Ayurveda is the world’s oldest healing science that originated from ancient India, more than 5000 years ago. In Sanskrit, ayuh means longevity, span of life, and veda means knowledge, science or wisdom. Thus Ayurveda can be translated as wisdom of living a long and healthy life. For thousands of years Ayurveda was kept and taught in an oral tradition, from experienced masters to disciples. With time, most of the knowledge has been lost, but a few disciples created a world legacy by giving this oral tradition a written form during the 4th – 6th century C.E.
Ayurveda – the grandmother of medicine
Many of the natural healing systems, including Homeopathy, western practices, like therapeutic massage, physiotherapy, plastic surgery, as well as modern nutrition streams (raw food diet, paleo diet, gluten free diet, juice diet, vegan and vegetarian diet, intermittent fasting etc.), have their principles deeply rooted in the Ayurvedic philosophy. Moreover, Hippocrates was influenced by these texts and even discovered practices such as plastic surgery that was often practiced in India for nose transplantation. Nose and ear-cutting was a common punishment in ancient times. This said, Hippocrates might be the father of medicine, but in the truest sense, Ayurveda is the grandmother of all healing systems.
Unlike the common, disease based approach, Ayurveda focuses on addressing the root cause and treats it with food, lifestyle practices and herbal allies.
Under the British rule, Ayurvedic tradition was suppressed and replaced with western quick-fix treatments. The indigenous people of the Indian continent succumbed by the fast acting, symptom relieving form of medicine believing it to be “more advanced” since coming from the West. In addition, the government policies discouraged the practice of Ayurveda, and the ancient old system was slowly forgotten as a traditional way of healing by using foods, herbs and lifestyle practices. It will take several centuries for people to go back to the well of healing wisdom to seek “alternative” traditional methods of healing. Through finding rare, very knowledgable and skilled Vaidyas (Ayurvedic masters), as well as discovering family traditions that kept Ayurvedic rituals alive, the wisdom of life has been introduced to the West and today we witness its enormous impact on the quality of modern people’s lives. Not only did it survive, it has flourished. In 1976, Ayurveda was accepted as a traditional form of medicine by the World Health Organisation after the education system was established.
As a holistic system, Ayurveda is a complete healing science, including the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of life. By focusing on the mind-body balance, it goes hand in hand with yoga – the art of using movement with awareness, though the two evolved completely independently. It encompasses the healing of body, mind and spirit through diet, lifestyle and rejuvenation practices. Cleansing programs and medicinal herbs accompany these procedures.
Basic principles of Ayurveda:
every individual is unique and there is no diet or lifestyle routine that works equally for everyone
prevention is the key
the state of health is an everlasting maintenance of the balance between body, mind and consciousness
food and lifestyle rituals are considered the most important medicine
The main focus in Ayurveda is diet, along with daily habits or regimen, that are suitable for the person’s unique physiology, age, environment, digestive system, lifestyle requirements and even personality type. As opposed to most modern, often short living, nutrition streams, Ayurveda teaches there is no standard ideal one-fits-all diet, simply because each body is different and its reaction to the same food will differ between each person.
Ayurveda can seem theoretical at first, even ideological, but through deeper understanding, practice and experience, it creates an intuitive approach to nurturing, nourishing and healing ourselves. Recent scientific discoveries are delivering this ancient knowledge in the form and language that we, westerners, can understand and visualise.
Ayurveda is not a rigid system, delivering a list of “good” and “bad” foods that if you stick to will make you a happy, healthy and glowing person. Ayurveda persisted for 5000 years because it teaches the most fundamental principles of our existence. By remembering who we really are – a part of nature, a microcosmos of the macrocosmos – we can reestablish the connection with our inner wisdom that guides us to choose the foods that are suited for our own constitution. Instead of referring to calorie counts, and cholesterol levels, food is understood in terms of the tastes and qualities we actually experience when we eat. By choosing the right tastes and qualities we can cleanse, heal and nurture our bodies to live a life of balance and happiness.