What Is Ayruveda?

body mind spirit balance concept hand drawing on blackboard
Thanks to Tasty Superfoods for the image.

Every once in a while, I would hear the word Ayruveda mentioned in yoga class. Knowing I wouldn’t remember the word when I got home, I would try to figure out its meaning from the context of the sentence. This never worked for me. I was still confused.

That’s because Ayruveda is an ancient Indian practice of holistic medicine. The word Ayruveda literally translates to life science or knowledge. About 5,000-6,000 years ago, Indian monks were looking for the best ways to keep themselves healthy. Through the years, the results have been fine tuned into the Ayruvedic practices of today.

Principles of Ayruveda

In his article, “What Is Ayruveda?”, Deepak Chopra, M.D. says, “The two main guiding principles of Ayurveda are 1) the mind and the body are inextricably connected, and 2) nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind.”

Practicing Ayruveda

Doshas

Before you can begin correctly practicing Ayruveda, you must first learn about your constitution. One of the main philosophies of Ayruveda is that every person consists of three doshas:  Pita, Vatta, and Kapha. All people have all three doshas, but the amounts of each vary depending on the individual.

Your results will provide insight about the foods that are best for you to eat and suggestions for yoga poses to incorporate into your practice. By making these changes, you will bring your body and mind to a more harmonious state.

Dosha tests are available online. Look for tests that have lots of questions, as these tests will provide you with more specific (and possibly more correct) results.  Here are two links to online tests from two different websites: Chopra Center  and Holistic Online. Also, the Ayruvedic Institute has a test that you fill out and grade yourself.

Principles

Now that you have your results, you can get to work! According to Deepak Chopra’s article, here are some general suggestions that Ayruveda makes for everyone.

  1. Meditate.

    “Meditation is just one of the most powerful tools the ancient Ayurvedic physicians prescribed for balancing the mind and body.”

  2. Understand your unique mind-body type and the specific needs that derive from it.

    This means that you should take a test to discover your doshas.

  3. Eat a colorful, flavorful diet.

    Whether you decide to practice Ayruveda or are simply learning what it is, any doctor will give you this sound health advice.

  4. Get abundant restful sleep.

    Restful sleep happens when you fall asleep naturally, sleep undisturbed for 6-8 hours, and wake feeling rested.

  5. Live in tune with nature.

    This means “having healthy desires that match what you actually need. When you’re in balance, you naturally desire only that which nurtures your health and life.  You flow in harmony with your body’s natural rhythms, getting restful sleep, feeding your senses with experiences, tastes, touch, aromas, sounds, and sights that uplift and nourish you. When you slip out of tune with nature, your desires become non-nurturing and you may crave junk food, neglect to sleep and exercise, and indulge in compulsive behaviors. Overtime, a little imbalance can become a disorder and then a disease, bringing on more stress and neglect.”

  6. Tune into your body. 

    This is an exercise. As things happen in your day, tune into your body and ask youself, “How do I feel about this? What do I think?” When your body answers, listen and pay attention.

  7. Strengthen your digestive power.

    To do this, eat with mindfulness, include all 6 tastes, don’t eat until you’re definitely hungry, refrain from raw foods, and exercise and meditate daily.

  8. Take it easy.

    “The Ayurvedic approach is about aligning with the infinite organizing power of nature rather than struggling or trying to force things to go your way.  This principle is embodied by the Law of Least Effort. When you chase after status, money, power, or accolades, you waste energy, but when your actions are motivated by love, your energy expands and accumulates. So take it easy and be guided by love.”

How Do I Start?

The easiest way to start is to actually begin. Make a plan that today, you will exercise and meditate. Even if you’re just committing 10 minutes to each, it may be an improvement from what you did yesterday.

Go online and take a free test to determine your doshas. Once you have your results, read the suggestions about foods you should eat or avoid. Think about what the results tell you. Does that sound true? When it is suggested that you avoid certain foods, are those foods that you already avoid or that cause pain when you eat them?

To select the yoga poses that best suit you, I suggest the book Yoga Toolbox for Teachers and Students by Joseph and Lilian Le Page. It’s a three-ring binder that contains pictures and descriptions for many basic yoga poses. Each picture shows the activated chakras and the doshas that benefit most from this pose. Here is a link to buy it form Amazon. If you order this book through this link, I earn a small commission.

Are you currently practicing Ayruveda? What specific things do you do to keep yourself balanced? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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