By Swati Mhaske
Today, many people are seeking out natural methods for their health care needs. With the modern pace of life, where we are constantly forced to make unhealthy diet choices, our bodies and minds need healing. Healing tuned with nature restores both the body and mind. Ayurveda is such a method.
Ayurveda originated in India about eight millennia ago. The name Ayurveda, a compound of Sanskrit words Ayussignifying life and Veda signifying knowledge. According to the ancient texts on Ayurveda, “Charaka Samhita” Ayurveda is considered to be directly taught by the gods to the rishis (sages) and subsequently to the Vaidyas/Ayurveda practitioners. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of natural healing and holistic medicine. It offers methods that range from everyday habits suitable for everyone to uniquely personalized medicinal treatments. It involves the careful application of a well-balanced healthy diet, lifestyle changes and various herbal remedies to heal. By aligning even a small part of one’s lifestyle with Ayurveda, one will reap the benefits of physical and mental health.
Ayurvedic treatments are based on well-founded processes that have been tried and tested successfully for several millennia. It provides a deep understanding towards maintaining a healthy life through routine habits that align with natural body rhythms as well as various natural herbs that assist in bringing the body back into balance. Even today the healing potential of Ayurveda continues to amaze the novice and accomplished alike. Being a system deeply rooted in nature, Ayurvedic healing utilizes innumerable products of nature. The fundamentals on which the Ayurvedic system is based are essentially true for all times and do not change in time or place.
BALANCE OF THE MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT
Mind and Body
A healthy mind can reside in a healthy body and only a healthy body can support a healthy mind. Ayurveda understands this deep relationship between the body and mind. It even has a formal script called Padartha Vidnyana (Science of Elements) that describes this interdependence and ways of restoring this mind and body balance.
The mind has a powerful effect on the overall health and well-being of an individual. An Ayurveda practitioner understands this connection and makes recommendations to the individual that involve changes to habits, dietary choices and overall lifestyle changes. Where modern medicine masks the symptoms or treats specific pain, Ayurveda aims to allow the body to heal and also aids it with natural supplements. This gentle approach of aiding the body to heal allows a long-term benefit to the body and mind.
Body, which is the existence of the physical/elemental form of being. The mind-body is balanced by the functional principles of three energetic forces known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each dosha has a fundamental function in the human body. According to Ayurveda, these three doshas are influenced by the most important elements in nature—fire, water, earth, space and air. Each dosha is primarily formed by the combination of two such elements.
According to Ayurveda, each individual has a unique constitution established at birth. How each person eats, lives, and interacts with his/her environment is based on their unique constitution.
A disease in Ayurveda is an imbalance of the three doshas. Each individual has a unique balance of these three doshas. This uniqueness governs the body type, energy levels, appetite and even emotions. The concept that every individual has his/her “own unique constitution” is one of the fundamentals of Ayurveda medicine.
Vata Dosha (air and space elements) is characterized by its active nature where its primary function is movement and communication.
The primary restoring consideration for Vata-predominant individuals is having a steady routine. This can prove to be one of the most difficult things for the Vata-predominant individual to achieve; they tend to change their mind very often. Vātas need to maintain a routine regarding diet, work habits, exercise, sleep, etc.
Pitta Dosha (fire and water elements) is characterized by the transformative nature, where the primary function is transformation and digestion.
The primary restoring consideration for pitta-predominant individuals is cooling down—both the body and emotional tendencies. Pitta-predominant individuals are born to be tidy and organized, however, they often go overboard. They should avoid being too intense. They need to remember that life is for living and is meant to be enjoyed. Letting go of their overly-competitive edge can be very beneficial for Pitta-predominant individuals. They are best served when they take the time to participate in soothing activities such as taking a relaxing walk or sitting outside on a clear summer night staring at the moon.
Kapha Dosha (earth and water elements) reflects the binding nature, stability of the elements. Hence, its primary functions are cohesiveness, lubrication and giving structure.
The primary restoring consideration for Kapha-predominant individuals is to activity and variety. If you cannot stand any form of change, you are most likely Kapha-predominant in your psycho-physiological makeup. Kapha-predominant individuals do best when they add a few variations to their daily and seasonal routines. For example, they might choose to walk for exercise one day and then to dance another. Or, they might go running or play tennis. They benefit greatly from a wide assortment of activities from day to day.
The spirit is the true nature/soul or the existence of a human being. The spirit, according to Ayurveda, works in coordination with the mind and the body, controlling the basic physical and psychological qualities of an individual. The spirit is defined by the qualities of truth, self-awareness and a tendency to live a harmonious life.
HEALTH WITH AYURVEDA
Health according to this ancient knowledge is the balance and harmony between the Mind, Body and Spirit. which is achieved through the balance between the three doshas, five elements and the chakras.
Here are a few simple tips towards achieving an Ayurveda-based healing:
- Maintain the sanctity of the senses– Ayurveda suggests limiting the overuse and abuse of senses whenever you can. Misuse of the senses (called asatmya-indriyartha-samyoga) is one of the main causes of imbalance in one’s body. For example, we may overuse the sense of taste by overeating in a single meal or eating too often. At the same time, eating too little or eating at irregular intervals would become detrimental to the body as well as using food to control our lives.
- Regular flushing of toxins– According to Ayurveda, the changes and circumstances in the environment and your life cannot be controlled many times. Regular practice of detoxification is a key to good health and harmony.
- Alignment with Nature– Lifestyle changes according to the environmental factors, such as the season or weather.
Seasonal Routine (Ritucharya)
Seasonal changes can potentially cause an imbalance in doshas. We cannot control these changes but we can maintain balance by adapting our lifestyle accordingly. As we approach Fall/Winter, let us shed some light on the diet and lifestyle Ayurveda suggests to follow.
During this season, people gain strength and a powerful digestive fire because the fire gets obstructed from flowing outward due to external cold and dry weather. One should consume, warm, cooked, sweet and salty foods. We tend to feel hungry early in the morning, due to the longer nights. Consumption of warm water, cooked breakfast foods like oatmeal or sautéed apples and a warm cup of herbal tea (see recipe below) will help keep the cold, dry qualities of Vata at bay. Also, foods that are heavy and oily, such as bananas, avocados, winter squash, bananas, nuts and healthy fats) are recommended to counterbalance the dry air. Additionally, most spices work well in the winter as they have a heat-like quality that combats the cold.
Abhaynga (an oil massage) in cold, dry weather is very beneficial. Keeping warm by natural means like exposure to sunlight or warmth of the fire is also recommended.
Ayurvedic Herbal Tea
4 cups water
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 pods of cardamom
1 tablespoon of honey
Heat water in a pot. Add slightly crushed fennel seeds, coriander seeds and cardamom pods. Boil for three minutes. After the tea is warm, add honey. Strain and serve hot.
Swati Mhaske is a doctor of Ayurveda, M.S, and owner of HemaVeda Ayurveda, LLC in Crystal Lake, IL, which provides Ayurvedic healing for a happy and healthy life. Visit www.hemaveda.com.