Ayurveda: Ancient Keys to Unlock Wellness Today
While we all know that there is no magic pill for optimal health or one right way to eat that suits all people, we are constantly looking for easy solutions to optimize our wellbeing. We are bombarded with fad diets, workout crazes, shelves full of supplements, and a plethora of conflicting information when it comes to nutrition.
Ayurveda, the 5000 year old healing system of India known as “the science of life” offers many solutions for lasting health that have survived the test of time. This dynamic system takes into account how our needs change at different phases of life, with the turn of the seasons, and according to our uniqueness as individuals. Ayurvedic concepts are grounded in sustainability and simplicity despite their unfathomable layers of depth. At Samana Wellness the wisdom of Ayurveda underlies our approach to supporting lasting health.
Ayurveda is based in a philosophy that views human beings as an integrated part of nature. Within each expression of the natural world (including us humans even down to the cellular level) there is a microcosm involving the very same elements, aspects, and interactions present in the macrocosm of the entire universe. These elements, aspects, and interactions are described in great depth as everything that exists (from plant roots to stars) is made through different combinations of these tendencies. For example, the fire element is present in all things producing transformation through heat from the sun to our digestive system, to the power stations (mitochondria) in each of our cells. Too much heat and too little heat or transformation both lead to imbalances. In Ayurveda, there are many ways to detect these elemental excesses and deficiencies including physical signs, thought patterns, and ways of communicating to name a few.
At the moment we were conceived, our original alchemy was created, and when we live in that state of balance that is particularly unique to each one of us, we are in optimal health. The further we stray from our original state of being, the more we experience varying levels of discomfort and disease. The goal in Ayurveda is to guide each of us to make choices in our daily lives through our food, activities, and practices that either help us maintain or bring us closer to the homeostasis of our original alchemy, called our Prakriti. In this natural state of being, we are empowered and connected to our utmost inner truth. From this place of absolute integration, we make choices to further perpetuate our wellbeing, like taking time to meditate, have meaningful conversations with loved ones, and practice self-acceptance.
Nutrition is an important component in the Ayurvedic system. All foods are described in terms of their qualities, and are recommended or discouraged based on how they support an individual’s needs. Ayurvedic nutrition is not an all-or-nothing diet, but rather a set of guidelines for tuning into one’s intuitive knowingness about what is most appropriate for him/her at that specific moment in time. The type of climate in which a person lives, their age, type of work, and lifestyle are all taken into account along with their dosha, the particular combination of elements most significant in their unique makeup.
Every individual is a combination of the three doshas, kapha (water and earth), pitta (fire), and vata (air). Most people have one dominant, a second runner up, and the third in lesser amounts, but this is not always the case. These doshas are not fixed boxes or neatly organized categories, but are more similar to orbiting planets, three dimensional and interacting with everything around them on many different levels. All of the doshas have their benefits and limitations, and it is important not to use them as justifications for our behavior. As stated previously, Ayurveda is a system for awakening to our inner truth and for taking responsibility for moving our lives in the direction we most want to go, hopefully toward raising our consciousness.
Another important concept in Ayurveda is that of the gunas, which are the virtues, or principles inherent in all things on the universal (macro) and cellular (micro) levels. The three gunas are sattva (balance), rajas (activity), and tamas (inertia). It is important to take a look at how we are living our lives to see which of these tendencies is most prevalent. Are we interacting harmoniously, restlessly, or are we being idle when situations arise in our lives?
Learning practices that move us toward sattva is the path of yoga and Ayurveda. Remembering that our outer lives are a reflection of our inner world and vice versa, we attune our bodies, minds, and spirits and thereby synchronize our daily lives with our innermost truths, which by design propels us to live the lives we are meant to live. We do this one bite, one breath, and one thought at a time.