Ayurveda or the science of life is a healing system which has its roots in India. It is an ancient knowledge passed down through generations of practitioners. It can also be attributed as the art of living a life in harmony with the laws of nature. Ayurveda is concerned from the moment a person is born until the time of his death.
What Is Ayurveda? All You Need To Know
To the adult reading this text, yes, the practice of Ayurveda starts from the minute one opens his eyes in the morning, to the type of breakfast one eats, whether one’s coffee has cream and sugar, the amount of pollution one is exposed to, to get to work, the stress level one has upon greeting his employer and co-workers, etc. and up until one closes his eyes to go to sleep. It doesn’t even end there, Ayurveda would also want to know of the status of one’s relationships, evening meditation/prayer, and the things that gets one mad or sad, in short – it is holistic.
All these, with the aim of maximizing one’s life and by maximizing, it means not only expanding one’s lifespan but having the means (a healthy body) to achieve one’s full potential. Ayurveda has under its shell – dietetics, herbal medicine, body work, psychology, surgery and spirituality.
Basic concepts of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is presently being researched a lot due to its therapeutic potential to promote a healthy natural way of living and self-healing. The word Ayurveda means “Science of Life” in the age-old Sanskrit language.
It has a deeper meaning than just cure and prevents diseases because it also provides a holistic way of living which benefits all of humanity and at the same time facilitates individual well being. It gives one well-rounded principle and foundations on how to live one’s life and promote overall health and natural remedies to help in self-healing and prolonging life.
Practices such as yoga and diets based on Ayurveda are the most commonly seen offshoots of the principles and foundations stated in Ayurveda. But it is only the tip of the iceberg as Ayurveda is so much more than just diet and exercise! It is, in fact, a vast and valuable source of knowledge that has the capability of teaching an individual the art of living his life in tune with nature while doing what is best for his personal development for the greater cause of the universe.
Some of the fundamental ideas of Ayurveda as a science of healthy living and self-healing are as follows:
• Every human being is unique – Ayurveda states that every individual is unique based on their basic constitution or “Prakriti” which corresponds to their body type. All these are already pre-determined when one is born. The basic constitution, in turn, is governed by the three primary “Tri-doshas” or forces known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha which are created by the combinations of the five basic elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth respectively as follows:
- Vata Dosha is made up of ether and air element
- Pitta Dosha is made up of fire and water element
- Kapha Dosha is made up of water and earth element
• We are all energy beings: Ayurveda believes that all actions and their respective reactions are governed by energy in this universe. And human beings and other living and nonliving beings are also made out of this universal source of energy and are constantly affected by it. Ayurveda calls this energy which governs the individual living beings as “tri-dosha” and the energy which governs the universe is known as “tri-guna.”
Tri-guna is further divided into three constituents:
- Satva – translates to pure divine intelligence which imparts balance
- Rajas – translates to active energy which may cause imbalance
- Tamas- dark and lethargic energy which may cause inertia and laziness and confusion
• Imbalance in the “doshas” and “gunas” are the root of all illnesses: Ayurveda believes that an imbalance in the “tri-doshas” or the three individual guardian forces of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are the cause of all problems and diseases. Moreover, apart from the balance in tri-doshas, there should be harmony or a balance between the energies of the universe tri-guna and tri-doshas. Any imbalance in the flow of energy between those energies would manifest as a disease or discomfort in the concerned individual.
• Ayurveda cares to eliminate the root of the disease rather than its symptoms: Western medical science tries its best to cure the symptoms by using surgical procedures and drugs which has a lot of side effects. On the other hand, Ayurveda strives to diagnose and cure the root of the problem which manifests as the disease rather than just its symptoms. It believes that any treatment which causes side effects is a form of inefficient treatment and it cannot be regarded as healing as it further aggravates the problem by manifesting as other problems or diseases.
• We are what we eat and think: Ayurveda believes that we are what we eat and think. A good, balanced and nutritious diet is of utmost importance in Ayurveda. Ayurveda gives us some simple principles or concepts such as follows to eat healthily:
- Prakruti or nature of food: In Ayurveda food can be classified into two categories i.e heavy and light according to the basic nature of the food such as whether it is easy to digest or not. For example: meat can be heavy as it is difficult to digest and other food items such as fruits and vegetables can be easy to digest so can be considered as light. These basic natures of food items should be considered before consuming them to ensure a healthy constitution.
