The traditional healing system of India, Ayurveda is believed to be the oldest surviving complete system of knowledge in the world. It embodies an ancient philosophy based on a deep understanding of eternal truths about the human body, the mind and the spirit. As ancient as Ayurveda is, it is based on basic observations of life that have remained relatively unchanged and are still absolutely relevant today.
Meditation can be enormously helpful… it can gradually give us the awareness, focus and calm needed to study and absorb all the new material, and also helps us open and balance our minds so that we can realize the full potential of the amazing path of Ayurveda.
The five elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth (pancha mahabhuta) represent the different qualities or densities of energy. These elements are not seen or measured by Western science, and they are not to be interpreted literally but rather as metaphors which help us to understand the universe.
There are three primary bio-energetic organizing principles derived from the five elements, known as doshas. Sometimes they are referred to as humours. They are known as vata, pitta and kapha, and they are present in everybody and everything.
According to Ayurveda, the key to health lies in the knowledge and understanding of our basic constitution, (prakruti) and how to keep it in balance through diet and lifestyle. With the knowledge and understanding of how and why we become ill, we can live a way of life that enhances our chances of health and fulfilment.
Essential to our study of Ayurveda is an understanding of the vital role of agni. We will introduce the fundamental concept of agni here and expand upon it throughout the course.
As you begin to go more deeply into the study of the doshas, you will learn that each dosha has five subdoshas. These subdoshas reside in a different place in the body, and are responsible for different vital functions.
Ayurveda classifies the body’s physical structure into seven tissue layers or dhatus. Dhatu means “that which holds or supports”. The dhatus are generally listed from the least to the most complex in structure, and each one is made out of the one that precedes it.
The aim of Ayurveda, as we have studied, is not limited solely to attaining a healthy and vital body; it is a deeply spiritual path to help us experience the awareness of who we truly are.
Food is a great, life-giving medicine; what we eat, when we eat, in what state of mind we eat, all profoundly impact our health and quality of life. Our diet plays a vital role in a healthy lifestyle, and what we eat, digest, as well as absorb is a vital part of maintaining health, preventing disease, and treating imbalances and health problems when they arise.
Herbs from all over the globe can impart their wisdom or intelligence to us, and help balance pranic disturbances that create imbalances and health problems in mind and body; in this way they reconnect or align us with Consciousness, and this is the ultimate aim of Ayurveda.
A directory of 40 of the most important herbs in Ayurveda.
A list of medicinal actions and the corresponding herbs, both Ayurvedic and Western.
A glossary of medical terms.
As we deepen our understanding of Ayurveda, we can begin to see that health is not merely freedom from disease, but more a state of ease and harmony in mind, body and spirit that gives us the ability to fulfil our dreams and responsibilities, our roles and potential in life known as our dharma, and ultimately to experience the happiness and bliss of liberation (moksha).
Living the sattvic way is about consciously learning to enjoy this beautiful, dynamic and fleeting life, and come closer to our true nature as spiritual beings.
Ayurveda’s teachings on agni can help us to monitor our own digestive fire so that we can regulate and balance it if necessary, and enhance it during periods of detoxification.
Unique to Ayurveda is the understanding that all diseases pass through the same six stages of disease. At each of the first five levels, the disease process can be halted in its tracks if the right changes in diet and lifestyle are made and herbs are taken to balance the doshas.
Just as we regularly take showers, wash our hair, brush our teeth and tend to the outside of our bodies, the internal systems of our body, most importantly our digestive system, benefit from regular cleansing and care.
For those who are seeking a healthy lifestyle and to deepen their knowledge of holistic methods of self-care, Ayurveda’s art of assessment is a valuable guide.
The unique balance of our doshas give us an invaluable map of our tendencies, vulnerabilities and strengths, helping us to chart our path to health and happiness.
Understanding how to balance the doshas through diet and lifestyle and using herbs is a wonderful aid to finding harmony in the mind and heart.
The longer we live in a state of optimal health the more opportunity there will be for living in harmony with the natural world and attaining the ultimate aim of Ayurveda – moksha.