Five thousand years ago, the “sages of India”1 developed the art of Ayurveda and this system of natural healing, with its origins in the Vedic culture, “continues to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems” in use today.2 But it has endured because it is more than just a system for treating illness. Rather, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge) and it helps people stay vibrant and healthy so they can best enjoy the life they’ve been given.

In the last couple of years, Ayurveda has seen a resurgence in interest, both in India and around the world. However, many people still know very little about it so we thought we’d explain a bit more about this ancient form of medicine.

Ayurveda recognizes that human beings are part of nature and “describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure.”3These are known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Earth) and it is these “primary forces”4 that are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body.

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra,

“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 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. 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 wellbeing, including serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.”5

Now, here’s the thing, not everyone will agree on all aspects of this. In fact, because Ayurveda also tends to be popular among those of the Buddist or Hindu faith, some might want to automatically write it off altogether. However, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet.

(And keep in mind that meditation is only one tool for balancing the mind and body. For some people, spending time outside in nature does the same thing, and for others, meditation on their religion works as well. The idea here is slowing down and breathing deeply. But please, read on.)

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While Ayurveda teaches that for each element there is a balanced and imbalanced expression (and when there is an imbalance, the body is less able to be healthy and happy) if you’ve spent any time here at HNN, you’ll remember that we share a similar belief. We want you to support your body and immune system so that it can perform optimally and that means being in “balance.” (To find out what your particular element is, click here for a short test.)

Now, while Ayurveda is a personalized approach to health, and knowing your mind-body type could help you to make better choices about diet, exercise, supplements, etc…, there are some general benefits- regardless of type.

Deepak Chopra says Ayurveda teaches that everyone should:

  • Eat a colorful, flavorful diet- Ideal nutrition comes from consuming a variety of fresh foods that are appropriately prepared and eaten with awareness. A simple way to make sure that you are getting a balanced diet is to include the six Ayurvedic tastes in each meal. 6
  • Get abundant restful sleep– Ayurveda teaches that sleep is the “nursemaid to humanity.” During sleep, our body repairs and rejuvenates itself so when you do not get restful sleep it can disrupt the body’s innate balance, weaken our immune system, and speed up the aging process. 7
  • Live in tune with nature– 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 behaviors. Over time, a little imbalance can become a disorder and then a disease, bringing on more stress and neglect.8
  • Exercise: Tune in to your body- Exercise is good but listen to your body and don’t overdo it or force something that works for someone else, onto yourself. Exercise isn’t one size fits all.
  • Strengthen your digestive power- Ayurveda teaches that bad digestion leads to “obstructions in the flow of energy, information, and nourishment, and is the basis of all disease.”9
  • Take it easy- The Ayurvedic approach is about aligning with the infinite organizing power of nature rather than struggling or trying to force things to go your way.  This principle is embodied by the Law of Least Effort. When you observe nature, you will notice that grass doesn’t try to grow; it just grows. Birds don’t try to fly; they just fly. Flowers don’t try to blossom; they just blossom. Nature functions with effortless ease, frictionlessly and spontaneously. It is intuitive, holistic, non-linear, and nourishing. You will expend least effort when your actions are motivated by love, because nature is held together by the energy of love. When you chase after status, money, power, or accolades, you waste energy, but when your actions are motivated by love, your energy expands and accumulates. So take it easy and be guided by love.10

So, now that you know a little more, what do you think? Did you take the test to see what element you are? The bottom line is whether you agree with all parts of Ayurveda or not, de-stressing your life, eating good food, and getting good sleep will only ever benefit you.

Take good care my Health Nuts.

XO- Erin

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Sources and References

  1. Chopra Center.
  2. Chopra Center.
  3. Ayurvedic Healing.
  4. Ayurvedic Healing.
  5. Chopra Center.
  6. Chopra Center.
  7. Chopra Center.
  8. Chopra Center.
  9. Chopra Center.
  10. Chopra Center.