I have been teaching Ayurveda lately as a part of Yoga Teacher trainings here in Byron Bay which has been fun and inspiring. I have been a Yoga teacher myself for over 20 years, as well as practising as a Naturopath and Ayurvedic Consultant here in Mullumbimby. To check out my Herbal and Naturopathic Dispensary called Mullumbimby Herbals have a peek at our website.
In my personal Yoga practise for the last few years I have been playing with balancing whichever element (or dosha) is excessive or causing symptoms with Yoga asana’s and specific breathing exercises as well as meditations. Now Im getting this great opportunity to share my yogic/ayurvedic balancing experiences with dedicated yoga practitioners which is exciting as well as humbling. This has been a deepening for me in my understanding of Ayurveda and how to make it relevant for the times we live in..
Once people understand the basics of ayurveda then they can use it as a daily tool to help bring more harmony within and without. So for those of you who dont have much Ayurvedic theory I thought I would write a little here to share.
Introduction to Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Medicine is traditional Indian medicine. It encourages a life lived in harmony with nature’s rhythms, with an awareness of balancing all levels of being - body, mind and soul.
It is believed to have begun as far back as 6000BC when a group of Rishis (or enlightened beings) had compassion for mankind’s suffering. Through Divine inspiration and observation of the Laws of Nature, they devised a complete “science of life” otherwise known as Ayurvedic Medicine.
As Natures Law’s are unchanging, Ayurveda is still a completely relevant healing system today.
Ayurveda is a science that is widely acknowledged to be the worlds oldest system of healthcare. The World Health Organisation recognizes the antiquity of Ayurveda, regarding it as “the world’s most ancient, scientific, wholistic, complete, natural system of healthcare”.
The purpose of Ayurvedic medicine is to avoid (or help reverse) serious illness by understanding how and why we become ill. Ayurveda impresses upon us the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature, so we learn how to maintain our health and vitality as well as how to heal disease. It is a wholistic system of healing in the truest sense, embracing body, mind and spirit. In working to create health Ayurveda takes into consideration all the different levels of life and their interconnectedness.
As a science of healing Ayurveda encompasses diet and nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rest and relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises and medicinal herbs and other medicinal substances. It also includes cleansing and rejuvenation programs for healing body, mind and spirit. Other therapies such as sound, mantra, colour and aromatherapy may also be used, depending on the individual and the state of imbalance.
Ayurveda is empowering, giving us choice in dealing with our own health. Depending on our current state of health and well being, it can mean simple changes or adjustments in our diet and lifestyle which will greatly improve our health. Of course if dis-ease is manifesting more strongly then the treatment will also require stronger balancing agents like medicinal herbs, or hands on treatments. But if we catch an out of balance state early enough, then it is easy to rebalance.
Ayurveda recognises that each of us are unique, and teaches us our constitutional type which is our own unique blend of the elements. Once we recognize these in ourselves then bringing balance becomes like common sense. For example if we have too much heat in our system and this is manifesting as heartburn or a skin rash, first we understand the need to cool down. This cooling may be best achieved with avoiding heating foods and choosing cooling foods instead, or by taking cooling herbs, or using cooling breathing techniques.
In Ayurveda we understand the inseperable link between body, mind and spirit. ie if someone is manifesting a disease, it is never just the body that is imbalanced. Usually the root cause of physical disease is in the mind or spirit (80%). Traditionally Ayurveda was used to bring back balance, even before disease manifested physically. We use practices like yoga, meditation, mantras, pure actions, devotion, compassion, pure foods as well as lifestyle adjustments etc to balance and strengthen and purify. Where there is imbalance, or depletion, Ayurveda also uses counselling, herbs, and specific foods, as well as therapies like nasya, massage, and shirodara.
Daily ayurvedic routines provide a system of not only bringing balance but, even before that, helping us to see our imbalances (vikruti) so that we can then know how to balance. In this way we can understand which steps need to be taken, which energy we need more of and which energy we need less of.
I personally love Ayurveda as it is not just a healthcare system, but a complete approach to living. We can adapt the basic principles of ayurveda into any cultural traditions of the world. In practicing ayurveda we do not have to become like Indian’s, but by simply understanding the basics we can bring balance to our lives wherever we live.
The science of Ayurveda, like the science of yoga, is a huge body of knowledge which is best learnt and understood through practice. Ayurveda recognises that much of life is non-physical and cannot be studied objectively. Thus the necessity of incorporating Ayurvedic principles into your own life so it becomes an experience rather than merely a theory.
Understanding our Constitution/Prakruti
First we need to understand the elements and how they are manifesting in our body, mind and spiritual tendencies. Our prakruti is our original fingerprint, or our own magical blend of the 5 elements. To be in perfect health on all levels we gently bring ourselves back (or as close as we can), to this original state. Ayurveda uses Vata, Pitta and Kapha as ways of classifying or understanding this elemental blend. Each of us has all three dosha’s, but we will also have a more dominant dosha or two more dominant ones and it is these which will tend to become over dominant and lead us out of balance and into possible disease. ie if you are mainly Vata then Vata qualities (like a windy day or too much cold dry food), will take your Vata into excess and imbalance you. To come back into balance you will need Vata balancing qualities to soothe and quieten down this Vata excess.
In our modern lifestyles most of us have some Vata imbalance so it is usually a good dosha to start with.
Understanding our Vikruti/Present state
Our current state of health in mind body and spirit is called our Vikruti. It is the particular blend of the 5 elements which is manifesting in us right now. For most of us we are not totally in our original state of ideal health, so the first step in regaining or improving our health is to understand honestly our current state. Then as we recognize which elements and which dosha’s are in excess we can take the appropriate steps to balance them. If we are dry, depleted, ungrounded, stressed or anxious we realize the need to balance Vata, with the opposite qualities. If we are more impatient, hot (with hot flushes or reddish eyes say), or strung out from over pushing ourselves, then we need to balance our Pitta. If we are toxic, overweight, feeling sluggish foggy or depressed then we need to balance our Kapha.
So quite a lot of information for you all…… I hope this is helpful and relevant.
Have a look in the workshops section here, as I have upgraded the workshops I now offer. Please contact me if you would like me to come to your area to share with you and your friends or students.