What is Ayurveda and what can it do for you?
Ayurveda is a system of healing the body that was developed by rishis or ‘seers’ during the Indian Vedic era thousands of years ago. It is both a science and an art that explains our unique connection to the environment of which we are an integral part. It has also been called yoga’s ‘sister science’ and is the deepest approach to understanding the body and the mind.
Ayurveda is not dictated by random lists, corporate driven studies, or current fads. Ayurveda simply helps us to understand what it takes to be healthy and is applicable to people of all ages regardless of cultural backgrounds or religious beliefs.
Ayurveda helps you, step by step, come into a rhythm that will support you on your healing journey and does this by beginning where you are, focusing on lifestyle challenges that may impede your road to true health. Ayurveda utilizes foods, food preparations, herbal supplements, breathing techniques, simple yoga postures, oils and scents to get you on track and to help break patterns which are not helpful. The focus is on the positive changes that will be incorporated slowly, thereby being easier to stay with.
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How does Ayurveda talk about imbalance or dis-ease?
The Sanskrit term dosha refers to forces which represent the 5 elements that are in constant flux in us and around us. We live in a world of constant change; nothing stays the same in our physical existence. In Ayurveda, all of physical matter is expressed in 5 elements of various proportions.
These elements are
SPACE, AIR, FIRE, WATER, and EARTH.
Doshas are present in unique proportions in you, but are subject to change depending on your diet, activities, season, age, and how your mind reacts to stimuli. How the the doshic forces express themselves in your body are as unique as your fingerprints.
There are three main doshas:
Vata: air and ether or that which moves. *Vata represents all movement in your body, the blood coursing through the veins, the force that moves the food and fluid through the digestive system, your heart beating.
Pitta: fire and water or that which digests . *Pitta represents the transformation processes in your body, the liver’s ability to detoxify substances, your stomach transforming food into digestible nutrients, your mind and eyes and their ability to discern.
Kapha: earth and water or that which lubricates. *Kapha represents everything that keeps you moist, fluid, and lubricated, the synovial fluids in your joints, your mucous membrane linings, fatty tissue, the softness of your skin.
In essence, there are 3 basic body/mind types based on these doshas. We all have a combination of these doshas, with one being more dominant.
For example, if you tend towards a thin, lean build, have dry skin or hair, possess a mind that thinks constantly and is ‘spacy’, are a chatty person who talks quickly, possess a variable appetite and reacts to a perceived dangerous situation with fear, don’t sweat a lot, tend towards constipation, love being warm, have the stamina of a deer where energy comes in quick spurts, then your dominant dosha is VATA (air/space).
If you tend towards a medium build, have oily or thin hair going gray or balding, possess a mind that is always planning ahead or is sharp, have an intense or firey personality, a strong appetite where skipping meals is uncomfortable, reacts to perceived dangerous situations with aggression or anger, sweat with a strong odor, tends toward loose stools, love cool weather, possess good energy that could seem unstoppable, then your dominant dosha is PITTA (fire/water).
But if you’re of a heavier bone build and find it hard to lose weight, your hair is thick and lustrous, possess a mind that wants to take its time, have a sweet (though sometimes ‘sticky’) slow disposition, where skipping a meal is okay with you, reacts to perceived dangerous situations by withdrawing, sweats little, loves warm dry weather, are slow to get started but once you do then your energy is steady, then your dominant dosha is KAPHA (water/earth).
Seasons are also categorized by dosha or element dominance.
Spring is KAPHA season when the earth becomes heavy with moisture (water) and is cool.
Summer is a time when PITTA dominates with the heat and the long days of sun (fire).
Winter is VATA season when it is cold and dry (a quality of air).
The proportion of the doshic forces outside of our bodies affect the doshas or forces inside our bodies. For example, in winter a VATA (air = cold) type person will tend to be more cold and dry whereas a PITTA (fire = hot) type person will tend to feel invigorated.
Ayurveda helps us understand the need for balancing these forces so as to enable the body to resist imbalance and disease.
Life stages also have seasons.
