Ayurveda Day 92: A Beginner’s Guide to Ayurveda

Sometimes I might get a bit carried away in this blog, talking about things as I learn them…and we learn at a fast pace about various diseases and treatments. But in this sense I may often be putting the cart before the horse when blogging to you.

I’ve recently started a tutoring program through the college with one of my fellow classmates. I’ve been very lucky to be able to teach those who were in my shoes last year in their first semester. I’ve been realizing that the fundamentals, the basics of Ayurveda, are the soul and intention of the wisdom. Everything else rests upon them. And I have never just spelled them out for you in one easy place!

If you looked at the sum total of my blogs, you may find a general idea of what Ayurveda is. But I think now’s a good time to spell it all out. On a basic and fundamental level, there are only a few things you need to know to understand what Ayurveda is.

Ayurveda is the medicinal side of yoga

This is a simple an elegant way of explaining it to people who may not be familiar with it. Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences.

For something to be considered Ayurvedic, we must know the “nature” of three things

– The nature of the patient

– The nature of the disease

– The nature of the treatment

The “nature” of all things in this universe can be defined by their opposite qualities

There are ten pairs of opposite qualities in nature:

– Hot/Cold

– Moist/Dry

– Heavy/Light

– Gross/Subtle

– Dense/Flowing

– Static/Mobile

– Dull/Sharp

– Soft/Hard

– Smooth/Rough

– Cloudy/Clear

All things in this universe are made up of 5 elements, which contain those qualities

Earth – cold, dry, heavy, gross, dense, stable, hard, solid, rough, cloudy

Water – cold, moist, heavy, gross, flowing, stable, cloudy, smooth, soft, dull

Fire – hot, dry, light, mobile, subtle, static, flowing, sharp, rough, clear

Air – cold, dry, light, subtle, flowing, mobile, sharp, hard, rough, clear

Ether – cold, dry, light, subtle, flowing, static, sharp, clear

The Doshas are just convenient commonly occurring groupings of these elements

Vata is ether and air. It represents movement, is the least stable of the doshas, and is the quickest to go into imbalance and decay and creativity.

Pitta is fire with a little bit of water to contain it. It is the transformative aspect of the three doshas. It is the most purposeful and productive as well as the one to burn out the quickest.

Kapha is earth and water. It is the most stable of the doshas. It contains the most solid of the elements and represents growth and structure, but is difficult to move and can stagnate.

We all have all three doshas within us, and each dosha has a practice that is fundamental to it’s healing.

There are three causes of disease that make way for the doshas to affect us

– Misusing our senses: taking in that which will imbalance us via our sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell

– Failure of the intellect: knowing better but choosing to do that which imbalances us anyway

– Decay due to time and motion: aging, change of seasons, etc.

There is ultimately one fundamental cause of disease

– Forgetting our true nature as one, connected, and not separate. Can be called god, spirit, enlightenment, or whatever form best suits you.

We all have karma and samskaras

Karma simply means cause and effect. For every action we take, there will be an equal and opposite reaction. We are all born different with our own. Samskaras are our tendencies. The actions we will tend towards making, as demonstrated by the doshic imbalances within us.

If we can mindfully overwrite our samskaras, and stop doing that which further vitiates the doshas, we will be healthy.

We have three bodies that can become imbalanced

– Our physical body

– Our mental/emotional, or subtle body

– Our karmic or causal body

All these bodies affect one another in tandem. The breath is the bridge between our physical and emotional body, and our buddhi is the bridge between our mind and our karmic body.

Ayurveda is the science of personal responsibility

This is in my opinion the definition of Ayurveda.

I think this is the most important piece to take away from this blog. Typically, we come to a doctor to get treatment. We are sick, so we want something to fix us. If you want to know if Ayurveda is right for you, you don’t need to know or understand any of the above key points that I wrote. All you need to ask yourself is if you are willing to completely trust and have faith that you are in charge of your own journey of health.

If you are merely wanting a pill, or a tea, or an herb, or any other treatment to “cure” what ails you, then nothing will really help you. Not even Ayurveda. But if you are willing to accept your role – the personal responsibility – then Ayurveda is what can help you to truly heal, on every level of existence.

Ayurveda can give you symptomatic relief as well as the tools you need to make sure you don’t get sick again. It can help you to recognize the samskaras that you have that are causing you to get sick in the first place. All those bad habits with new awareness can be replaced with better healing habits. You don’t just correct a symptom. You systemically and holistically deal with the whole problem. You heal thoroughly.

You take your own life into your hands. Ayurveda is simply another distraction if you cannot accept this one simple truth. This is why I have chosen to study Ayurveda and to help others. So many people in this world are suffering, and if we can’t truly understand it’s root cause, then we never truly can help each other to help ourselves.

So whenever you get confused by the ramblings of my blog or need a little refresher, keep this article handy – hopefully it can help you to remember the basics and to keep it simple.

With gratitude,

S

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