What is Ayurveda?

As a relative newcomer to the world of natural health and holistic therapies I am just beginning to scratch the surface on understanding many of the alternate modalities used throughout the world. I find many of them fascinating, however, and wanted to tell each of you little bit about Ayurveda today because I have found it so intriguing. Ayurveda is a form of medical practice originating in India that focuses on maintaining a balance within the body. The idea is that when the body is balanced, it is healthy.

Ayurveda physicians focus on specific areas of the body. They educate patients on ways to maintain the balance of those areas, and work to rebuild the balance when illness occurs. Ayurveda focuses on 5 key elements: Earth (moral integrity and persistence), Water (anything in the body in liquid form), Fire (impurity removing functions and those that produce heat), Air (oxygen in the blood and the force circling things throughout the body), and Space (emotion, love, and impressions). Keeping each of these elements in balance is the key to Ayurveda medicine.

An imbalance in the fire element for example might include a problem with the kidneys. The patient would likely then be given a remedy to correct or balance out their kidney issue. Once the kidney was functioning properly again the body would be put back in its proper balance provided all other forces were balanced beforehand.

Now, in all likelihood we are more unbalanced than we would like to admit and it would probably take more than one remedy to balance most of us out. Many people would need to fix season allergies, mental illness, insomnia, and poor diet to be completely balanced out for example. The idea is a good one, though, even if it is tough to truly balance ourselves out since many of us are so off-kilter.

Health wise, Ayurveda principles are fairly basic. They teach that proper nutrition aides in the balance of the elements within the body, promoting a body that is able to heal itself from within. Biologically we know that if we keep a healthy immune system and reduce as much inflammation as possible, our body is better able to fight off foreign invaders and does literally heal itself on  many occasions. This relies in large part upon what we eat.

Proper exercise is also promoted. Regular exercise helps not only our cardiovascular system but also our mental stamina and the overall health of our bodies. When I step up my exercise routine I feel it on multiple levels, and I bet if you stopped to think about it so do you.

Adequate rest is also encouraged as a way to establish good mental health. I am not great at getting all the rest I need. I hope that will change when my kids are out of diapers, but some people tell me it just gets worse, so the jury is still out on that one. I do notice I am better able to meet the challenges of the day when I am rested, however, and strongly advocate getting as much rest as possible.

Ayurvedic practitioners believe the body has a tendency towards healing. They understand that even in a person with an intense illness, there are aspects of health. Identifying what has gone wrong and endeavoring to correct or re-balance the problem is the key to health.

Overall, I find Ayurvedic medicine to be a modality that promotes balance, which I think is something we all could use more of. We may not all subscribe to the idea that we need to balance the earth, water, fire, air, and space within ourselves, but I think we can all agree that if the forces inside us are all working together for good, we are healthier than if we have several opposing forces fighting within us.

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