What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda originated near the Himalayan mountains of India. Ayurveda is considered the “science of life” or “science of yoga.” It is a sacred healing art and holistic system of healing. The focus of Ayurveda is to help people achieve balance, harmony, vitality, peace and longevity in life. Ayurveda facilitates the healing process of the mind, body and soul.
There are several ancient texts, which document the teachings and philosophies of Ayurveda throughout centuries, dating back as early as 3000 years ago, such as the Charaka Samhita, Srushruta Samhita and the Ashtanga Sangraha. Ayurveda is involves an understanding of the relationship among the elements, energy and matter.
How does Ayurveda connect to yoga?
The system of Ayurveda uses a variety of techniques and tools to facilitate healing and balance, such as connecting to nature, yoga, meditation, mantra, pranayama (breathing exercises), food, herbs, minerals, oils and more. There are various approaches in Ayurveda to yoga sequences, poses, meditation techniques, mantras, foods, walking, etc.…which can help bring balance and harmony to a person’s life, particularly during the various seasons in nature (see below for more information about the importance of being intuned with the seasons).
The Ayurveda system is so large, I focus mostly on diet/nutrition, lifestyle habits and the full spectrum of yoga.
What is involved in an Ayurveda consultation?
Clients complete an intake form. Then, their initial assessment begins and may take place over one or a few visits, in order to determine the client’s Prakriti (constitution) and Vikruti (state of imbalance). Clients receive an individualized lifestyle program or plan using the principles of Ayurveda and Prana Flow Yoga. All programs support balance, harmony, vitality and peace in the body, mind and spirit.
Clients may be given Ayurvedic dietary and lifestyle practices to implement in their daily routines. Clients need not only participate in an Ayurveda consultation due to imbalances, sessions can also be used to deepen clients’ own Ayurvedic studies and practices. The goal is not to have clients be dependent on their Ayurveda consultant, instead the goal is to empower and inspire people towards good health and help them become aware of their bodies’ natural make up and preferences; how to deter imbalances or mitigate them, as well as teach people how to work with the elements and seasons in nature in bring vitality, longevity, harmony and balance into their lives.
How do I know if Ayurveda is for me?
Our modern age has taken people away from their innate connection with nature and their bodies’ natural rhythms and movements. Ayurveda is an excellent way to learn how to work with nature to bring your body, mind and spirit back into balance. Everyone can benefit from this ancient, holistic healing system.
What are the five elements?
The elements are: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space/Ether.
Why are the five elements important in Ayurveda?
The elements are important in Ayurveda because it is believed that we are all made up of earth, water, fire, air and space (or ether). Therefore, it is important to make sure the elements stay balanced throughout the different seasons of nature and the seasons of our lives. However, some of us may have more or less of different elements present in our make-up.
Marie Garre, Ayuryoga Department Manager at the Ayurvedic Institute quotes the Arthava Veda when explaining the elements, “The sun is my eyes, Air is my life, Space is my soul and the Earth is my body” (5:9:7). In simpler terms, all things and all people are made up of the five elements of the universe.
According to Dr. Vasant Lad, the leading authority on Ayurveda, the rishis (or sages) of India who intuitively received wisdom from the Cosmic Consciousness about Ayurveda believed the elements to be the five basic principles in which energy manifested out of divine consciousness. Therefore, the entire cosmos is an interplay of energies, involving the 5 elements, writes Dr. Lad.
What are some of the qualities or attributes associated with the five elements in Ayurveda?
- Earth – (pruthivi) associated with physical or mechanical energy, organic living bodies, stability, grounded energy, the holder or container of all living things, comforts, food, shelter and home.
- Water – (apas) associated with chemical energy, the plasma of blood, the lymphatic system, fluids transporting nutrients and molecules.
- Fire – (Agni) associated with radiant energy, Agni, all transformative processes, metabolic, body temperature, absorption, assimilation of food, perception.
- Air – (Vayu) associated with electrical energy, movement, constant motion in body, prana (life force), and flow of consciousness through cells, sensory stimuli, motor responses, subtle movements, respiration and heart.
