What is Ayurveda?

‘AYUR’ in Sanskrit means ‘Life’ or ‘Longevity’ and ‘VEDA’ means ‘Science’ or ‘Knowing’. Ayurveda can be described as ‘The Science of Life or Longevity’ or ‘The Yoga of Life’. It is a system of Yoga.

Ayurveda teaches us how to understand our individual constitution and the way the environment in which we live affects us. We learn how to be flexible and mindful of natural laws and to adapt and respond to the flux and flow of life. Each person will practice and live differently as we are all different.

All that is matter and all of nature is made up of the five great elements: Space, Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth. We too contain these same five elements and are an inseparable part of nature. Three primary life forces are formed by the combination of these five elements. They are Vata Dosha (space and wind), Pitta Dosha (fire and water), and Kapha Dosha (water and earth).

Classical Ayurveda is a system of Yoga, and is focussed on stabilising the body and mind for the purpose of meditation and self-realisation. Ayurveda practices of cleansing, healing and strengthening the body and mind provide many positive side effects too, improving our health and enjoyment of life.

There is also the natural law of ‘Karma’ to be aware of. This is the law of cause and effect. It is not good or bad as sometimes expressed. It simply helps us to understand that we are the way we are for a reason. This allows us to accept our birth, our situation, and realise our body and mind is an instrument that allows us to experience things in a certain way in this life time.

With the science of Ayurveda we learn to manage our bodies and minds as instruments given to us in this life for a specific purpose. With self respect and discipline, application of the natural laws, and by taking responsibility for our attitude and actions, we prepare the field (the Body and Mind) and allow our true nature to prevail. We learn to live in the present moment.

The differences of approach and the working of the Eastern mind and the Western mind has and will create some difficulties in understanding fully the techniques utilized by Ayurveda. Many concepts are expressed in a way that is symbolic rather than literal. This helps to convey subtle concepts that cannot be expressed fully through language but must ultimately be experienced personally.

Yoga teaches us that what is true in this moment may not be so in the next. So learning to live ‘in the now’ and remain present is essential. This takes constant practice and awareness to achieve and we find the tools to do so in these great sciences.