What Is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a holistic health modality that addresses the WHOLE person- mind, body, spirit, life events, social life, work life...everything. It also takes in to account that every human is unique, and what works for one person, may not work in the same way for another.
A lot of Westerners are familiar with Ayurveda in regards only to spa treatments, but it's really soooo much more than that. Ayurveda is the traditional medical model of India, dating back thousands of years. It's an all-encompassing healthcare system that includes pediatrics, gynecology, internal medicine, surgery...all the things that we're familiar with in our Western model, just from a different perspective. It's still used there today as a stand-alone medical practice, and alongside and interwoven with allopathic (western) medicine.
The word “Ayurveda” directly translates to “Life Science.” In addressing a patient or client, an Ayurvedic Practitioner doesn't just look at the physical body, but their entire being and life. We are multidimensional beings, whose dimensions exist as one- every part of us affects other parts in one way or another. Physical issues will have an effect on our mental and emotional selves, just as an emotional issue will effect our physical and mental selves. A mental issue will most certainly have consequence on our physical and emotional selves, and a life event will most certainly have consequence on our mental, emotional, and therefore physical self.
We can think of our whole-being as a spider's web- we are incredibly sensitive, and no part of us can be touched without the vibrations being felt in, and possibly affecting, every other part in some way. Ayurveda recognizes this and therefore aims to treat the whole person. But before treating health issues that arise in us, Ayurveda aims to prevent them from happening to begin with. This is something that is very much lost in our western health-culture, and is what I find to be one of the most important parts of Ayurveda. Maintaining health in Ayurveda means to maintain balance in the body, mind, and spirit. Basic Ayurvedic protocols that maintain balance and treat imbalances are essentially preventative medicine.
Ayurvedic practices help prevent illness before it happens by maintaining balance in the body through:
Food as medicine: Diet that's best for your constitution (your dosha)
Yoga and other exercise that's best for your body
Meditation that's most suited to your mental constitution
Herbal therapies, both internal and external
Routines and rituals to regulate body and mind
This is a really vague explanation of what Ayurveda is, I know, but hopefully it gives you an idea of it's broadest principle, and from here, you can decide if you'd like to learn more about it or not. Ayurveda has so many aspects to it that it can be really overwhelming to dive right in to. The best way to learn about it, in my experience, is to ease in, building on your knowledge and understanding over time. Once you have a grasp of the main principles though, the rest comes more easily.
My interest in Ayurveda began during a time when I was plagued by digestive issues and doctors could do nothing to help me other than tell me I had IBS and prescribe a handful of pills to basically shut off my digestive system, plus a very addictive antidepressant that has been shown to “help” in cases of IBS. Horrified at this answer, and in a very bad way physically, mentally, and emotionally from my constant pain and discomfort, I looked elsewhere for help. Ayurveda and yoga kinda saved me, so I am a huge fan and proponent of both.
I do urge you to read more, and do more research into Ayurveda whether you have an illness or not, because I truly believe it'll improve your life, no matter where you are in it, in so many ways. It will give you a better understanding of yourself as a whole human, and help strengthen your mind-body connection. I've personally experienced it's power, and I've seen it help countless others on many levels. Plus it's free! It's all about lifestyle and eating habits, so it won't hurt to try :)
A Note: If you have a serious medical condition, or are experiencing pain, or feel that something is wrong, please see a physician. Yes I am a huge proponent of Ayurveda and other forms of naturopathic medicine, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in using western/allopathic medicine when it's needed. Science is AMAZING and we can do WONDERFUL things now to cure and treat illness in allopathic medicine. Ayurveda is great when used as prevention, and if using as treatment, please do so under the advisement of your doctor and Ayurvedic Health Practitioner. I am NOT a doctor. The information I share here is for informational use only, and should not be taken as medical advice.