A Holistic Health Science
Ayurveda is a holistic health science from India. Some claim it is as old as 5000 years, though its principles are based in nature, so truly, it is as old as human existence. The word Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term made up of two parts: “ayus” meaning long life and “veda” meaning wisdom. When those two words are put together, we have the wisdom of longevity, the science of creating a long life.
As a holistic health science, it was the first of the medical sciences to acknowledge that we are more than this body; that the state of the mind can have a profound impact on our wellbeing. Beyond that, it is a spiritual science that acknowledges the human spirit also plays a role in our state of health. As such, it is a life philosophy that transcends any religious doctrine. Indeed, it encourages one to explore and express the principles at the foundation of their chosen religion.
Because Ayurveda sees each person as a unique expression, the path to health, even spiritual health, is individualized, as well. The term holistic health science means that Ayurveda considers health to be achieved when we are healthy in the body, the mind, and the spirit, and disease can begin when we neglect to care for ourselves in any of these areas.
The Expansion of Ayurveda
Although the discourses on Ayurveda began in India, they soon traveled outside its borders. They were carried with the earliest Buddhist monks into the surrounding regions as they also carried the word of meditation and enlightenment from Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Each region adapted this medical knowledge to the natural practices in their own environments. Its principles are found in the roots of traditional Chinese medicine and in Tibetan medicine.
As time passed and India was subjected to British rule, Ayurveda was practiced and protected primarily in the villages. Western medicine moved into the cities, and its focus on symptomatic relief won over the masses who soon forgot that their dietary and lifestyle choices had consequences for their health.
Gradually, as India regained its independence, it turned its attention again to its native medicine, Ayurveda, and its preventative approach to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Ayurvedic schools and colleges increased in number, and today, the government boasts a profound support for this ancient science.
Ayurveda in the Modern World
Today, Ayurveda is taught and practiced around the world. Its principles may be adapted to different living situations, and they are affordable and accessible to all people. The template that it provides may be used to garner an understanding of the effect that foods, plants, climate, and activities have on our health so that we can make decisions about the most healthy choices for ourselves in our modern lives. T
his science of longevity is founded on the principle of balance and uses the tools of our food choices and habits, sensory input, sleep habits, and lifestyle choices to support us in regaining and maintaining our health.
Its recommendations include living life in accordance with the rhythms of nature; balancing the body’s needs for food, sleep, and activity in a way that generates sustainable health; utilizing the plants that surround us as our food and as our medicine; and cultivating a state of mind that is curious, alert, and contented. Ultimately, we strive to be aware of our needs in the current moment and aware of how those needs will change in the next. In this way, we are like the animals of the forest who prep for the winter even in the heat of summer.
They, too, understand this “wisdom of longevity” and know that they can prepare for coming challenges in the moment when they are free of challenge. If they delay the preparation, the consequences could be dire.
There are many types of indigenous medicine that sprang up alongside those populations. Ayurveda is the only one that has been practiced continuously for 5000 years and is gaining in popularity rather than dwindling as its original practitioners decrease in number. Like other indigenous medicines, it is often co-opted by New Age proponents who may take some esoteric aspect and focus undue attention on it.
As you look to the heart of Ayurveda, it rings true because it is based in the principles of science and nature. When you learn about these principles, you feel a sense of coming home, of remembering these truths.
The Ayurvedic Power
Because of the Ayurvedic teachers and practitioners who guarded this wisdom during the many occupations that India endured, this science stands as one we can discover and re-discover. We can learn its principles and apply them to our lives in a way that makes them better.
The power of an Ayurvedic treatment lies in the hands of the client, not the practitioner. We are free in every moment to make choices that bring us closer to health and happiness or that move us in another direction.
Ayurveda is like a guidebook that supports us on this journey, one that identifies the pitfalls and gives us tools to recover, should we stumble. Over more than 5000 years, countless people have stumbled and begun again, moving always closer to their goal of a long life, well lived.