What is Ayurveda?
Tired of being sick and tired? Know you need to make fundamental life changes but don’t know where to start? Then it’s time to start adding an ancient Sanskrit word to your daily vocabulary: ayurveda. This go-to guide will give you the 411 on this eons-old practice.
The question most people ask first is “How do you pronounce that?” Never fear—it’s not as hard as it seems. Pronounced “ah-your-vay-dah,” the word means “knowledge of life” and the practice is recognized as one of the oldest forms of holistic medicine. Taking influences from both Buddhist and Hindu sources, its roots go back over 5,000 years. While the modern medical community has increasingly accepted this practice, it considers ayurveda to be a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Wellness is the word
In ayurveda, the ideal is to create a state of wellness for the body, mind, and spirit. In other words, the goal is to nurture a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease rather than popping pills as the first line of defense against aches and ills. The key to health is balance—in eating, sleep, medication, and even sex.
Although ayurveda is not yoga, the two are considered to be “sister” practices that complement each other. Both recognize that balance is a core part of maintaining wellness. What’s more, they also agree that good physical health is a must-have for maintaining emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. With so many common beliefs, ayurveda makes an ideal partner for your regular yoga practice.
Practitioners of ayurveda prefer traditional medical treatments—the kind created by Mother Nature rather than a laboratory. As a result, an ayurvedic medicine cabinet isn’t filled with little colored pills that offer heavy-duty side effects; instead, it would be filled with natural herbal supplements. Not surprisingly, a growing body of clinical research demonstrates the effectiveness of these treatments. For instance, a 2003 study found that the common herbs cardamom and cinnamon help ease digestive troubles. Findings from another study suggest that salvia, a member of the mint family, relieves Alzheimer’s symptoms.
If you decide to add traditional medicines to your wellness arsenal, be sure to purchase them from a reputable source because of concerns about the toxicity levels and heavy metals that have been found in some herbal products. And, as with any supplement, always check with your health care professional to be sure traditional medicines won’t interfere with any other medications you might be taking.
Connecting to the spirit is a must-have part of creating harmony in our lives, according to ayurveda experts. The simple act of sitting still and focusing can go a long way toward living a well lifestyle. Scientific research has confirmed that meditation has a host of benefits, from decreasing the heart rate to lowering blood pressure.
You don’t need to be an ancient yogi to practice meditation, either. An ayurvedic healer can give you simple tips that allow you to “ohm” away the stress that’s making your body unwell.
Did your mom ever remind you to wash behind the ears? She may have been onto something. Good hygiene is a critical component of ayurvedic practices. Regular bathing along with good care of the teeth, skin, and eyes are viewed as an important part of maintaining wellness. For example, ayurveda teaching recommends brushing teeth several times each day and using tools like dental floss and tongue cleaners to ensure healthy gums and teeth.
Doin’ it with diet
In ayurveda, what goes into the body plays an important role in creating a healthy balance within the body and mind. As a result, a balanced diet is a core principle of the practice. According to ayurvedic teaching, each person has individual needs that cannot be addressed with a generalized diet plan. Instead, ayurvedic healers specialize in assessing a person’s unique needs and creating a specially-designed diet. Healers consider a number of factors, including age, gender, and other characteristics.
If you don’t have access to an ayurvedic healer, there are still principles you can easily incorporate into your diet. For instance, include each one of the six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter) in every meal. The idea behind including all tastes is to balance digestion as well as stave off cravings. That doesn’t mean you need to cook a six-course meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—a spicy fruit chutney or a spice blend can provide the balancing tastes within a single dish.
The ayurvedic diet also balances the physical attributes of the food as well. Live in the frosty north? Then dive into warm comfort foods, like soups. If you’re sweating in the south, then a light meal of cool fruits and lighter foods are your go-to menu items.
There are many components to an ayurvedic diet, so if you’d like to learn more, be sure to consider visiting an ayurvedic center or finding a quality book written by an expert.
Ayurveda is a healthy way to improve your quality of life.
Stop feeling so ‘blah’ all the time. Take control of your wellness by considering the ayurvedic way of life. Your body and your mind will thank you.