A beginner’s guide to Ayurveda

Ayurveda has been around for thousands of years and is back on every health cognoscenti’s radar as the next big trend in wellness. Here Vasant Lad, world-renowned expert on Ayurvedic wisdom, provides the basic principles and how this ancient  natural wisdom of health  and healing helps to restore overall balance.


Ayurveda is the art of daily living in harmony with  the laws of nature. It is an. The  aims and  objectives  of this sci­ence are to maintain  the  health of a healthy person  and  to  heal  the  disease  of an unhealthy person. Both prevention (mainte­nance  of good  health) and  healing  are car­ried out by entirely natural means. According  to Ayurveda, health is a perfect state of balance among the body’s three  fun­damental energies, or doshas (vata, pitta, kapha ) and  an equally  vital  balance  among body, mind, and the soul or consciousness.


Ayurveda is a profound  science  of  living that  encompasses  the   whole  of  life  and relates the life of the individual to the life of the universe. It is a holistic system of healing in the truest sense.  Body, mind, and con­sciousness are in constant interaction and relationship with other people and the envi­ronment.  In working  to create  health,  Ayurveda takes into consideration these different levels of life and their interconnectedness.


As  a  science  of  self-healing,  Ayurveda encompasses diet and nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rest and relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises,  and  medicinal  herbs, along  with  cleansing and  rejuvenation  pro­grams for healing body, mind, and spirit. Numerous adjunct therapies such as sound, color, and aromatherapy may also be employed.  Ayuroeda is a Sanskrit word that means “the science  of life and  longevity.”  According to this science,  every  individual  is both  a cre­ation of cosmic energies and a unique phe­nomenon, a unique  personality.  Ayurveda teaches  that   we all  have  a  constitution which  is our individual  psychobiological makeup.  From  the  moment  of conception , this individual constitution is created  by the universal energies of Space,  Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.


These   five  elements  combine  into  the three  fundamental  energies,  or doshas. Ether and air constitute vata, which  is the  energy of movement;  fire and water constitute pitta, the principle of digestion or metabolism, the transformation of matter  into energy; and water and  earth  make up kapha,  the energy of structure  and lubrication. When  the male sperm and the female egg join at the time of fertilization, the vata-pitta-kapha factors from the parents’ bodies that are most active and predominant at the moment,  due to the season,  the  time,  the  emotional state,  and the quality of their relationship, form a new individual with a particular constellation of qualities.


In modern  terms  we speak  of this  blue­print   of   the   individual   as  our   inherited genetic  code; from ancient  times  Ayurveda has called it our  prakruti or individual consti­tution,  a  constant  factor   that  does  not change  throughout life. It is our own unique pattern of energy, our combination of physi­cal,  mental,   and  emotional  characteristics and predispositions.Though the  underlying structure of  our prakruti remains a fixed reality, our home base or essential  individuality, it is constantly bombarded by numerous forces. Changes in age and  in our  external  environment, alternating heat and cold as the seasons pass, our endlessly shifting thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and  the  quality  and  quantity of the food we eat continuously affect us. Unhealthy diet,  excess  stress,  insufficient rest or exercise,  and  repressed  emotions all disturb our doshic balance. Depending on the type  of changes  and  the  individual’s under­ lying constitution, various ailments  may develop:


  • Some individuals experience an increase or aggravation of kapha,  leading  to  condi­tions  such  as colds,  congestion, sneezing, and allergic manifestations, as well as attach­ment, greed,  and possessiveness.
  • A pitta individual may  become  highly critical,  angry, or perfectionistic, or may develop physical  symptoms such as acid indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea,  dysentery, hives, rash, or acne.
  • Vata imbalances may manifest as consti­pation, abdominal distention, sciatica, arthritis, or insomnia, along with psychological symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and inse­curity.


All these illnesses and conditions, in addi­tion   to  the  countless  others that  lead  to human suffering, are due to alterations  in the body’s inner ecology. These upset the indi­ idual’s balance, creating subtle biochemical changes  that ultimately  lead to disease. This is why the Ayurvedic system of medicine speaks of the need for healing for every indi­ vidual in every  walk of life.

As the internal  and external  conditions of our lives change,  if  we are going  to remain healthy we need to constantly adjust in order to maintain equilibrium. Some of this adjust­ ing takes place automatically due to the beautiful    wisdom  and  intelligence   with which our bodies have been designed. But much demands conscious  choice.


To maintain  health  and  balance, we have to juggle with the three doshas, taking action to increase or decrease  vata,  pitta,  or kapha as  conditions  demand.  This   requires moment-to-moment awareness,  moment-to­-moment consciousness, moment-to-moment healing. Thus  healing-healthy, balanced, conscious living in the fullness of the present moment-is really a way of life. Ayurveda is not a passive form of therapy  but rather  asks each  individual to take responsibility for his or  her  own  daily  living. Through our  diet, our relationships, our job, our numerous responsibilities,  and our daily life as a whole, we can  take simple  actions  for  prevention, self-healing, wholeness, and growth toward fulfillment.


Vasant Lad holds a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery degree and a Master of Ayurvedic Science degree.  He is a world-renowned expert on the practices and health benefits of Ayurvedic medicine and has lectured at seminars and workshops.

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