The ancient Ayurvedic text, the Sushruta Samhita states “He whose doshas are in balance, whose appetite is good, whose body, mind and spirit are full of bliss, is called a healthy person.” The opposite holds true for an unhealthy person. Ayurveda teaches us how to live a happy, healthy, and long life, free of disease.
Ayurveda believes that disease manifests from imbalance while wellness reflects harmony in all aspects of our lives. Ayurveda observes our interconnectedness with nature. All living things including human beings are composed of the five elements that exist in nature: ether, air, fire, water and earth. An understanding of these elements forms the basis of our three bodily humors known as doshas. Vata dosha is composed of ether and air; pitta of fire and water, and kapha of water and earth. We are all a combination of these doshas; our unique doshic constitution is determined at birth.
Ayurvedic treatment focuses on balancing the doshas as aggravated doshas are the precursors of disease. If there is an imbalance in the predominant dosha, this is of greater concern than an imbalance in a lesser dosha. Therefore, Ayurveda is about wise living; it is about balancing your personal nature with the world around you.
Just as our bodies contain all the elements that exist in nature, our minds have each of the three gunas (qualities or tendencies): sattva (knowledge, purity); rajas (action, passion), and tamas (inertia, ignorance). In context, guna is the quality of the mind and the character of a person. Like the doshas, the three gunas are present in each of us and can fluctuate depending on a number of factors.
Our goal is to increase the sattvic (knowledge, purity) quality by making choices that are sattvic in nature. The quality of our food and environment are critical to our mental health. As our minds and bodies are inextricably linked, exposure to rajasic or tamasic impressions ultimately creates an imbalance in the mind, leading to bodily distress. Just as mental imbalance can manifest physically in the body, physical illness contributes to mental suffering.
Ayurveda is based on an understanding of various complimentary cycles and the synergistic properties of everything in nature, everything from body types, the seasons of the year, the time of day to foods and suitable activities, is described in Ayurvedic knowledge.
Through proper food selection and preparation, you will promote healthy digestion and should reduce residual toxins (known as ama) that buildup in the body as a result of undigested foodstuff.
Through gradual lifestyle changes, Ayurveda promotes the rejuvenation of internal bodily systems with activities like yoga asanas, which stretch and massage the body and help restore muscle and fascia. Breathing techniques (known as pranayama) help balance the endrocrine system, which is important to remediating the negative effects of stress.
Other ways to cultivate balance include getting enough sleep; eating in a quiet atmosphere; conscious living (practicing the art of being present); recognizing and practicing the power of positive thinking; meditating or participating in spiritual practices; and attuning your life to the body’s natural rhythms. While the causes of imbalance are too numerous to list, some examples include: continuous stress; an unwholesome diet; the weather; strained relationships. Like Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda believes that our spiritual health and physical health are inextricably intertwined. A truly holistic approach, Ayurveda treats the cause, not just the symptoms. Ayurveda belives that: “Cause is a concealed effect; effect is a revealed cause.”
In his book, Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra states:
The purpose of Ayurveda tells us how are lives can be influenced, shaped, extended, and ultimately controlled without interference from sickness and old age. The guiding principle of Ayurveda is that the mind exerts its deepest influence on the body, and freedom from sickness depends on contacting our own awareness, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body. This state of balanced awareness, more than any kind of physical immunity, creates a higher state of health.
Ayurveda is truly a holistic system of healing meaning that it recognizes that perfect health can only be maintained when our mind, body and spirit are in a state of balance. Thus, the fist step in living a life of balance is CULTIVATING AWARENESS. This is different than a band-aid or a panacea. It requires that we listen to our body’s own intelligence so that we can recognize and rectify imbalances as they occur. Ayurveda gets to the root of the problem, “the root cause” and frequently recommends diet and lifestyle changes to help you move towards balance. Real change, however, requires earnest commitment. It is well worth it, however, if you are interested in making profound and enduring changes in your life.
Source: Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra, 1991, 2000.