- Karana or processing of food: The way the food is cooked can have a great impact its quality and nature. Ayurveda states that’s some food items such as fruits and salads should be consumed raw for maximum dietary benefits. Use of cooking methods such as microwaving is discouraged in Ayurveda as it destroys the useful nutrients in the food and makes it almost useless for the body.
- Samyoga or combination: Most of us are not aware of this fact that some combination of food can be really harmful for us and cause problems! For example: mixing sour fruits and milk or curd could cause indigestion or toxins know as “ama” in Ayurveda which can be very harmful for our bodies. These kinds of unhealthy food combinations should be avoided at all costs.
A good diet is not only essential to maintaining a healthy body, but it also has a profound effect on the workings of the mind. According to Ayurveda, an individual can be considered genuinely healthy only if he has a strong disease-free body and a mind which can think clearly and judiciously. The subtle energy which comes from the digested food helps us to think clearly and act righteously.
Ayurveda is based upon the fundamental concepts and beliefs enlisted above and many other enriching ideas which if applied in one’s daily living, can ensure a long, healthy and happier life!
What Is Your Ayurvedic Physical And Mental Constitution?
In Ayurveda, one’s physical and mental constitution is already predetermined at birth, and the qualities or dominance of the combination of on Re’s tri dosha (vita, Pitta, Kapha) are unique to every individual. A person’s Kapha sums up the water in his body and determines his flesh quality and secretions. His Pitta, on the other hand, gives warmth to his body and transforms substances like plasma.
Lastly, his Vata determines the energies and activities needed for a healthy balance of his doshas. However, it is inevitable that one humor is dominant than the others. This dominance marks one’s uniqueness regarding disposition and physical appearance.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, optimum health may be achieved by first knowing by heart one’s natural constitution to know the first step in any treatment. One’s predominant humor greatly reflects the qualities and make-up of an individual. The belief is that most diseases arise from the predominant biological humor of an individual.
In general, having knowledge of this and knowing how and what to balance is the main key to optimizing one’s health. This process gives Ayurveda the ability to prevent disease, maintain health and maximize lifespan.
How does one determine his constitutional type? Below is a sample chart regarding simple observations one can look out to give an idea on is what to look for when determining his constitution. It is a self-assessment checklist that aims to give individuals an idea of what their dominant humor is. It is recommended that one answers the same checklist twice, the second instance ideally with a close friend/relative or significant other to make sure that a thing or an observation is never missed.
The Vata Constitution
Individuals of Vata constitution are generally considered to be physically underdeveloped. They are usually light with flexible, small-framed bodies and with chests that are flat making their tendons and veins visible. Individuals under this constitution tend to have less stamina and strength than the other types.
Vatas generally have dry and rough skin and cold hands and feet. This is so because of their poor circulation. They also tend to experience indigestion and crave for sweet, sour and salty taste and hot drinks. They also perspire much less than the other types. Their production of sweat and urine is scanty, and even their feces is dry and hard.
Vatas always seem to be in a rush. They dislike the idea of sitting for long hours and prefer constant activity. Psychologically, Vatas are gifted with quick-mindedness, creativity, and excellent imagination. They also tend to talk a lot and generally have a quite loving and sweet personality. Fear is the most prominent manifestation of imbalance in Vatas. This is the reason why they are also susceptible to anxiety attacks, nervousness, and loneliness.
To help maintain balance in Vata constitution, the following are advised:
– Dress warmly
– Avoid cold food
– Avoid raw food
– Keep a routine/daily habit
– Try to stay calm/ be aware of impulsiveness
– Try to stay away from extremely cold temperatures
The Pitta Constitution
Pitta individuals also tend to have flat chests, but unlike Vatas, their veins and tendons have a medium prominence. They usually have a slender built, and their body frame seems delicate to look at, but their bones are not as prominent like the Vatas. Their bones are not as underdeveloped as the Vatas. They tend to have a lot of moles and freckles which are brownish or reddish in color.
