The benefits of Ayurveda are innumerable! Consider the following ways Ayurveda can improve your life:
Ayurveda Is a Blueprint for Your Life
Ayurveda is a blueprint for life, and more specifically your life. It understands you have a unique body-mind constitution, and that you require a personalized lifestyle plan tailored specifically to your needs. Ayurveda wants you to THRIVE rather than just survive.
Ayurveda is a means by which you can understand yourself, understand that your body and mind are inextricably linked, and that what is deemed healthy to one person might not be healthy for you.
Ayurveda therefore asks you to get to know yourself, without comparison or blame, spending quiet time experiencing the energies and feelings that permeate your being. By way of example, I get my patients to sit with the feelings that arise when they crave something. I ask them, are you craving this foodstuff because you need it nutritionally, or are you addicted to it? What is driving the feeling? These little acts of mindfulness can be life-changing, making you more discerning, really considering how you fill your stomach and mind.
A Different Way of Looking at Things
When I was younger I took a course in medieval Islamic art. I remember the teacher standing in front of us, exclaiming: “while you’re with me, forget all you have been taught about art, for it has all come from a classical western view, and that perspective is irrelevant here”. He then threw E.H. Gombrich’s Story of Art into the bin while bellowing: “this is not the story of art, this is the story of western art!” In the Middle East, East and most indigenous cultures, the course of life, its meaning, the inevitability of death and what happens after, are woven into the fabric of their culture in a way they are not in the West.
This is reflected in our western system of health, where we have been conditioned to think of doctors as people who fix us. We allow them to cover up the symptoms and the displays of our illness and mask our diseases. Ayurveda, on the other hand, shows us how to get to the root of the problem and teaches us tools to take responsibility for our well-being.
A Preventive Medicine
This is one of the key benefits of Ayurveda: it is a preventive medicine.
And how is it preventive? At the moment of conception, our prakruti or constitution is formed. This tells us what our doshic make-up is. For instance, say we are mostly pitta with a little vata, meaning we have a lot of the fire element, as well as some water, wind, and air. So then we have to understand the qualities that make up these elements and therefore the qualities that we are governed by (pitta is heating, light, penetrative and sharp, and a little oily, vata is dry, rough, cold, light and penetrative). Once we understand these qualities, we can make diet and lifestyle choices that keep our doshas in balance. If we are prone to a lot of heat, we need to limit consumption of heating foods and avoid getting unnecessarily angry (heated up!) about things.
It’s All About Balance
Another one of the key benefits of Ayurveda is that it teaches us about BALANCE. Just as there is no one size fits all for us as human beings, there is no one size fits all in terms of times of day, year, country or cycle. We are cyclical, (women more so than men) and these cycles – be they circadian or menstrual – are key to our tuning-in and optimising our experience of life. It is funny, because although this is an ancient wisdom, modern western professionals are now catching on: the 2017 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to three scientists that looked into the importance of the circadian rhythm in terms of fluctuating hormones and chemical receptors in the human body. Others have found that if they operate on their breast cancer patient at a specific time in their menstrual cycle, they get better results.
This is what I love about Ayurveda, it asks us to be with the details of ourselves, our days, our week, the season. It asks us not to be in competition with one another. It just wants us to be well, and feeling great, so we can meditate, do our life’s work, and be strong force for good for those around us.
As the meditation teacher Burgs once told me: “you want to leave this life saying you’ve had an incredible time and that you would recommend it to others”. So yes, Ayurveda always brings me back to a point of gratitude to be alive. No small feat!
Selina Van Orden