What is Ayurveda?
Considered by many scholars to be the oldest healing science, Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health designed to help people live long, healthy, balanced lives. The term Ayurveda is taken from the Sanskrit words ayus, meaning life or lifespan, and veda, meaning knowledge. It has been practiced in India for at least 5,000 years and has recently become popular in Western cultures. The basic principle of Ayurveda is to prevent and treat illness by maintaining balance in the body, mind, and consciousness through proper drinking, diet, and lifestyle, as well as herbal remedies.
I had my first Ayurveda consultation in Rishikesh, India, during my Yoga Teacher Training in 2010. In Brazil, I studied Ayurveda with Adarsha Ma Prem and started to understand deeply my own body-mind type (dosha) and to look for ways to create a balanced routine for myself. I love to share the knowledge of Ayurveda with my clients and students. I also offer Ayurveda introduction workshops and have a vision of becoming an Ayurveda Therapist.
According to Ayurvedic beliefs, just as everyone has a unique fingerprint, each person has a distinct pattern of energy, a specific combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. Ayurvedic practitioners also believe there are three basic energy types called doshas, present in every person:
- Vata ( ether + air ) The energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and heartbeat. When Vata energy is balanced, there is creativity and vitality. Out of balance, Vata produces fear and anxiety.
- Pitta ( fire + water ) The energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and temperature. In balance, pitta leads to contentment and intelligence. Out of balance, pitta can cause ulcers and arouse anger.
- Kapha ( earth + water ) The energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system. In balance, Kapha is expressed as love and forgiveness. Out of balance, Kapha leads to insecurity and envy.
Everyone has Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. But usually, 1 or 2 are dominant in a particular person. Many things can disturb the energy balance, such as stress, an unhealthy diet, the weather, and strained family relationships. The disturbance shows up as disease. Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe treatments to bring the doshas back into balance.
The 5 Elements
Everything in nature is made up of five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. Knowledge of the five elements allows the yogi to understand the laws of nature and to use yoga to attain greater health, power, knowledge, wisdom, and happiness. This arises out of deep intuition of how the universe operates.
Knowledge of the five elements is an essential pre-requisite for yoga practice because the elements form the world we live in and the structure of our body-mind. All yoga practices work on the five elements, whether we know it or not. Knowledge of the elements (tattvas) is also the basis of the traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine. Through consciously working with the elements, we learn how to attain and maintain health and also how to consciously enjoy a long and fulfilling life based on higher awareness.
Seasons have a profound effect on us all, and as the environment evolves from one season to another, so our bodies follow the same rhythm. The better we understand and connect with the energy of each season, the more we experience balance. Eastern medicine recognizes that the best way to stay healthy is to attune to each of the seasons. More than simply knowing facts about seasons, we also need to develop our connection through contemplation, so that our intuition is the guide.