For example, babies and children are in the kapha (spring) stage of life. During late adolescent and our adult lives, we are in the pitta (summer, fiery) time of life. And as we age, we move into the drying stage of life, vata or winter.
Subtle expressions of the doshas also exist. They are called prana, agni, and ojas. These also need to be balanced in order for our bodies and our minds to function at their highest level or their best.
Prana represents our life force and is found in the air we breathe and in the foods we eat. Prana is expressed by our enthusiasm for being alive. We are much more able to utilize prana when we are calm, peaceful, happy or deeply satisfied. Think of a situation when you are totally relaxed. Your breathing is deeper and your body is able to release tensions. If we are in a constant state of heightened alert, we constrict the breath, unknowingly many times, and our bodies tighten, interrupting the flow of prana. This is why deep breathing is helpful to us, it enable pranic flow throughout our bodies.
Prana is also found in fresh foods and is lost in foods that are refrigerated for long periods of time and is almost non-existent in highly processed food-like products.
Agni represents our digestive energy or fire. Picture a large toasted rye cheese sandwich in front of you. Think of eating that sandwich (if you don’t like rye or cheese, it’s going to be even harder on your digestion!) Now imagine the amazing transformation that goes on in your body as that sandwich breaks down in the gut, essential nutrients are extracted and the rest is sent out of the body as waste. That takes an energy that is able to transmute and transform, much like fire is able to transform almost any substance. However, Ayurveda realizes that it’s not just food that we need to digest well for good health. We must also digest events in our lives and things that we are exposed to. Have you ever witnessed a gruesome scene that makes you sick in the stomach? That’s because those scenes are difficult to digest. It’s much easier to digest scenes in nature like a view over a calm lake or the look of distant rolling hills from a protected vantage point. Ayurveda understands that it’s not what you eat or what you see, but how well you digest that matters in overall health. What we don’t digest becomes ama. You can imagine ama as undigested food that clogs or gets stuck in the body, thereby becoming a breeding ground for toxins like fungus, bacteria, or parasites. Undigested images also stay with us and keep us from living fully in the present moment. So in order to be healthy, we need the ability and capacity to digest what we eat and what we take in through our senses.
Ojas represents our immunity and stability, fullness, ‘juiciness‘. All of us have a level of immunity in order to proceed healthily through life. Our body’s immune system is able to resist a great number of environmental influences. Think if we caught every disease, every cold or flu, every malady that we are exposed to. People who work around sick people do not always become ill. This is because ojas gives our body strength and stability to resist negative or unhealthy outside influences. Then why do some folks get sick more often than others? Again, this is not as much related to the germs and viruses in our environment as to the ability of our bodies to resist those unhelpful viruses and germs. Having a balance of good, strong ojas, adequate agni, and life-giving prana is therefore essential for health of the body.
In Ayurveda, we work on balancing your agni (fire), prana (air), and ojas (water) in order to give your body its maximum chance to heal itself from any imbalance. That imbalance could be long term or recent.
When your body is in balance, your mind feels more peaceful, your digestion of food and images is complete, and your immunity stabilizes you. When you’re feeling more peaceful, clear, and stable, you make better choices that affect not only you, but also those around you.
How an Ayurvedic Practitioner helps
As a practitioner, I will take the time to get to know you so that we’re able to work together to get to the root of your specific challenges. Through pulse and tongue diagnosis, I’ll get a good idea at how the elements are moving in your body and will be able to make suggestions on the best foods, drinks, and practices for your body and mind type.
The knowledge you’ll gain working with me as your Ayurvedic health practitioner will also enable you to become more self-aware. This awareness empowers you as you come to understand your unique constitution and your relationship to the world around.
Ayurveda also embraces other health care disciplines and weaves them into a treatment plan. I will never recommend that a client stop seeing medical doctors if he or she is under their care for a particular ailment or for ongoing assessments. Ayurveda is an ancient system that can be a part of an integrated approach to true health.
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**Follow up sessions include health coaching, monitoring of progress and dietary adjustments.
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