Being in your element is what Ayurveda is all about!
The WHO recognises the antiquity of Ayurveda, regarding it as “the world’s most ancient, scientific, holistic, complete, natural system of health care”.
Ancient cultures and civilisations revered Mother Earth and embodied living in harmony with nature. They developed indigenous health systems, which are still practised and equally relevant today. Some of the traditional systems are Ayurveda, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, chiropractic and osteopathic medicine, homeopathy and naturopathy. Globally they are recognised as Complementary and Alternative Medicine Systems – CAMS, the term used for medical practices that are outside the domain of conventional medicine. CAMS is the preferential choice for those who practise consciousness and conservation.
Ayurveda: Ayus – life, Veda – knowledge
The science of Ayurveda originated from the subcontinent of India 5 000 years ago. It propounds that the universe is a unified field of pure, non-material intelligence and consciousness which, according to the law of vibration, manifests into the material universe. All evolution is the transformation of primal nature from one form to another, where everything is interconnected.
The wisdom of the Vedic sages gives importance to self-healing and self-realisation. The goal of human existence is to achieve the four fundamental stages of life: Dhama– life purpose, Artha– wealth, Kama– desires and Moksha– liberation. These progressive stages balance the human psyche and steer the pathway from the transient to the transcedental and ultimately enlightenment.
Ayurveda’s holistic approach offers a rich comprehensive concept of life and combines profound thoughts of medicine, wellness and philosophy. It branches deep into the spiritual, psychological and physiological aspects of eliminating the root cause of health conditions, not just symptoms. It incorporates nature therapy, nutrition, detox, massage, rejuvenation, herbal remedies, healthy relationships, Yoga, pranayama, meditation and much more. It can improve metabolism, digestion, weight loss, blood sugar and cholesterol levels and control blood pressure.
The timeless principles of Ayurveda are a precise combination of science and the art of healthy living. Ayurveda’s great benefits lie in understanding the multifaceted principles and philosophy that underpin the science and how to interpret and integrate them to suit our multi-dimensional personality. These provide a GPS to direct us to know who and where we are in our current status, which way to navigate and how much time to reach our destination. The benefits will plateau when we cultivate healthy lifestyles that bring us closer to our essential nature of peace and harmony. Awareness is key to self-healing.
Tri Dosha – Three humours theory.
The entire creation evolved from the metaphysics of the Pancha Mahabhuta theory in which the five great elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth form the building blocks. We are all made up of different forms of energy, light and matter that show up as an interplay of the five great elements. When these elements are animated with prana, the cosmic life force, they become the doshas – Vata – space and air; Pitta -fire and water; and Kapha– water and earth. VPK dosha are three primary qualities that permeate every cell and govern all functions.
Through the action of the doshas, we replicate the cosmic forces in our own body. Prakriti – your essential constitution – is determined by the unique proportion of the three doshas. Prakriti is genetically determined at conception and remains unchanged during your lifetime. We are all beautiful expressions of a special alchemical combination of these five elements in distinct form. Celebrate your uniqueness as no two people have the exact same ratio of earth, water, fire, air, and ether!
Triguna theory – Three attributes of nature
In addition to the physiological constitution that makes up the doshas, Ayurveda and Yoga give equal importance to the psychological parameters. The material universe of energy, matter and consciousness emerge from three primary qualities known as gunas. A guna is a tattva or element of reality that can affect our psychological, emotional and energetic states. Gunas are all interdependent, as each one is built into our DNA. They play an essential role and, when utilised wisely, can bring us into balance.
Sattva – love, bliss, purity, truth, harmony, peace, wisdom, intelligence, compassion, goodness, clarity, balance, gratitude, equanimity, joy, happiness, freedom, contentment.
Rajas – activity, energy, desires, passion, ambition, competition, attraction, courage, determination, excitement, anger, anxiety, irritation, restlessness, worry, fear, stress, greed, control.
Tamas – inertia, inactivity, heaviness, dark, doubt, helplessness, sadness, delusion, attachment, depression, addiction, lethargy, confusion, guilt, boredom.
Humans thrive in Sattva. A sattvic diet and lifestyle include Yoga, pranayama, meditation and service. Sattva exudes vitality, nurtures the mind, body and soul, nourishes the seven body tissues and builds Ojas – immunity and divinity.
VPK doshas and SRT gunas are constantly in flux and interact with one another. Maya, the dance of creation, is a constant combustion of colours and shapes creating different energetic patterns of movement, flow and character. Nature’s diversity at its best!
