What The Heck Is Ayurveda?
The ancient art of Ayurveda has been used for thousands of years, but do you really understand how it works? How about pronouncing it? That seems like the most complicated part!
Let's start with the basics. How do you even say this weird looking word? Ayurveda [Are You Vey Da]. Seems easy enough, right? See, it's actually very simple to say, once you break it down. Ayur, means "life" or "longevity," and veda, means "knowledge" or "science." Put it all together and what do you have?
Ayurveda: “The Science of Life.”
So what actually is it? Is it a medicine? Is it something you practice at yoga? Is it some kind of woo woo meditation practice? Ayurveda is all of these things but woo woo. Ayurveda is one of the oldest, most traditional, holistic healing systems in the world! Founded in India, dating back 5,000 years ago, it focuses on the mind/body connection through medicinal herbs, diet, exercise, meditation, and breath.
Often referred to as "The Mother of All Healing", Ayurveda is all about bringing the body, mind, and consciousness into balance. I swear Ayurveda is a Libra’s perfect health system. Balance, balance, and more balance.
Ayurveda is based off of the five elements that make up the universe: ether, air, water, fire and earth. In addition, there are also three doshas. The three Doshas are: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Dosha’s are the active, moving, expressions of the five elements- the ‘life forces’ if you will. They are not only found in human bodies but in all living things. We all embody all three doshas. There is one that is most dominant, then a secondary, and the third is the least prominent. In Ayurveda, when a dosha is out of balance, it is believed to be the cause of disease.
I am going to briefly walk you through Ayurveda’s five main focal points of practice to encourage the mind/body connection: medicinal herbs, diet, exercise, meditation, and breath. Over the course of the next couple months we will dive deeper into the art of Ayurveda, and how you can easily start to incorporate simple Ayurvedic practices in your everyday life.
Medicinal herbs are one of the largest components of Ayurveda. Popular herbs like Harda, Neem, Holy Basil, and Turmeric, (just to name a few) can make a great impact on your health when making it a part of your daily routine. Conventional medications often rely on lifelong commitments, people become dependent on them in order to live comfortably, and they often have a long list of side effects and withdrawal symptoms. Yuck! No thank you! I don't want to just live 'comfortably'. I want to live awesomely! Medicinal herbs, can help you do that! Medicinal herbs are 100% natural, plant based, offer little to no side effects, assist the body’s stress response, reduce symptoms, and even have the ability to end symptoms.
In an Ayurvedic diet, you eat according to your most dominant dosha. Your diet should consist of whole, nourishing foods, medicinal herbs, and mindful eating. Once you have your dominant dosha figured out, you can create meals around foods that will balance your body. I know you are dying to figure out what your dosha is now and get a glimpse as to what you should be eating. I promise a blog post on this soon!
Yoga is the ideal Ayurvedic exercise because it regenerates the body, improves your digestive system, and removes physical and mental stress. It also helps balance out all three doshas and rids the internal organs of toxins, which are both goals in Ayurveda. Yoga calms the mind before meditation; and meditation calms the body before yoga. It’s a win win no matter what order you do it in.
Yoga is also known as the sister science of Ayurveda. Their origins come from the same ideals and their ultimate goals are the same. In Sanskrit, yoga means “union” or “a state of harmony” of the mind, body, and soul aka consciousness. Yoga amplifies the mind's strength by connecting it to the soul. In both Ayurveda and Yoga the goal is to obtain absolute balance and integration of mind, body, and consciousness.
By now I’m sure you have heard of the mind/body connection. Nothing has more power to heal the body than the mind. Have you watched the Heal documentary yet? If not, I highly recommend you do! It’s a film about the power of the mind and how thoughts, beliefs, and emotions impact our health and our ability to heal.
Since the mind and body are as one, the mind, body, and consciousness are naturally balanced through the practice of meditation. Meditation reduces the production of cortisol and adrenaline, which is our body’s ‘stress’ hormones; it increases the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, which are known to enhance our wellbeing. By assisting our body's stress response, it allows us to handle daily stresses in a more relaxed manor.
Have you noticed when you are in a stressful situation and you stop to take a few controlled, deep breaths that your body becomes more relaxed and your intuition grows stronger? This opens up our consciousness for a clearer mindset, allowing us to make more mindful decisions for our highest good. In Ayurveda, Pranayama breathing is a mindful awareness of breath that helps calm and clear the mind. It is the life force that both energizes and relaxes the body. Again- it’s all about balance. If you are going to draw energy in, you have to move energy out. When you practice pranayama, you are engaging yourself in controlled breath.
Pranayama also helps to strengthen the body by fully oxygenating the blood and the tissues, while removing carbon dioxide and toxins in the process. Oxygen is an essential element of air. Air is one of the five elements that make up our universe. Air is also one of the elements that Ayurveda is based off of. Air, in short, is essential to our survival.
Here’s a little challenge for you: try getting up five minutes earlier tomorrow. HA! That is a challenge in itself, I know! Well at least for me it is. In all seriousness though, I challenge you to get up just five minutes earlier than normal, sit in the quiet and just...breathe. Don’t check your Instagram or email, don’t make coffee. Just sit and breathe and see what happens. Is the chaos of the mornings more manageable? Does your day run just a tiny bit smoother? Pay mindful attention to these little changes. Hey look- your practicing that impossible word: Ayurveda.
How did we here at Bennd take this ancient 5,000 year old healing system, Ayurveda, and turn it into a yoga mat and accessory line?!? Stay tuned next week to get the full story behind our industry changing brand.