The Pitta complexion is usually fair, reddish or coppery while their skin is soft and warm to touch. Physiologically, pitas have a strong metabolism. As a result, they have a good appetite and good digestion, and they tend to eat and drink a lot. Pittas also tend to perspire a lot, thus making their body temperature slightly higher, making their hands and feet warm.
Physiologically, pitas tend to have diseases related to the fire element or heat. Inflammation, colitis, heart burn, jaundice, and sore throats and “itis-related” diseases are examples of manifestations of imbalance in a Pitta constitution. Psychologically, Pitta individuals are gifted with good concentration and comprehension. They are generally considered intellects with good logical thinking and sharp memories.
Pittas are good speakers, great leaders and have a great capacity for organizing. They also have a lot of charisma that attracts people which turns them to professions like politicians, lawyers, doctors, and other noble professions, During an imbalance, Pittas tend to criticize, judge and to be perfectionists. This is why Pitta individuals tend to have moderate lifespans because they burn their life energy through mental activity.
To help maintain the balance in the Pitta constitution, the following are recommended:
– Preferring cooling /bland or non-spicy food
– Drinking cool drinks but not overly iced
– Avoiding too much salty and oily food
– Exercising during the cooler part of the day
The Kapha constitution
The Kapha individual, unlike the other two previously discussed constitutions, is blessed with a developed, strong and healthy body. Their chests are prominent, well-developed and have strong muscles. Their body frame is large due to the dominance of earth and water elements in their constitution so they tend to be mostly healthy and strong.
Kaphas also have strong, white teeth and hair that is soft, lustrous and thick. Although their metabolism is not as fast as the Pittas, Kaphas can go on with their day while skipping their meals. But because of their slow metabolic rate, Kaphas tend to have a longer lifespan. They also prefer sweets and salty tastes.
Psychologically, Kaphas tend to feel heavy and foggy in the mornings for they are midday people. Kaphas tend to move a bit slow and are often lethargic. They move slow-paced, and their speech pattern is monotonous. When there is imbalance, obesity, diabetes, water retention are the manifestations. But when there is a balance, Kaphas are caring, compassionate, patient and tolerant.
To maintain balance in the Kapha constitution, the following are recommended:
– Prefer dry and light food, avoid heavy food
– Keep active and get plenty of exercises
– Avoid dairy
– Keep routine
Self Diagnosis: How To Examine Yourself And Avoid Diseases
Usually, people go to their doctors to be examined after particular symptoms start manifesting or when they feel sick. The procedure most likely will be as follows: symptoms – diagnosis –treatment – follow up. However, in Ayurveda, the diagnosis may be defined as the continuous at the moment interactions between the doshas and the bodily tissues. This is because it is believed that this is how the disease manifests itself.
A daily observation, awareness, and monitoring of the radial pulse, tongue, skin, etc. is a very useful practice when it comes to disease prevention and also is a tool for self-diagnosis. The following are guidelines that will serve as an aid in the diagnosis and prevention of diseases:
• Examination of the radial pulse –there are seven pulse points as seen in the diagram above. They are the temporal (above the temple), carotid (side of the neck above the clavicle), brachial (inside of the arm, above the elbow), radial (on the wrist), femoral (on the inside front of the leg), posterior tibial (behind the ankle) and dorsalispedis (top of the foot). One of them, the radial pulse found at one’s wrist in one’s body is an excellent diagnostic point to at least have an idea on the state of one’s body.
It is important to note that one’s pulse should not be monitored after these events as one may get different or above normal results: while hungry, while taking a bath, after consummation, after taking food or alcohol, after hard physical labor, after the massage, and after urination. It is best to monitor one’s pulse in the morning, after waking up or during times when one relaxed, rested and not at the peak of an emotional turmoil.
The status of the body organs and one’s constitution can be identified when one is knowledgeable in the examination of the radial pulse. The beats that one feels in pulsation not only indicates the beating of the heart but also gives an overview of the important meridians that connects pranic currents inside the body. When examining the pulse, know that each finger rests on a meridian that corresponds to a particular body organ.
