning of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the traditional medical science of India and is more than 5000 years old. The word “Ayurveda” is derived from two Sanskrit roots, “Ayus” meaning “life” and “Veda” meaning “knowledge or science.” Hence, the meaning of Ayurveda is the “knowledge or science of life.” Ayurveda is the traditional healing science from India. As the science or knowledge of life, Ayurveda addresses every aspect of a person’s existence.

The Soul & Ayurveda

Existence, from an Ayurvedic perspective, begins the moment the soul is incarnated into a body. At this time, the soul becomes bound to what is commonly called “ego.” However, a better translation from Sanskrit is “that aspect of self that is separated from the whole.” In other words, the soul and matter join together, and an individual has the experience of being unique and separate from the whole. The correct term in Sanskrit is ahamkara. The correct term for the soul is “atman.”

Atman is generally formless but exists within matter. Sometimes called soul, sometimes consciousness, it is an aspect of the pure Divine that also exists without form. This pure Divine force is called ”Purusha.” Purusha is not “God” in the Western sense but rather a formless, thoughtless, essence that permeates all creation as “atman.” Within each creation, Purusha acts as the “witness” to the experience of that creation.

How Ayurveda Applies to Your Life

Existing as a separate self, each creation struggles for survival. Ayurveda is the handbook to thrive as an individual. Ayurveda addresses all the actions an individual takes from the moment of conception until the moment of death. Some actions lead to well-being. Others to suffering and disease. Among the scope of Ayurveda are the choices of how to use the senses. The healthy use of the senses of taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch are essential to well-being.
Each person takes into their body and mind substances and energies, both physical and subtle, through the senses. When these energies are correct for each person, they support survival. When they are counter to a person’s needs, they produce suffering and disease.
Some examples that are easy to understand include:

  1. Taking in too much food resulting in obesity results in suffering. Taking in the proper amount of food and maintaining a healthy weight results supports survival.
  2. Watching stimulating movies or TV before bed often results in difficulty sleeping. This is a form of suffering. Either watching something calming or nothing at all tends to support better sleep. Healthy sleep has been found to support survival.

Your Unique Balance of Energy or Prakriti

While some examples are generally universal like those above, Ayurveda teaches that we are all unique, and our needs are individual. To understand this concept, it is important to know that, according to Ayurveda, we each have a unique balance of energies determined at the moment of conception. This is called “Prakriti,” which literally means “original creation.” It is common to use the word “constitution” to translate this concept. A person’s Prakriti sets the stage for how we come into the world and determines our tendencies. This includes those that shape our bodies and form the foundation of our personality. Blending Ayurveda and modern science, we can say that Prakriti flows through the genetics of an individual. Once a person understands their unique constitution (Prakriti,) a person can use custom craft, a sensory environment that will fully support them as unique individuals. Hence, there is no “one” specific diet that is right for everyone. The same is true for smells, sights, sounds, and touch.

Healing with Ayurveda

Once a person gets out of balance, their healing journey beings. This means changing both lifestyle and how a person utilizes their senses. This is not easy, but it is possible. The longer negative habits have been present, the more difficult it is to cultivate new habits that support balance and health. Ayurveda utilizes the following five sensory-based therapies.

  • Diet
  • Color Therapy
  • Sound therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage Therapy

In addition, Ayurveda provides individualize guidance into daily and seasonal routines, including proper times to wake up and go to sleep as well as how and when to eat to assure proper digestion and elimination. When medicines are beneficial, Ayurveda utilizes an extensive pharmacopeia of herbs. These medicines are typically gentler than pharmaceutical drugs and work best when combined with a complete diet and lifestyle program.