What is Ayurveda?

Posted by Alexa Hoffman on

Ayurveda is the science of life, also known as the sister science of yoga. The word ayur- means life and -veda means science.

Ayurveda is a 5,000 year old medical science originated in India that teaches us how to adopt nature's rhythm in our daily life to find wellness, health and balance. It is the oldest whole-body healing system known to man and all of the texts are written in Sanskrit. Ayurveda defines health as not only the absence of disease but rather the balance of body, mind and consciousness. Ayurveda is the first medical science in the world to acknowledge the importance of the mind in maintaining optimal health. In order to be healthy, it is not just the physical body we need to look at but also our mind.

The three main focuses of Ayurveda are: to heal, to prevent and to maintain. A unique point to Ayurveda is the individualized approach: the imbalance or disease might be the same, but the approach to heal is going to be different for every person based on their unique mind-body type. Another unique detail to Ayurveda, is that what we eat greatly affects our mind, mood and emotions. 

An Ayurvedic approach is not limited to any particular herb, diet or treatment. A health routine is determined for each individual based on their lifestyle, age, compatibility with certain foods, and digestion among other factors.

The Five Great Elements

Ayurveda teaches us that everything in the world is comprised of the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space.

Earth represents matter that is solid. Earth is the energy of stability, permanence, ridigity, and groundedness. Parts of our body that are earth influde our bones, teeth, cells and tissues. 

Water represents change and is the liquid state. Water is needed for all living things to survive; a large part of our bodies are made up of water as well. Blood, lymph and other fluid move through our body for energy, carrying wastes, regulating our temperature and transporting hormones. 

Fire is the transformation of solid to liquid to gas and back again. The fire energy in our body transforms food into energy, fat and muscle. Fire creates our impulses, our reactions, our emotions and our thoughts.

Air is matter that is gas. Air, also known as oxygen in the body, is needed for all energy transfer processes. It is a key element needed for fire.

Ether is space; the space in our body in which all of the processes happen. The main characteristic of ether is sound; in the instance, sound represents all vibration.

Pillars of Ayurvedic Nutrition

The four pillars of Ayurvedic nutrition are diet (aahara), yoga and exercise (asana), breathwork (pranayama) and sleep/meditation (nidra). We need all of these categories to be in balance in order to feel our best.

Our diet is what we eat but also consists of our daily habits. Ayurveda believes there is no one standard diet that everyone should follow; as we are all individuals, we all process and digest different types of food differently. It is important to understand your unique mind-body type in order to begin to learn about what foods you should favor and avoid.

Yoga and exercise is not only for our physical body, but also for our minds and emotions. Just as we all have a different mind-body type, we also should adapt our workout practices seasonally. For example, when it is cold outside we should practice a more vigorous and challenging workout like sun salutations or cardio but in the summer when we are overheated, it is important to practice a more cooling workout like yin yoga or mat pilates. The main thing is consistency, begin small with 15-20 minutes of movement daily and build from there. Never underestimate the power of a walk outside!

Breathwork, most often practiced before or after a yoga practice, is important for our lung health but also to help us develop a steady, sound mind and willpower. It is best to learn pranayama breath techniques from a trained yoga teacher in order to properly learn the breath patterns. 

Sleep and meditation are very important to our health. Sleep is the body's time to recover, restore and rejuvenate. Where meditation is needed to discipline the mind as well as remove the strain and stress of daily life. My teacher once told me something that has always stuck with me: anything can be meditation as long as you are present, focused and sincere. Yes anything, doing the dishes, walking the dog, etc. 

This overview of Ayurveda is just the beginning. If you are interested in learning more about how to implement these practices in your daily life, I invite you to set up a free discovery call with me by sending me an email at alexa@alevanbotanica.com. Whether you are looking for practical workshop experiences or an Ayurvedic health consultation, I look forward to working with you. Here's to creating a life of peace, balance and health!

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