To illustrate, the index finger indicates the status of the lungs, the middle finger, of the intestines and the ring finger, of the kidneys. Making it a habit to check one’s pulse and the changes that happens to it is an effective technique in self-diagnosis.
• Facial diagnosis – the face can be considered a mirror of the soul, thus diseases, at most times, reveal their ugly heads in one’s face. Each line or spot in one’s face can be an indication of what is going on inside one’s body. Eyebrows, especially those with vertical lines may indicate repressed emotions are being stored in the liver. In the forehead, horizontal wrinkling could mean anxiety attacks and deep-seated worries. Whereas, a vertical line between the eyebrows may mean that the spleen is holding a lot of negative emotions. The kidneys may indicate impairment through dark and puffy eyes.
Discolored cheeks and nose may indicate something is wrong in one’s kidneys and that the body is lacking folic acid and iron. In general, based on constitutions, a Vata person cannot store fat so his face may look sunken and his nose crooked. A Kapha tends to accumulate water and most of the time has a puffy face and a blunt nose. A Pitta tends to have a good appetite, and his face may look plump while his nose, sharp.
• Tongue diagnosis – the tongue is the organ for taste and speech. It is vital for speech as it is integral to form sounds and makes it possible to convey ideas, feelings, thoughts, and concepts. When the tongue is wet, it can perceive taste, when it is dry; it loses its ability to do so. It is essential to make it a habit to check one’s tongue as it reveals a lot of what’s happening inside the body. The factors to consider when examining the tongue are the following: shape, color, size, margins, dampness, and color.
The color yellowish may indicate bile in the gallbladder or liver disorder. It paleness is observed, problems in the blood may be considered. If the tongue is bluish and one has not eaten anything of a bluish color, the heart ailment may be present. Teeth impressions in the tongue indicate intestinal disorders. Usually, coated tongues are indications of toxin overload in the body. Moreover, if one has observed a line in the middle which is quite impressing, it may indicate that emotions are being suppressed while a curved line may mean a spinal problem.
• Lip diagnosis – lips that are rough and chapped usually indicates dehydration and signals problems in the Vata Dosha. Tremours and shaking of the lips may indicate anxiety attacks and nervousness. Pale lips are usually an indication of anemia or issues in the blood. Brown spots in the lips may indicate worms or may be a result of smoking habits. It is also important to note that Vata lips have a tendency to be thin and dry, Pitta’s lips are red and plump while Kapha lips are often thick and oily. The organs most associated with the lips are the internal organs, lungs, intestines, thyroid and the heart.
• Eye diagnosis – round, big and beautiful eyes are of the Kapha constitution. Small, slanted, and those that blink constantly are Vata constitution. The Pitta eyes are usually sensitive to light and are lustrous to look at. A drooping eyelid may indicate a feeling of insecurity and lack of self-confidence to the beholder. Prominent eyes usually are a sign of hormonal imbalance or a dysfunction in the thyroid gland. In case one observes a white ring around the iris, it is an indication of too much salt or sugar in the body. Spots in the eye, especially those that are colored brown indicate nutrients that are not absorbed in the body.
• Nail diagnosis – the Ayurveda principle believes that the nails are a waste product of the bones. The factors to consider when examining the nails are the following factors: contour, shape, size, color, and surface. It also helps to observe whether the nails are brittle, soft, breaks easily or if they are even-colored. Vata constitution usually has nails that are crooked, breaks easily and are rough to hold. Pitta nails are soft, pink or light-colored and tend to glisten.
The Kapha nails are thick, strong and oily. A pale nail usually indicates problems in the blood or anemia. Yellowish nails are a sign of liver dysfunction while bluish nails usually signify heart problems and circulatory disorders. The shape of the nails also indicates a lot of issues in the internal organs: clubbed nails – heart ailment, parrot nails – a chronic cough, bitten nail – nervousness/ anxiety attacks, bumps at the end of nails – lung infections, transverse grove – long-standing illness.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle: Daily Routine To Live Your Life The Ayurveda Way
Environmental factors such as the change in season and temperature are some examples of the things one can adjust to but cannot change or hinder. The one can only make sure that he is armed and ready for changes like having a windbreaker for winter and making sure that he is hydrated during the summers.