- Space/Ether – (Akasha) associated with nuclear energy, omnipotent, all pervading, home of all elements and “all objects in the universe” (Dr. Vasant Lad), first expression of Consciousness, expansive, open, freedom to move, pure spiritual energy, presence.
Why are the seasons important in Ayurveda?
Seasons offer different harvests, cycles of transformation, energies, tastes (rasa), rituals and opportunities for balance and alignment, depending where a person lives. The seasons teach us when to cleanse, when to ground, purify, regenerate and renew. There are many “seasons” throughout various points in our life; seasons are not just limited to nature’s cycles.
As one of my dear teachers, Shiva Rea wrote so eloquently in her book “Tending the Heart Fire: Living In Flow With the Pulse of Life:”
“The oscillating rhythm of the heart knows there is a time for activation and a time for regeneration, a time for quiet and a time for ecstasy, a time for clearing and a time for celebrating, a time for receiving and a time for giving, a time for igniting the fire, and a time for letting go into the fire.”
Being in touch with the heart and understanding the seasons, including the various characteristics and predominant aspects of the seasons, as well as how it relates to a person’s life brings people back into balance with their natural environments and heart’s song. The seasons help people to see and experience all the abundance around them and how to access that abundance for good health, longevity and happiness.
What is a Dosha or constitution?
Doshas are how the 5 elements manifest themselves in the physical body, governing the biological, psychological and physiopathological functions of the body, mind and consciousness. When the elements and doshas are out of balance, it can contribute to the processes of disease.
Doshas can impact people’s natural urges, temperature, food preferences, temperament and psychology. People’s constitutions are determined at conception, it is genetic, also impacted by the parents’ bodies, says to Dr. Lad. He continues, these elements are present at birth and remain constant, he says, but the combination of these elements, the physiopathological changes in the body alters in response to changes in the environment.
Three Doshas (VPK):
The five elements (earth, water, fire, air and space) are grouped into three basic types of energies:
1. VATA (air + ether)
2. PITTA (fire+water)
3. KAPHA (earth + water)
These doshas have specific qualities based on the elements connected with them. It is important to keep the doshas balanced and harmonious in quality and quantity, writes Maria Garre. However, these qualities are always changing and can increase or decrease depending on the internal or external stimuli.
Seven Types of Doshas:
There are generally seven types of constitutions (doshas). People can have a combination of some or one dosha can dominate more than another.
7. Vata-Pitta-Kapha (very rare)
Why are Doshas important?
Keeping the doshas balanced are important and necessary for health, especially health of the bodily tissues. When the doshas are out of balance it can create excess, deterioration, disease and breakdown.
How do I find my Dosha (constitution)?
There are various tests and quizzes online, which can help people determine their dosha. However, it can also be determined by scheduling sessions with an Ayurveda practitioner or consultant, where the client’s pulse is taken, tongue analyzed and other factors considered in order to make a final determination.
What is Prakriti?
When a person knows their Prakriti (their constitution or natural patterns) writes Garre, they can predict disease in the body or determine conditions they may be susceptible to, in order to prevent those diseases from taking hold.
What is Vikruti?
It is also important for a person to know their Vikruti (what is NOT in balance), since that movement is what will aggravate your Prakriti (constitution) and take one out of balance.
How do I find my Prakriti/constitution/dosha?
Banyan Botanicals offers a free test on their website to help people determine their Prakriti (constitution). It is good to take the test more than once and even have a loved one or someone who knows you well to take the quiz with you, in order to get a clearer picture of your dosha.
How do I determine if I have an imbalance (Vikruti)?
Banyan Botanicals also offers a free test to determine your Vikruti. However, it is good to consult with an Ayurveda consultant or practitioner.
Are there any disclaimers for Ayurveda?
Ayurveda helps to promote and support overall health and well being. It is always important to listen to your body and notice how it responds to Ayurveda. If you have any major medical conditions or concerns; Or, if under medical supervision for serious health issues, Ayurveda may or may not be a good fit for you. Consult your physician or an Ayurveda practitioner if unsure as to whether you are a good candidate for Ayurveda practices and techniques.