Have you heard about the science called Ayurveda before? I have heard it a lot before being so much in touch with it,but I always reduced it to the world of massage and well-being. Probably I remember a friend talking to me about the Ayurvedic massage she got and I never went deeper on the subject, because the word sounded quite unfamiliar and distant.
Now that I am studying Ayurveda with an incredible Doctor based in Dharamsala (the Himalayas), I would like to share with you some of the most interesting and curious facts about it. Read it out attentively and think for yourself whether it would be an interesting alternative method to go beyond the conventional medicine or not.
1- The meaning of Ayurveda is “Science of Life”
Did you know this one? Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that is the composition of two words: Ayu (Life) and Veda (Science). The Science of Life which is a holistic system of medicine and that has been practiced in daily life in India for more than 5000 years.
2- Ayurveda was first recorded on the Vedas
I think you remember the Sanskrit word “Veda” – it means “to know” or “knowledge” and respect the world’s oldest extent literature, dated from 7 to 12 thousand years back, where some of the most interesting and acknowledgeable facts were recorded.
There were 4 different Vedas: Rig Veda, Saam Veda, Yajna Veda and Atrava Veda, this last one being about medicinal plants and being the base of the relation between Ayurveda and the Vedas. Ayurveda was actually considered a subveda of the Atrava Veda.
3- There are four different kinds of lives
This might seem a little bit reducing, but actually I have been learning that putting things into their own drawers and categorizing them is very important to be more acknowledged of life and the World.
The 4 types of lives defined in this context are: Hit Ayu (favorable life), Ahit Ayu (unfavorable life), Sukha (happy life) and Dukha (suffering life). A favourable life is directly related to a healthy and favorable relation with society in general.
We all seek the Sukha life (happiness), isn’t it? It’s obvious. So, to have a happy life, one needs ultimately to have a favourable life. One leads to the other. Remember that our social and inter-personal relations and the way we see and think of the World are very important in order to be happy with ourselves and to live a blissful life.
4- Our soul is defined as the sum total of Karma
I guess we all share the same idea, mainly on the West, that Karma is something that falls automatically upon our actions, but especially the bad ones. How often we hear people saying «he was an idiot to me, but, no worries, karma will sort it out»? That’s because we associate karma with a bad action.
Let’s make it simpler. Karma is any action. Any action, voluntary or involuntary, a reaction or an intention, a real situation or even the manifestation of our dreams and nightmares, the past lives that we carry on and each thought on the future – this is karma. And, in Ayurveda, our soul is exactly the sum total of Karma.
5- The father of Ayurvedic Medicine was originally from Punjab
Charaka is the name of the great medical scientist that started to wonder «why people get sick when they move from the jungle to the village life» and consequently related the environmental and mental factors to the physical state of the individuals. He was originally from Punjab, a northwest state of India, and the first book on internal medicine of Ayurveda is called “Charaka Samnita” – which is his name added to the Sanskrit word “compilation”. This is the main book of Ayurveda, together with “Susruta Samnita” and “Ashtang Hrydiam”, forming the big trinity of Ayurveda, called “The Big Tree”.
6- The definition of God in this context is…
We should start with the definition of human being, which is the one who wants his/her own benefit but not at the cost of others.
And then, a devil, which is the one who wants his/ her benefit even at the cost of others.
Then, a saint, which is the one who wants benefit of all including him/ herself.
And finally, God (or Narayan) which is the one who don’t want anything in this world.
7- And you know what is a healthy mind in Ayurveda?
A healthy mind is the one who can keep contradictory thoughts or ideas inside and still being in piece with them. Yes, this is it. How many times we have solid beliefs about one thing and then we read or we are said about something that contradicts that one thing and we get in conflict? The ability of reacting to that contradiction in a peaceful and harmonious way is what will define if we have a healthy mind or not.
