India is home to one of the world’s oldest
holistic health systems, Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old health system that originated in India. It is widely practiced today, especially in India, Nepal, and parts of Sri Lanka. Ayurveda translates as the Science of Life. Ayurvedic principles are aligned with connecting people with nature. One of the most well-known principle ayurvedic practitioners stress is eating food aligning with the sun. Ayurveda advises people to eat food only between sunrise and sunset because our digestive fires are quite affected by the sun rays. It is recommended to keep breakfast highly nutritious, lunch the heaviest, and dinner the lightest meal of the day.
Our Connection with Nature
We are designed in a way that connecting with nature helps uplift our mood and improves our overall health. On sunny days our mood is better than on overcast days because our bodies produce certain chemicals which make us feel happy. Bathing instantly relaxes the body. According to Ayurveda, this is because you instantly connect with the water element. Going on a walk when it’s sunny is an excellent way to instantly recharge your body and sitting near a bonfire during a chilly winter night will have a similar effect.
History of Ayurveda
This ancient medical system comes from India’s rishis (sages). These sages wrote texts that explained the practices of Ayurveda. Famous books include Charak Samhita written by Maharishi Charak, and Sushrut Samhita written by Maharishi Sushrut, known as the father of surgery. These two books are widely referred to by modern Ayurvedic practitioners. The knowledge of Ayurveda is considered divine, as the sages said that they received the knowledge from the Hindu god Brahma. Ayurveda is thought to be capable of healing humanity from deadly diseases.
According to Ayurveda, there are five elements in nature—space (Aakash), air (Vayu), fire (Teja), water (Jala), and earth (Prithvi) —and these combine in the body to make three doshas, or energies.
- Vata is made of the space and air element
- Pitt is made of the fire and water element
- Kapha is made from the earth and water element
According to this ancient healing system, the occurrence of a disease means that there are imbalances between these doshas within the body, and diseases can be reversed by balancing them.
Each of the doshas has five subtypes; these subtypes are made up of the same elements as their type (so Vyana Vayu is made up of space and air) and they each relate to a specific part of the body.
Vyana Vayu, one of the subtypes of the Vata dosha, is found near your heart, and is said to circulate through your entire body. Whenever any sort of physical activity is performed like dancing, swimming, walking, or cycling, it activates the Vyan Vayu and provides bodily nourishment. If you don’t feel energetic or motivated, an imbalanced Vyana Vayu could be the reason.
If you think that your Vyana Vayu is imbalanced, the best way to improve it is to walk for at least a few kilometers on an empty stomach. Make sure not to go on long walks when you are very hungry, tired, or sick. Start with short walks (maybe .5-1 km) and progress gradually.
Ayurveda and Food
Ayurveda divides food into three categories, and the practices say that consuming the right food will give you the desired effect on your body.
● Rajasic foods have the quality of passion
These include excessively spicy foods, coffee, onions, and garlic. These foods can apparently cause restlessness and anger and should be consumed in moderate quantities.
● Tamasic foods have the quality of imbalance
These include stale foods, frozen foods, meat, fish, and alcohol like whisky and rum, and food eaten more than three hours after it was cooked. Eating these foods can supposedly cause mood swings, anxiety, cravings, and imbalances of the three doshas within the body.
● Sattvik foods possess the quality of balance
These include fresh fruit, ghee, honey, whole grains, and legumes. These foods will help to improve mental health by balancing the three doshas within the body, and supposedly will also eliminate toxins. Sattvic foods also are said to calm minds and remove the feeling of lethargy.
Those aren’t the only teachings Ayurveda has regarding nutrition; it is said that the mind is made of the food you consume, and improper combinations can be problematic. Spicy food may make you feel irritated, angry, and frustrated, and sweet dishes can make you feel dull and lethargic! Other foods that are considered harmful in Ayurveda are food left in the fridge overnight, packaged and preserved foods (cold drinks, chips, etc.), reheated food, food that has been in contact with saliva from another person or animal, salt with sugar in the same dish, egg and milk in the same dish, and milk and jaggery in the same dish.
In conclusion, there are many Ayurvedic principles. I hope you find this information helpful, and that you consider learning more. Ensure that what you’re learning is coming from an authentic Ayurvedic source and take it one step at a time. Ayurveda has a vast amount of knowledge and expecting to learn it all in one day will overwhelm you. If you want to incorporate some teachings into your life, I suggest you start adding some basic things first like massaging your hair, oil pulling, and eating the right foods.