In Ayurveda, the mind is thought to be the origin of all disease. The mind creates protective patterns and belief systems that start early in childhood and shape your personality today.
Ayurveda is a system of medicine designed to remove the imbalance of the physical body, while providing the mental clarity needed to change unproductive mindsets.
In Ayurvedic medicine, optimal health and even one’s spiritual growth starts with prevention. Prevention is based on a balanced lifestyle that is in harmony with the cycles of nature.
Ayurveda recognizes that all living creatures, whether human, plant, or animal, must live in harmony with nature in order to survive. Like the owner’s manual of your car prescribes maintenance schedules for the long-term health of your car, Ayurveda speaks of daily and seasonal routines that ensure maximal health, mental clarity, and longevity.
We tend to insulate ourselves away from much participation in the changes that take place from one season to the next. We don’t realize that, just like the birds, our survival depends on it, and that simply putting on or taking off a sweater and eating the same foods 365 days a year is not in keeping with the original human design.
Going to sleep and rising with the sun, eating seasonal foods for your region, and building your activities around the natural rhythms of the day are all simple and profound ways to stay in harmony with nature.
According to Deepak Chopra, thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, the sages of India developed Ayurveda, which continues to be one of the worlds most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realizing their full human potential.
The two main guiding principles of Ayurveda are
1.) The mind and the body are inextricably connected, and
2.) Nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind. Freedom from illness depends upon expanding our own awareness, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body. This process isn’t as complicated as it may sound. For example, when you meditate or pray you effortlessly enter a state of expanded awareness and inner quiet that refreshes the mind and restores balance. Since the mind and body are inseparable, the body is naturally balanced through the practice of meditation and prayer. In the state of restful awareness created through meditation, your heart rate and breath slow, your body decreases the production of “stress” hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and you increase the production of neurotransmitters that enhance well-being, including serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.
Ayurveda offers many practices for expanding self-awareness and cultivating your innate state of balance. Here are a few of the most important aspects of the Ayurvedic approach and suggestions for applying them to create perfect health in your own life:
A simple way to make sure that you are getting a balanced diet is to include the six Ayurvedic tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent) in each meal. Doing so will ensure that all major food groups and nutrients are represented. When you include all six tastes, you will also notice that you feel satisfied and that the urge to snack and overeat will diminish.
Along with the six tastes, filling your plate with the colours of the rainbow promotes a long and healthy life. You can literally ingest the information of the universe into your biology. Foods that are deep blue, purple, red, green, or orange are leaders in antioxidants and contain many nutrients that boost immunity and enhance health.
During sleep, our body repairs and rejuvenates itself. A lack of restful sleep disrupts the body’s innate balance, weakens our immune system, and speeds up the aging process. Human beings generally need between six and eight hours of restful sleep each night. Restful sleep means that you’re not using pharmaceuticals or alcohol to get to sleep but that you’re drifting off easily once you turn off the light and are sleeping soundly through the night. If you feel energetic and vibrant when you wake up, you had a night of restful sleep. If you feel tired and unenthusiastic, you haven’t had restful sleep.
The phrase “living in tune with nature” has a precise meaning in Ayurveda: having healthy desires that match what you actually need. As nature made you, what you need and what you want shouldn’t be in conflict. When you’re in balance, you naturally desire only that which nurtures your health and life. You flow in harmony with your body’s natural rhythms, getting restful sleep, feeding your senses with experiences, tastes, touch, aromas, sounds, and sights that uplift and nourish you. When you slip out of tune with nature, your desires become non-nurturing and you may crave junk food, neglect to sleep and exercise, and indulge in compulsive behaviours. Overtime, a little imbalance can become a disorder and then a disease, bringing on more stress and neglect.
You can make choices that keep you in harmony with your inner intelligence and rhythms by tuning into your body’s messages. The body always expresses itself through signals of comfort and discomfort. When choosing a certain path or behaviour, ask your body, “How do you feel about this?” If your body sends a signal of physical or emotional distress, pay attention and consider a different choice. If your body sends a signal of comfort and eagerness, you may proceed. Whereas the mind lives in the past and the future, the body resides in the now and never doubts itself. It knows the truth and will guide you towards the most evolutionary choices.
As Ayurveda teaches, good health is dependent upon our capability to fully metabolize the nutritional, emotional, and sensory information that we ingest. When our digestive energy, known as agni (fire), is robust, we create healthy tissues, eliminate waste products efficiently and produce a subtle essence called ojas. Ojas, which may be envisioned as the source of our vitality, is the basis for clarity of perception, physical strength, and immunity. On the other hand, if our agni is weakened, digestion is incomplete and lead to an accumulation of toxic residue known as ama. The build-up of ama in the body mind leads to obstructions in the flow of energy, information, and nourishment, and is the basis of all disease.
Ayurveda is not a “one-size-fits-all” system. Instead, its regimens are tailored to each person’s unique prakruti (Ayurvedic constitution), taking into account his or her needs for nutrition, exercise, personal hygiene, social interaction, and other lifestyle elements.
Daily routines, called dincharya, and seasonal regimens, called ritucharya, are recommended. Following these individualized plans help users of Ayurveda attain robust physical health, as well as mental and spiritual harmony.
In Ayurvedic medicine, one’s individual nature is mirrored in their body type, or dosha. The doshas reflect three main governing principles of nature, called vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth-water).
Each person is a unique combination of these three principles or doshas, with different proportions of each existing within us. These three basic Ayurvedic principles combine to make ten unique mind-body types.
Based on our Ayurvedic body type, what we eat, how we exercise, when we sleep, and even where we prefer to live, will have its own unique blueprint.
Once you know your body type, Ayurveda provides protocols to align your internal nature with the larger cycles of nature, such as the daily rhythms and seasonal cycles.
In Ayurveda, seasonal and daily routines include proper diet and a balanced lifestyle according to your type. Ayurveda then makes very specific recommendations for resetting digestion, restoring balance and function, and proper detoxification.
Once you know your body type (vata, pitta or kapha), it’s like having a roadmap that points you in the right direction of becoming your best self, so that you can fulfil your potential and experience more joy.