“Ayurveda states that the purpose of life is to know or realize the Creator, both within and without, and to express this Divinity in one’s daily life.” – Dr. Vasant Lad, The Textbook of Ayurvedic Fundamental Principles.
Developed over centuries in what is now known as India, Ayurveda is a holistic healing modality that uses all of life as medicine. In fact, the ancient texts say that everything is a medicine or a poison, it’s just a matter of how it is used. Ayurveda is about aligning with Nature or Reality. Through this alignment, we experience health and happiness. This alignment or orientation with Nature is what many people feel is missing most in our hectic, technology-driven lives. Ayurveda addresses this from many different angles.
Ayurveda’s chief aim is two fold:
- To prolong life and promote perfect health.
- To completely eradicate the disease and dysfunction of the body.
You’ll notice that the first bullet is to promote perfect health of the already healthy. That’s at the core of Ayurveda: to maintain good health. But, if health is not so good, its aim is to completely eradicate disease and bring back a state of health.
Ayurveda achieves this aim with the help of the Three Pillars:
- Diet (Āhāra)
- Lifestyle (Vihāra)
- Herbs (Aushada)
Through diet we affect the way that the body digests. By using conscious food eating habits and aligning with the proper rhythms we allow our body’s digestive fire to work at full efficiency.
If we are not eating right for our constitutions (dosha), or are eating overly processed, old, or improperly combined food, our digestive fire’s capacity to utilize what’s being put into it becomes stressed. This will result in the depletion of the tissues of the body (dhatus), the immunity (ojas), and disease (vyakti) begins to manifest.
Lifestyle practices are an essential part of aligning our body’s energy and mind with nature. This alignment brings health and proper nutrition and assimilation.
Simply waking up at the same time every day and eating at the same time will have a profound effect on the health of your body and mind. Adding daily yoga, abhyanga (oil massage), meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), or exercise will all help the body maintain a healthy structure as well as help the mind and emotions settle into a more balanced state.
In our busy culture some of the healthiest lifestyle recommendations can be difficult to integrate. Imagine this: eating WITHOUT your phone, in silence 🙂Or how about not going to bed with your phone 🙂
Before herbs can become appropriate and efficacious, all of my teachers have told me, the diet and lifestyle must first be addressed. Of course, herbs can help one to align more with healthy diet and lifestyle through alleviating particular ailments. However, for long-term health, diet and lifestyle are the keys to sustainability.
I have received some basic herbal training. However, I rely heavily on diet and lifestyle recommendations and only suggest herbs when absolutely necessary. With prescribing herbs also comes an ecological impact as the growing, harvesting, transport, processing, and distribution of herbs should be considered.