The relationship of humans with nature and the outer world has always been an essential part of science, literature, art, culture, evolution. It has given us and all the living creatures of the world a space of exploration, of growth, of challenge, of responsibility, a space for living.
People have been inquiring and using the qualities of nature since the beginning of humanity – for survival, for healing and also for expanding their level of consciousness beyond basic living needs. In some cultures, there are still many ancient practices, from thousands of years ago, that are based on this power of nature over our health and well-being, working both as a healer and a teacher.
One such field of interest is Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medical system and philosophy for good, healthy living. In this article, we’ll be going through some of the fundamentals of Ayurveda, some of which I’m also still learning myself.
Finding inspiration in the old teachings
It’s not too long ago that I started to look closer to the ancient practice and philosophy of Ayurveda and it completely fascinated me. What I truly loved about it is finding a lot of my own life philosophy expressed, one way or another, in its teachings, from those on mind and spirit, to our relationship with our body, as well as with the outer world.
Beyond its conceptual / philosophical ideas, Ayurveda is also a very rich collection of preventative and healing techniques and solutions that have been part of the Indian traditional culture for thousands of years.
This inside-outside connection between humans and nature / universe is something that also lays at the basis of LAUREL’s ethos, through the exploration and practice of a more conscious and mindful living, always seeking balance throughout the different parts of life.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is an ancient traditional medicine system (officially recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1976), originating from India, around 5000 years ago. It is focused on balancing the body, the mind, the spirit and the social self, in connection with everything that is around us.
In Sanskrit, “Ayurveda” means “knowledge (or science) of life”, focusing on living a good, healthy life and exploring the ways everything in the universe is interdependent.
As The Ayurveda Institute explains, “Ayurveda places great emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health through close attention to balance in one’s life, right thinking, diet, lifestyle and the use of herbs. Knowledge of Ayurveda enables one to understand how to create this balance of body, mind and consciousness according to one’s own individual constitution and how to make lifestyle changes to bring about and maintain this balance.”
Prakruti and the three doshas
One of the key beliefs of Ayurveda is that every person is born with a unique constitution, that in Sanskrit is called “prakruti”, which embodies both physical and psychological traits for each individual.
What’s really captivating about prakruti is that this unique combination of characteristics portrays the way a person tends to live their life, the types of choices they are inclined to make based on that profile. Our defining prakruti pretty much stays the same all our lives, but some traits can also fluctuate over time. Being wired to the external world, our prakruti is constantly influenced by various elements like seasons, day and night, weather, nature, lifestyle, diet, interpersonal relations and more.
This brings us to the need and quest for balance that Ayurveda stands for, considering all the changes we may experience, both physically and psychologically, as we go through life and as our environment diversifies.
Ayurveda teaches that there are five elements which compose the universe: Air (Vayu), Water (Jala), Earth (Prithvi), Fire (Teja) and Space / Ether (Aakash). These elements are further combined in various forms that compose three types of constitution, also known as doshas: Vata dosha, Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha.
Each dosha is composed of two of the five elements mentioned above, suggesting certain personality traits and physical characteristics. It is said that only a trained and well-experienced Ayurveda practitioner can evaluate and determine a person’s dosha, based on a thorough analysis of that person’s body type and shape, physical traits and internal mechanisms – for example, hair and skin types, dental structure, speech, movement, blood flow, pulse and so on -, and also their personality and behavioral patterns.
I won’t go into detail about the specifics of every dosha, as there are many great sources available, some of which I’ll mention below, at the end of the article, if you want to seek further education on this subject and Ayurveda medicine, in general.
As you may learn, Ayurveda is still very much used to this day. Moreover, it has become a very abundant field for many holistic and naturopathic practitioners nowadays in terms of solutions for a healthier lifestyle. You can see it mentioned all over the place, in alternative therapies and bio cosmetic products, in wellness programs and in yoga-related content.
There are also many schools, medical institutes and health centers that offer professional services in Ayurvedic medicine, from training to working directly with people who seek preventative and healing solutions in this area.
Education and perspective
One of the reasons why I’m tapping into the teachings of Ayurveda comes from my personal curiosity on other cultures’ traditions – from art to well-being -, on their long-accumulated knowledge and their shared wisdom.
I believe that educating ourselves through the practices and philosophies found in different cultural environments, especially some that have been around for millenia, can offer us a wider perspective over our lives and the surrounding world, over how we connect with ourselves and with others.
Of course, Ayurveda in particular is an enormous encyclopedia of such knowledge that we can apply to our lifestyles, as long as we pay more attention to our bodies, to our minds and spirits, to our individual traits, to our environment and to the people around us.
It’s a constant work in progress, a continuous learning and self-actualization, but having an abundantly beautiful and healthy life, in balance, is a pretty damn good goal to reach for.
I hope this was interesting and, why not, useful for you to read. For me, personally, there’s still so much to learn about Ayurveda, but as I promised at the beginning of this journey with LAUREL, we learn together. So thank you for joining me.