Ayurveda - The Science of Life
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Although suppressed during years of foreign occupation, Ayurveda has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and throughout the world. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. Early Greek medicine also embraced many concepts originally described in the classical ayurvedic medical texts dating back thousands of years.
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 vital while realizing their full human potential. Providing guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and the proper use of our senses, Ayurveda reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.
Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Earth), these primary forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate. Read more about Doshas >>
An important goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of balance, and offer interventions using diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatments, music, and meditation to reestablish balance.
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Ayurveda’s Guiding Principles
Ayurveda teaches that the mind has the greatest influence in directing the body toward sickness and health. This well being system was developed to provide a path for contacting our own inner intelligence as the key to bringing balance to the body, mind and spirit.
The Ayurvedic principles for restoring and maintaining mind-body balance are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago:
- Take time each day to quiet your mind (meditate).
- Eat a colorful, flavorful diet.
- Engage in daily exercise that enhances flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.
- Sleep soundly at night.
- Eliminate what is not serving you.
- Cultivate loving, nurturing relationships.
- Perform work that awakens your passion.
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What are Doshas?
According to Ayurveda, each of us inherits a unique mix of three mind/body principles which creates our specific mental and physical characteristics. These three principles are called doshas.
Most of us have one or two doshas which are most lively in our nature, with the remaining one(s) less significant. The three doshas are known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
- Vata: If we are predominantly Vata, we tend to be thin, light and quick in our thoughts and actions. Change is a constant part of our lives. When Vata is balanced, we are creative, enthusiastic and lively. But if Vata becomes excessive, we may develop anxiety, insomnia or irregular digestion.
- Pitta: If the Pitta dosha is most lively in our nature, we tend to be muscular, smart and determined. If balanced, we are warm, intelligent and a good leader. If out of balance, Pitta can make us critical, irritable and aggressive.
- Kapha: If we have mostly Kapha in our nature, we tend to have a heavier frame, think and move more leisurely and are stable. When balanced, it creates calmness, sweetness and loyalty. When excessive, Kapha can cause weight gain, congestion and resistance to healthy change.
Using the principles of Ayurveda, we can identify our mind/body nature and use this understanding to make the most nourishing choices in our lives.
What dosha are you? Take the quiz! >>
Dosha balancing tips >>
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What are the Ayurvedic Six Tastes?
Ayurveda teaches us to listen to our taste buds to determine what and how much to eat. There is a rainbow of tastes central to Ayurvedic system which consists of six unique tastes. It is suggested that all six tastes are eaten at every meal for us to feel satisfied and to support creating balance in our body.
The spectrum of tastes is sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. Integrating these tastes into your diet leads to balance of body, mind and spirit. A simple rule of thumb is to create meals that include a rainbow of colors.
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The Essence of Yoga
In the past two decades, yoga has moved from relative anonymity in the West to a well-recognized practice offered in thousands of studios, community centers, hospitals, gyms, and health clubs. Although yoga is commonly portrayed as a modern fitness trend, it’s actually the core of the Vedic science that developed in the Indus Valley more than 5,000 years ago. In Ayurveda, Yoga is a state of being achieved through active practice.
The word yoga derives from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means union with the source of existence. Unity consciousness is also referred to as the state of enlightenment in which there is complete freedom from all conditioning and one is no longer constrained by habit, past experiences or “karma,” and any forms of dogma or ideology. It is a state of spontaneous creativity, love, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
According to the Yoga Sutras, “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness.”
The essence of yoga is the union or integration of all the layers of life – physical, emotional, and spiritual. It is a practice for going beyond the ego’s habitual identification with the mind and body and directly experiencing our true spiritual self. Rooted in this connection to spirit, we are able to solve the challenges that arise in life with greater ease and grace.
Even if yoga only enhanced physical fitness, the time spent in practice would be fully worthwhile. However, while the health benefits are many, yoga offers much more than just a way to exercise the body. The deeper meaning and gift of yoga is the path it offers us into the timeless, spaceless world of spirit. Yoga teaches us both to let go and to have exquisite awareness in every moment. In this expanded state of consciousness, we experience freedom from suffering. We remember our essential spiritual nature and life becomes more joyful, meaningful, and carefree.
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What is Prana?
Where there is energy, there is prana, the universal life force that exists everywhere. Any form of energy is considered prana, including heat, light, electricity, and gravity. Prana is the prime mover of all activity; it is life and consciousness.
The most obvious manifestation of prana is our breath. Each day, we take more than 20,000 breaths, but how often do we notice the life force that animates our being? If we pay attention, our breath can teach us more than we can imagine: our emotional state, the power of the present moment, gratitude, peace, and can even point us to our spiritual nature.
Focusing on the breath immediately brings us into the now. When we allow ourselves to be present, we create the breathing room we crave and we can connect with the essential rhythm of our lives.
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What are Chakras?
There are seven energy centers that serve as channels between the body and consciousness, or between matter and the mind. These centers, called chakras in Sanskrit, receive, assimilate and express our vital life energy. When the flow of energy in one or more of the chakras becomes blocked, we may develop signs of imbalance that can lead to disharmony in the body mind and spirit.
The chakra system is a column of energy centers that extends from the base of the spine to the top of the head. The location of each chakra loosely corresponds to an area of the body’s anatomy, is associated with a specific color as well as physical, emotional and spiritual attributes and states of being. The chakra system can provide a path for increased self-awareness and can also be used as an access point for increased health and healing.
- First Chakra, Muladhara
This energy center is sometimes referred to as the root chakra. It relates to our most basic survival needs and our sense of belonging.
- Second Chakra, Svadhisthana
This chakra resides in reproductive area and is associated with creativity and birth―both literally to a new baby but also metaphorically to new aspects of ourselves, projects and ideas.
- Third Chakra, Manipura
The third chakra, which governs our will, self-esteem and sense of personal power, is located in the solar plexus.
- Fourth Chakra, Anahata
This energy center is sometimes referred to as the "heart chakra” because it resonates in the heart and relates to compassion and love.
- Fifth Chakra, Vishuddha
This energy center is localized in the throat area and relates to communication, self-expression, and our ability to voice our dreams.
- Sixth chakra, Ajna
The sixth chakra, also known as the ‘brow chakra” or the “third eye” is located between the eyes. It’s the center of insight, where we integrate all the information and intuition in our life.
- Seventh chakra, Sahaswara
This chakra resides at the crown of the head and is therefore sometimes called the “crown chakra.” It connects us to higher consciousness and pure awareness.
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