8 – The food we eat is related to the 5 elements
Akasa Food (Ether) – all the food with less density and more refined, like junk food in general, all sugary food and especially soda
Vayu Food (Air) – all these foods who are lighter and produce more gas, like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant and kidney beans
Agni Food (fire) – as the element itself represents, all the food who tend to produce more fire and heat on the body, like ginger, lemon, spices, citrus fruits, onion, but also black tea, coffee and alcohol
Jala Food (water) – Watery food are particularly good to hydrate and cool down the body, like cucumber, watermelon, tomato, zucchini, etc
Prithvi Food (earth) – this is the most nourishing food and so important for the human body, just like nuts, cheese, fish, meat, curd, butter, avocado, beet root, pumpkin, banana, oils and black lentils
Does it make sense? Do you know that there are two blocks of food? The building blocks and the cleansers, the first being composed of earth and water food and the second being made up of the ether, air and fire foods. We cannot ever live without the building blocks. But, actually, a balance is what is mostly recommended in Ayurveda, because «there are no bad or good foods, but good choices according to the whole individual and its requirements».
9- What is Vata, Pitta and Kapha?
It’s being repeated because it’s actually fundamental in Ayurveda: the five elements. These are always in relation with the human body and its mind and with the food we eat. The tree body constitutions that each individual is born with are Vata (ether and air), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (earth and water). All body constitutions are mainly doubled, meaning that having a singular constitution is not so common nowadays. Kapha people are decreasing, especially nowadays and in cities. Vata-Pitta or Pitta-Vata are the most common among human beings.
What are them, then? What are these names? What is the sense of relating them to ourselves?
Vata people have the skinniest bodies and their skin is thin and prone to dryness and cold. They tend to have colon problems such as constipation. They walk and talk fast and they are generally nervous people with proneness to anxiety. They dream a lot, too. The main function of Vata is movement and knowledge.
Pitta people have the highest metabolism and general strength is good. Their frames are medium but they are very proportional and their skin is oily, very soft and tend to be reddish. They have strong appetite and can eat all day and although they don’t sleep that long, the sleep is very deep. They are active, sharp, focused, passionate and ambitious. The main function of Pitta is metabolism and transformation.
Kapha people have the biggest frame and have thick and fast-growing hair. Their eyes are big, intense and relaxed and they walk slow and talk in a monotonous way. Kapha people are open, calm, relaxed, loving and forgiving. They have slow metabolism but very high strength. The main function of Kapha is repair, stability and growth.
Can you see in which of these body constitutions you fit better?
10- You know we should wake up between 4:00 and 4:45?
The time of waking up is related to the moment of the day where nature is in its plenitude and when the mind is more clear and aware, which is very good for the ones who meditate and do yoga. One should be sleeping at around 9 pm and wake up at between 4 and 4:45 in the morning, to start his/her daily routine in a very fresh way.
11- And that we should eat food in silence and alone?
I don’t know if I mentioned before, but Ayurveda truly believes that awareness is what makes us live happier and more harmonious lives. The more aware we are of ourselves and of what we do, the more peaceful and blissful we will live. Actually, the decreasing of awareness leads automatically to increasing of danger. That’s why we should eat alone or at least in silence and totally aware of each movement, flavor and process, without being perturbed by thoughts or external circumstances.
12 – Each decade, we lose a property and a plant should be taken
Yes, unfortunately or not, we are all heading towards degeneration. Ayurveda divided the cycle of life into 10 different stages and in each stage we lose a different quality that should be balanced by taking a specific herb.
From 1-10 years – childhood/ Herb: calamus root + honey + gold ash
From 11-20 years – growth/ Herb: Ashwaganda or Bala
From 21-30 years – complexion/ Herb: Amalaki and Iron
From 31-40 years – memory/ Herb: Brahmi
From 41-50 years – skin/ Herb: Bala and Kukumadi Oil
From 51-60 years – vision/ Herb: Trifala or Shatavari (for female)
From 61-70 years – reproductive tissue/ Herb: Shatavari (female) and Ashwaganda (male)
From 71-80 years – enthusiasm/ Herb: Shatavari (female) and Ashwaganda (male)
From 81-90 years – intellectual capacity/ Herb: Brahmi
From 91-100 years – general motor functions and motor senses/ Herb: All herbs should be taken in this stage of the life
I know it can sound unfamiliar and weird some of the things I presented here, but I wanted to share my enthusiasm of being one month studying Ayurveda with one of the most incredible Doctors (and human beings), whose school is located in Dharamsala, in the Indian Himalayas. I truly recommend you to move a little bit out of your comfort zone and get to know more about this particular science that belongs to the Indian culture and that was born thousands of years ago. It’s amazing and you will learn so much about yourself and about others! Check Ayuskama School, right here.
By Margarida Pimenta