What I thought it was...
Until recently my idea of Ayurveda was that is was a specific diet with lots of different spices and herbs and people being treated with oils. Like most people, I based my idea on images I have seen on the internet, most of them spa advertisements. Not being a fan of rigidity and diets I ignored it until I started my yoga teacher training.
My definition of health and especially well-being was informed by the medical model and to a degree by psychology, including positive psychology. Having done some research on Ayurveda online I found many articles that solely focus on digestion, but Ayurveda is much more than that.
What is really is!
We grow up with the idea that health is the absence of illness. Yet, most of us don't really stop to think what illness actually is, let alone what constitutes health. Even when reading about Ayurveda online I found that most articles focus on what we eat and our digestion. Coming from a science background I always found this a limiting view.
Health in Ayurveda is actually the complete state of physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing. Ayurveda standards consider healthy people to be balanced in all these areas and we must strive to achieve a perfect balance, because balance is health, while imbalance is what is known as illness or disease. Modern medicine defines health simply as a lack of disease, injury and pain. It is the first holistic health system to define health as well-being, and the most important principles are that mind and body are inextricably linked. Imagine, 3000 years before Positive Psychology was a thing, Ayurveda was mentioned. Yet, here we are, still researching what constitutes wellbeing and how to achieve it.
What does Ayurveda mean?
The word Ayurveda is composed of two words: ayu and veda (the r is a connector for words in Saskrit).
Ayu means age literally, life, longevity and veda is the source of all knowledge, science and art. In short, the art and science of a long and healthy life. In Ayurveda philosophy life already starts at conception and even before that and an entire limb of the eight limbs of ayurveda is dedicated to pregnant mothers alone.
Principles of Ayurveda
The first principle is that Ayurveda serves healthy people by providing guidance for how to maintain health.
The second is providing guidance to the unhealthy. The definition of the unhealthy person is "the person who has no patience" and those who got sick, whatever the cause".
Why patience? - Because when you lose your patience you lose your peace and when you lose your peace you lose your health. This alone is such a profound way of looking at the impact of our lifestyle, how we go through the day.
Health in Ayurveda
And here is why I love the definition so much, Let's take a closer look. There are as mentioned above, physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing.
The physical is your fitness, absence of illness, strength.
The mental: psychological, emotional and biological ( as it can also be linked to our genes, same as with physical health).
The spiritual is your faith, beliefs, your satisfaction, peace, love, compassion, hope.
The social: society itself, our surroundings, serving others ( if you take from nature you also have to give back).
You could say, that Ayurveda is the original lifestyle medicine, with most of its recommendations focused on the creation of a healthy lifestyle and healthy practices to improve health and wellbeing. Contrary to a lot of attitudes to health it places great emphasis on prevention and promotes the maintenance of health.
What do you do to promote your health? Has this article inspired you to look at your health differently? Comment below.