What is Ayurveda?

10 Jan

Ayurveda yoga

Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine native to India which dates back over five thousand years. In the west, Ayurveda is known to many as “alternative medicine”. In Sanskrit, the word Ayurveda is a combination of the terms “ayus”, meaning life, and veda, meaning science. The World Health Organization refers to Ayurveda as “the world’s oldest, most ancient, scientific, holistic, complete, natural system of healthcare.” Ayurveda is not just a system of healthcare, however.

Like yoga, it is a complete approach to living, spirituality and wellness. Ayurveda is derived from a philosophy of creation called Samkhya, which we reviewed in the first chapter. The ancient rishis, or seers, perceived the Samkhya philosophy during intense periods of meditation and religious practice. Samkya is considered to be the oldest school of Indian philosophy, and also the thought system from which other, similar philosophies originated. In fact, Ayurveda is said to be the philosophical foundation for all oriental culture, including Buddhist and Hindu cultures, and it is considered to hold the key to oriental symbolism.

Yoga – which is also inspired by Samkhya theory – and Ayurveda are closely related. Both of these traditions are spiritual and sacred sciences that originated from the Vedic tradition in India, and both systems profess an ultimate aim of uniting people with the Divine. Therefore, as practitioners and teachers of yoga, we will be much benefited by a basic knowledge of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda provides specific dietary guidelines to create and maintain health, as well as to alleviate symptoms of illness and disease. But just like yoga, Ayurveda must be practiced in order to be understood.

While diet and health-awareness alone will not cure deeply ingrained diseases, many illnesses can be reduced or eliminated simply through adjustments in diet and eating habits. Ayurveda therefore emphasizes the need to be aware of what we are eating, when we are eating, and how we are eating. According to Ayurveda, eating habits not conducive to health must be changed to stop the formation of new ama, or toxins.


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