What is Ayurveda? An introduction

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda, which literally means “The knowledge of Life and Longevity”, is a 5,000-year old powerful natural healing science from India. Health as defined by Ayurveda is a balanced state of body, mind and consciousness. Ayurveda focuses on the whole person and seeks to correct the imbalances at the root cause of the disease, instead of focusing just on the symptoms, which is the Western medical paradigm. Health according to Ayurveda is not just the absence of illness or symptoms – it is a state of balance, radiance, joy, vitality and peaceful wellbeing. Another unique aspect of Ayurveda is that it views each and every one of us through the lens of our unique constitution or blueprint and the treatment plan is customized just for us – this is very different from the Western medical approach of ‘one size fits all’. Whether you are looking to alleviate occasional digestive issues, or obtain relief from a chronic condition, Ayurveda can help you.

We are all unique

Central to Ayurveda is the concept of the 5 elements (Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth), all of which are present in the universe as well as in the human body – the human body, according to Ayurveda, is viewed as the microcosm of the macrocosm that is this universe.

These elements combine to form the constitutional makeup of our bodies – known as ‘doshas’ or bodily humors. These are Vata = Air & Ether, Pitta = Fire & Water and Kapha = Earth + Water. We are all conceived with a certain combination of these doshas that is our unique blueprint or constitution – Ayurveda views this is our perfect state of balance – known as Prakruti or our true nature or state of balance. However, as we move through life, we move away from this state of balance due to many reasons – our dietary choices, lifestyle factors, familial dysfunction, environmental factors and stress. This state of imbalance is known as Vikruti or our imbalanced or diseased state in Ayurveda, however small (occasional gas, constipation or diarrhea) or complex (IBS, fibromyalgia, hypertension) the imbalance may be. 

Treatment modalities

Ayurveda offers various tools to support the body and mind in its journey back to balance and health.  Yes, according to Ayurveda the mind plays a central role in the disease process – a concept now gaining ground in the relatively ‘new’ field of medicine called psychoneuroimmunology. Based one one’s unique constitution and the nature of the imbalance, Ayurveda employs a (w)holistic and customized approach, offering dietary recommendations, medicinal herbs, yoga, meditation, breath-work (pranayama), aromatherapy, sound and color therapies, daily and seasonal lifestyle practices to bring us back into our state of balance. Cleansing and rejuvenating therapies such as Panchakarma, Warm oil massage (Abyanga) and Shirodhara (streaming of medicated oil on the third eye) are also powerful healing modalities that are used in Ayurveda. As each one of us is unique as viewed through the lens of Ayurveda, so too are the tools employed to bring us back to a perfect state of health – thus Ayurveda offers us the most customized approach to health and longevity, once again very different from the ‘one size fits all’ paradigm of Western, allopathic medicine. This approach ensures success every time, as long as the patient diligently follows the recommendations of the Ayurvedic practitioner. It is no surprise then, that this system of medicine has been practiced for over five centuries!

Sandhiya Ramaswamy CAS, PKS is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and an Ayurvedic chef. She is a faculty member at the California College of Ayurveda (CCA). Born and having lived in India, she has had a lifelong and intimate connection with Ayurvedic healing. Her practice Green Lotus Wellness  is based in Dana Point, California.