The Ayurvedic Path
My journey to the Ayurvedic Path began 20 years ago at the Aroga Ashram in Katmandu, Nepal. I really don’t remember much about the course except for the acrid smell of the neem oil. It was still hot in October and the space was small with no ventilation. The thickness of the neem descended like a heavy cloud to slowly suffocate me. My more pleasant memories of Nepal centered on visiting Pashupatinath, one of the most sacred Hindu temples. I witnessed the Teej ceremony there. This is a festival when women dressed in red and bright pink saris go to the temple to pray for a long life for their husbands. I remember walking against the tide of red. It was amazing to be engulfed by this sea of bright energy. By the way, there is no corresponding ceremony where husbands pray for their wives. I also traveled to Pokhara to see the Himalayas. I was told it was too late in the year to see them but they made an appearance just for me. And there are no words to describe the breathtaking magnificence of these mountains. These were just a few of my highlights in Nepal so it is understandable why I tucked the Ayurveda experience far into the recesses of my mind.
Fast-forward 15 years; I was the program director and professor of a massage therapy program. One of my students came to me with an ad for a local Ayurveda college. She wanted me to call and get information for her. Well, I did. She never attended a single class but I spent the next three years learning about this amazing path to health and balance. Recently, while sorting through paperwork, I found my Ayurveda certificate from Aroga Ashram and realized that the seed of Ayurveda that was planted so many years ago had now made a major impact on my life professionally and personally. And yes, since then I have even grown used to the smell of neem.
What is Ayurveda?
What is this path that piqued my curiosity 20 years ago and has now commanded my respect and dedication? The word, Ayurveda, comes from the Sanskrit ‘ayus’ (life) and ‘veda’ (science or knowledge) and translates to the Science of Life. Ayurveda is tried and true for over 5000 years thus making it the oldest continuous medical healthcare system in the world.
It accounts for every detail of wellness at every stage of life. Ayurvedic branches include internal medicine; aphrodisiac, fertility and pediatrics; ears, nose and throat; toxicology; psychology; surgery and geriatrics/anti-aging. Pancha Karma, a detoxification program, is another major cornerstone of this healing system. Pancha Karma is both preventive and curative and is renowned for its anti-aging results. Yoga, Pranayama, Jyotish (astrology), and Vastu Shastra (Indian Feng Shui) are all sciences that come out of Ayurveda. When it comes to health and balance Ayurveda covers all ground. This makes it impossible to really do it justice in one blog entry. Nevertheless, here are some foundational concepts.
Ayurveda’s basic philosophy centers on the 5-element theory and the Tridosha system. At its core, Ayurveda explains our interconnectedness with Nature. The universe is made up of 5 primary elements: ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. These substances make up everything on the planet including you and me.
These five elements converge to express three fundamental energies: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These three energies are expressed in Nature, in the seasons, in the time of day, in the stages of life as well as the state of health/imbalance of our mind, body and spirit. In other words, each of us embodies the five elements and three doshas. However, we each have a predominant individual expression of one or two of the doshas called our prakruti or nature (personal constitution). Whenever we move away from our nature, we move towards imbalance (vikruti), which is also expressed through Vata, Pitta and/or Kapha doshas.
How does Ayurveda work for you?
Ayurveda works by nurturing our true nature or prakruti and balancing areas that deviate from our true nature. In a nutshell, Ayurveda strives to spark our body’s natural healing potential and bring us back in alignment with who we really are. The true beauty of Ayurveda is that there is no cookie cutter approach. If there were three people with the same condition, each would receive their own personalized protocols. For example, people who wish to lose weight sometimes get discouraged because they take on the cookie cutter approach by eating salads and skipping meals. In Ayurveda, eating a cold salad as a meal might only work for one dosha type so 2 out of the 3 might fail because this single approach does not speak to their true nature. Additionally, if those same three people come to you during the spring, summer, fall or winter then adjustments will have to be made to accommodate the impact of each season.
How do you find out your constitution and imbalance?
The first place to start is with a visit to a certified Ayurvedic practitioner (CAP). What should you expect during a consultation? The CAP will determine your constitution and imbalance through a basic exam that includes a pulse assessment, tongue assessment, questionnaire and the observation of the skin, eyes, voice and general built. Recommendations are then made for diet, herbs and lifestyle. Lifestyle tips includes yoga exercises, pranayama (breathing) and meditation practices as well as color and gem therapy. A follow up visit is recommended every three months in order to re-evaluate and adjust for the impact of the season on our health.
There is so much more to share. Join me for the Ayurveda Path blog series and let’s journey to health and wellness together. The next Ayurveda Path segment will focus on the three doshas and answer the question ‘What’s my dosha?’
The content of this blog is for educational and informational purposes only. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Therefore, the information does not replace the recommendations made by your doctor or primary healthcare professional.
Lad, V. (1984). Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.
Tirtha, S. (2007). The Ayurveda Encyclopedia: Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention and Longevity. Unadilla, NY: Ayurveda Holistic Center Press.