Prakriti and Vikruti – Natural and current constitution
Prakriti is your inherent state of optimum health and happiness. This is your reference point from birth. Vikriti is the imbalance which obscures the natural relationship with the doshas. It is the deviation from your original blueprint that defines your current constitution.
Pragya Aparadha – Mistake of the intellect
Ayurveda defines the primary source of all disease and suffering as pragyaparadh – mistake of the intellect. When we are not living aligned to the laws of nature and make choices that are detrimental to our wellbeing, then we become disconnected from the wholeness of life and our soul body.
Svastha – Optimum health
Svastha is achieved when your natural constitution is aligned to all the seven bodily tissues, digestive capacity and waste secretion. This brings clarity of mind, sense perceptions and a blissful spirit. Svashta is radiant health infused with peace, grace, joy, tranquility, contentment and brilliance.
Rasayana – Rejuvenation and longevity
The concept of anti-ageing is described in Ayurveda as Rasayana. Ayurveda’s first objective is to promote and preserve health and prevent illness. Rasayana– rejuvenation therapy means clearing the channels for the natural flow of matter and energy. It addresses the pathologies of ageing and entails deep rest, nourishment, boosting immunity, circulation, respiration, musculoskeletal strength, mobility, balance, cognitive functions and natural anti-ageing. The revitalisation is crucial in our highly stressed society, especially for those dealing with illness. The wisdom of Rasayana is to improve the quality of life so that you can evolve to attain higher states of consciousness. Yoga and meditation are key components to longevity and anti-ageing. Pancha Karma detox and rejuvenation programme has become the hallmark of Ayurveda renaissance.
Agni – Digestive fire
Agni, the digestive principle is central to homeostasis. Agni is the metabolic fire that kindles all biological processes. It is responsible for the breakdown of food substances and destroys unhealthy bacteria, viruses and toxins which impair our auto immune systems. Just as the sun is the centre of the solar system, our health evolves around the strength of the sun. Eating the main meal at lunchtime, when the sun is at its peak, stimulates digestion and prevents build-up of toxins.
Ama – Antithesis of agni
When agni is impaired due to the vitiation of tridosha, certain food components are not digested properly and accumulate in the digestive tract forming a toxic substance called ama. If the metabolic waste is not eliminated effectively, then it deteriorates and collects in the body tissues where there is a predilection for disease, which manifests over time.
Like increases like
Imbalance in doshas occur when there is an excess of the qualities that constitute your dosha. This principle is a powerful tool for wellness.
The microbes we breathe in natural environments are supporting seasonal inoculation of our gut with the right microbes for the right season. In nature we connect with the five elements which improve brain activity, mental health, positive emotions, immunity, respiration, cardiovascular health and reduce mood disorders, depression, anxiety and techno-stress.
When immersing in nature and mindfully engaging all five senses to take in the sensual beauty, we begin to use our senses inwardly as avenues of consciousness, breathing in through each sense and feeling what you notice in your heart. Meditate and absorb the silence of nature. Attune your body’s rhythms to the dynamic expression of nature in all its glory and live your best life.
Food: Powerful medicine
Eat naturally – foods that are alive with nature’s intelligence – fresh whole grains and organic fruit and vegetables according to seasons.
Eat wisely and mindfully with gratitude – what, when, how and how much. Chewing till food liquefies helps digestion.
Balance meals with all six tastes of sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent.
Enjoy plenty fruits and vegetables – good for internal cleansers and high in nutritional value.
Know your bio-individuality – eat according to your dosha type.
Refrain from fad diets – no one size fits all.
Cooked foods aid digestion – raw foods labour digestion.
Support digestion with warm water, herbal teas, Ayurveda herbs and spices.
Home-cooked meals have high energy – prana, leftovers have low prana.
Avoid processed, preservatives, toxic pesticides and GMO.
“A happy cook makes divine meals whilst an angry cook’s meal can lead to indigestion. Angry duck, anybody?” – Pramilla
Pramilla Vassen is a Yoga therapist and Ayurveda consultant based in Cape Town. She is a director at the Academy of Yoga and Ayurveda and has represented Ayurveda on AHPCSA. She is also an Art of Living teacher and conducts their Meditation and Breath Workshops and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation Program. Pramilla teaches Yoga philosophy, offers cooking classes and wellness day retreats at her studio in Claremont. Her work has been featured in magazines, television and international documentaries.
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