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Read full post: Approaching Ayurveda

Approaching Ayurveda


The power of Āyurveda is immense and much of it remains untapped; and it is important for us to revisit this timeless science of healing and unravel its magnificence.

Approaching Āyurveda

Isn’t it a sense of pride and joy to know that one’s heritage holds a potential key to ease human suffering? Our traditional systems of knowledge and wisdom hold the key to unlock the secrets of health and wellness—physically, physiologically and mentally—and even handhold us through our spiritual journey. This ancestral and indigenous wisdom comes to us from a timeless source as an upaveda – Āyurveda, making it a consciousness-based paradigm aimed to maintain a balance between body, mind and spirit.

It is not surprising, given our colonized conditioning, that the first mention of Āyurveda may immediately draw us to thoughts of smelly oils, bitter potions and unpalatable herbal tablets. Some may even immediately think of the numerous spas and exotic wooden tables with intricate carvings in heritage homes – the experience made complete with copious amounts of herb infused oils and body treatments that are a far removed from the European Swedish massage strokes directed for venous return and instant muscle relaxation.

Āyurveda, however, is much more than massages and symptomatic relief. It is a way of life that expresses the wisdom contained in the vedas for all beings to experience good health which is further extended to the spirit and wellbeing of community.

Most people approach health in a very self-contained and restrictive way. The mainstream models of wellness have often been associated with symptomatic relief keeping our attention fixed to the manifested symptoms and effectively away from addressing underlying causes that need to be eliminated. We have been conditioned to downplay our individual sense of ‘knowing’, intuition or very simply, our body awareness. Āyurveda’s approach has always been to put individual awareness of our health and intuitive connection foremost – giving credence to that ‘I don’t know how to explain it, but I don’t feel well’ expression especially when there is no manifested symptom or bloodwork to justify the reported dis-ease.

This intangibility of symptomatic observation has historically and painfully placed Āyurveda in the confines of labels like ‘irrational quackery’ for many generations, creating mistrust and cruelly providing room for ridicule even amongst the inheritors of this wisdom. Yet, the timelessness of this truth, this jñāna, remains intact. Cryptic, philosophical and ethereal, isn’t it?

The philosophy of Āyurveda sets the basic stratum of understanding all of creation. All matter, which not only includes humans and other sentient beings but also the inanimate rocks, crystals and liquids, arises from that same primordial essence which makes our very existence a matrix of sorts. The pañchamahābhūta (five great elements) and the Tridoṣa (three theory are not just imaginative facets. They are energetic principles that look at creation through an unfathomable depth of understanding of their ‘being’ness – giving voice to their inherent nature and subsequently our nature.

The beauty of this tradition of wisdom is that although it may sometimes be a bit vague to logically comprehend without analogies, it relies on recognizing the gunas or qualities of matter; the very substance that we all are made of. Our constitution of both body and mind depends on this. Understanding our constitution helps us to identify natural foods, practices and protocols that can both prevent disease and correct early signs of imbalance to avoid an aggravation of symptoms. When our bodies experience disease and poor health, nature in her abundance has a plethora of remedies that can address the imbalance. I have personally found it fascinating to observe how the state of my mind and mood have drawn me to different foods and cooking ingredients at various times. The possibilities to apply Āyurveda in our lives, including managing relationships and even careers, are limitless! We derive our sustenance from nature and are a part of the same fabric that sustains it as well.

This understanding also gives us a unique insight into the fundamental and existential question of identity that most of us seek at some point in our lives – “Who am I?” In the process, we expand our awareness to recognize the existential truth of those around us too. This expanded consciousness brings with itself the promise of wellness through community and peaceful relationships in the service of Dharma. A healthy body, then, is the ideal vehicle to work towards our swadharma, our purpose in life.

Āyurveda also establishes wellness through an expression of the four objects of human pursuit, the puruśārthas; dharma (ethics), artha (prosperity), kāma (pleasure), and mokṣa (liberation); and our vehicle for this pursuit, being our mind-body complex, needs to be cared for and maintained towards this goal.

Our vedas have always been a source of guidance and empowerment. Āyurveda has traditionally been approached as a tool of empowerment for individuals; making health accessible to every individual, giving us the power to heal and strengthen our bodies and minds through the unfolding of our swadharma-informed choices. Our traumatic colonial history has stripped our nation of our access to and memory of this sacred source of wellness. In the process we have been alienated from our ancestral wisdom in favor of a donor culture, that has its place in its own right, but has also come at the expense of a loss of our heritage, and quite unfairly too. Needless to say, our access to Āyurveda today comes with a sense of deep gratitude to our ancestors who have endured the pain to safeguard this wisdom with severe risk, and having lost many lives and limbs in the process. It is our right to reclaim this gift of our culture from our ancestors, to not just revive what could otherwise potentially be lost, but also to be able to use it to elevate the consciousness of humanity as a whole.

Our physical, physiological, mental, and emotional health stands to be nourished and strengthened with Āyurveda. Interpersonal relationships can be strengthened just from knowing ourselves better, and consequently, knowing others too. The health, stability and peace from our homes hold the potential to influence and impact our environment and the people and beings in our surroundings. The power of Āyurveda is immense and much of it remains untapped. It is important for us to revisit this ancient and timeless science of wisdom and healing, and unravel its magnificence. For truly, it is the Āyurveda – the veda (knowledge) of āyuḥ (life).

Cover Image Credit: iStock images

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