Although it is inevitable to live with factors like seasonal changes, there is one integral factor in one’s health that one can be in control of – that is his daily living or routine. The way one lives his life has a very great effect on one’s health. How does one make sure that he is living within the healthy boundaries of a “healthy routine?”
Why Is There A Need To Be One With The Seasons?
The ancient knowledge of Ayurveda was discovered during a time that is very much different from today. Nature and biological blocks were much more in tuned during those times as compared to this current time. Technology has its advantage and disadvantages. Sadly, one of those disadvantages is the ‘disconnect’ it has brought to nature and humans.
Although this fact is unavoidable, it has, however greatly affected health today. The forces of nature, the cycles of the seasons, the shift of day and night is undeniably connected to one’s doshas – from the food one eats to the air he breathes – all have something to do with nature. It is a natural law to be in tune if one wants optimum health.
What Is The Ayurvedic Daily Routine?
It is important to establish that there is a connection between one’s biological clock and his dosha clock. The two work in synchronization. This is the reason why a healthy routine results in harmony of the body clocks and nature’s rhythm. This connection creates balance and does wonders with regards to one’s bodily processes like digestion, absorption, and other organ function. Also, when there are balance and oneness within the body clocks and nature, negative emotions (which causes a lot of diseases) are put on hold and emotions such as happiness, confidence, love, etc. are manifested instead.
Ayurveda acknowledges that the body is a big clock with a smaller clock for each organ. For example, morning time is for the lungs; it expands fully during this time of the day. Midday is when we feel most hungry and is stomach time. For the liver, it is 3 am to 3 pm., while the late afternoon is for the colon and kidneys to function at their best. An understanding of these facts about one’s organ is also a key in staying healthy. This is also the reason why most health experts will not recommend staying up late, having stressful jobs, not having a regular mealtime, eating too many sweets in the mornings, etc. a healthy daily routine means a long and healthy lifespan.
A Sample Healthy Daily Routine Would Be:
• Waking up early around, ideally before the sun rises(4 to 6 am is considered as “Brahma muhurta” or time of creation and considered the best as it is full of vital creative energy)
• Meditating or saying a simple verse/prayer
• Washing face with cold water to “activate” organs
• Drinking a glass of water before anything solid is taken by mouth
• Brushing of teeth and tongue
• Conscious breathing exercises
• Oil massaging the body with extra effort to massage the scalp
• Off to work (remember proper posture at all times)
• Taking a break/having a walk
• Super time
• A short ritual before sleeping (reading, listening to relaxing music, etc)
• Bedtime between 10:00pm to 10:30 is ideal
Staying Healthy In The Modern World (Sattvic Living)
In this modern world we all live in, it is indeed, a fact that to choose a healthy lifestyle seems to be quite a challenge. The rise of smart phones and other modern gadgets, availability of instant food, pollution woes, global warming and the battle against diseases like cancer, all contribute to the difficulty in achieving a sattvic or pure life-style.
In Ayurveda, following a healthy/pure life-style (sattvic) simply means opting for raw or freshly cooked food over instant substitutes, making sure fruits, vegetables and herbs a included in one’s diet with careful consideration of one’s constitution. It also means a daily effort to make sure that there is clarity in mind, one’s actions are well-thought of, negative emotions are acknowledged and handled in a positive manner, and exercise and routine are prioritized.
Aside from all that, it is also important to note the need to practice calmness in the manner of speaking, kindness in thought and actions, and having a career that does not harm other beings. Also, the habit of letting go of emotional impurities like: violence, hatred, gossip, anger, lust, fear, fanaticism, etc. plays an important role in achieving a healthy self.
In the end, health is a choice of every individual. How we live our lives is a matter of self conviction. We only have one physical body in our lifetime and to take utmost care of it enables us to fully reach our potential. It is also when we take care of our soul and mind that healing may take place. Though diseases are but a natural part of everyone’s existence, alternatives like the Science and knowledge of Ayurveda gives us the power to choose what might work for us without sacrificing other aspects in our lives. To be disease-free in our current times is still a possibility; the choice is ours to take.