Before we explore what Ayurveda is, let us first take a look at what Ayurveda is not:
- Ayurveda is not a spiritual pursuit
- Ayurveda is not linked to any religion or belief system
- Ayurveda does not cater exclusively to Indians or Asians
- Ayurveda does not involve only consuming / cooking Indian food
- Ayurveda does not come in a one-size-fits-all model
What Then is Ayurveda?
Almost 3,000 years old, Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems in the world. In Sanskrit, “ayur” means lifespan or life, while “veda” means science or body of knowledge. Ayurveda can, therefore, be translated as “science of life”.
It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between body, mind and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health across your entire lifespan, not merely fight illness and disease.
Ayurveda believes that good health and wellbeing are only possible when we are physically and mentally in harmony with the universe. Whenever this balance is disturbed, disease (whether physical or psychological) follows. Factors that can affect this balance include diet, lifestyle choices, injuries, genetic/birth defects, seasonal changes, age and stress (environmental, physical or mental), among others.
How It Works
Since these disruptive factors that cause disease can affect each individual differently – and to different degrees – Ayurveda treats each individual as a separate and unique entity. Recommendations for one person may be diametrically opposite to those for another, even though they have the same problem such as excess weight or insomnia.
This highly individualised approach means anyone can incorporate Ayurvedic principles and practices into their daily lives, irrespective of their cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Believing that all of us are a combination of the three basic constitution types (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), Ayurveda aims to help us balance all three.
The Ayurvedic Way
Although Ayurveda has a strong medical component which uses herbs to treat diseases, it has an equally broad non-medical, practical side to it. This aspect stresses on the following to maintain and promote good health, and even correct non-life-threatening conditions:
~ Proper and appropriate diet for one’s constitution
~ Lifestyle choices specific to one’s constitution
~ Exercise routines catered to one’s constitution
~ Meditation / de-stressing techniques, again tailored to suit one’s constitution
Just as Yoga (Ayurveda’s sister Vedic science) was initially perceived as an esoteric Hindu practice before being globally embraced for its myriad and universal health benefits, so also is Ayurveda going through a gradual demystification outside India.
Which then brings us back to what Ayurveda is:
- Ayurveda is a practical guide to life
- Ayurveda is non-denominational
- Ayurveda is universal and can be used by any human being
- Ayurveda advocates the right food choices, not any specific cuisine
- Ayurveda treats each case on an individual basis