Ayurveda: The Science of Life


Ayurveda is the traditional medical system of India which has been practised for over 2,000 years in Asia and is now becoming popular in the West. Ayurveda uses diet, herbs and treatments to restore balance and wellbeing, and to prevent disease. An Ayurvedic consultation with pulse reading will give you an insight into how your body interacts with your environment, so that you can understand what aspects of your life help you to thrive and what changes you need to make to invest in greater wellbeing.

The basis of the Ayurvedic approach is to view the world in terms of the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (or Space). Together with Consciousness, these five elements make up everything in the universe including ourselves. Ayurveda defines three types of physical constitution (or dosha): Kapha (earth & water), Pitta (fire & water) and Vata (air & ether).  Each type is balanced by having foods containing different elements.

A Kapha type will be heavier physically, more grounded and pragmatic. In terms of diet, they will have to be careful with carbohydrates which contain the earth element and they will be balanced by food which contains more fire (e.g warming spices) or air (e.g salads). Conversely, for a Vata type, a lot of salads will be ungrounding and could produce anxiety. Pitta types, who are hot (fire element) can thrive on raw food (because it is cooling) and should avoid heating spices. Vata types can’t digest raw food well, so they may suffer from wind and bloating if they adopt a raw food diet.

As you can see from the examples above, there cannot be one diet which is suitable for everyone. By choosing a diet to suit our type, we allow ourselves the best foundation for good health and wellbeing.

Treatments can also be used to bring us back into balance. For example, when Vata is out of balance, causing symptoms like dry skin, agitation, insomnia, anxiety and erratic digestion with tendency to wind/ bloating and constipation, oil massage can be very helpful to ground and release stress.

As an Ayurvedic Practitioner, one of the main things I focus on is digestion. Good physical digestion allows us to absorb all the nutrients in our food and to build healthy tissues. When digestion is weak, then although the food we eat may be very good quality, we may not benefit as we can’t digest it. Over time, feelings of anxiety can build up if the body is not well-nourished. Diet and herbs can be used to strengthen digestion, rebuild our physical health and to support mental and emotional wellbeing.

As well as physical digestion, we also need to consider our mental digestion. Challenging experiences (e.g loss or betrayal of loved ones) need to be digested. When we struggle to digest these experiences, our physical health may suffer. A significant part of our nervous system is in the gut, so when we are upset or angry, our physical digestion will suffer. In this way our mental and emotional wellbeing influences our physical wellbeing.

Ayurveda advises us to ‘first address the cause’; so if the root cause of acid indigestion is frustration with your job or a relationship, then it is helpful to look at that as well as taking herbs/changing diet: it is a very holistic approach.

Feeding Your Demons, the technique based ona a Tibetan Buddhist approach, can sometimes be used as part of an Ayurvedic approach, because it encourages us to accept and resolve the uncomfortable feelings which may be triggering ill health and brings a profound sense of peace.

Published by Hove StressBusters
October 2015