The Ayurvedic practice, which entails eating with the seasons, practicing yoga and meditating daily, can help keep Americans across the country from giving into modern temptations.
The practice of Ayurveda originated in ancient India and began integrating into the West only recently. In Sanskrit, “ayur” means life, “veda” means knowledge. Thus, it is often translated as the knowledge of life which enables humans to heal themselves and pursue long, fulfilled lives.
Indians began to practice Ayurveda about 3,000 years ago. The original texts contained within the Vedas, the oldest surviving philosophical texts in the world, make Ayurveda the oldest healing practice in the world. It began as a method of uniting mental and spiritual awareness.
Ayurvedic medicine uses diet, detoxification, yoga, meditation, herbs, massage therapy and breathing exercises to promote the body’s own capacity for healing and balance. Ayurvedic practitioners use the practice as an alternative therapy, or alongside modern, conventional therapies.
Ayurvedic doctors search for the root to heal disease before it advances and more radical treatments are needed. Therefore, Ayurveda is usually used to help stress-related, metabolic and chronic conditions such as acne, allergies, asthma, anxiety, arthritis, fatigue, colds, constipation, depression, diabetes, insomnia and eating disorders.
The Ayurvedic system views the basic life force of the body as prana. The body requires food, water, air and sunlight to carry prana throughout the body.
Earth, water, fire, air and ether are the five basic elements containing prana. These elements align with specific sections of the body and organize humans into three doshas, or categories of being. The three doshas are vata, pitta and kapha. One human strives to balance all three doshas, but typically displays one more visibly than the others.
Ayurvedic medicine uses the three doshas to identify treatments for individuals. Disease is the imbalance of one or more of the doshas, so Ayurvedic doctors work to balance the three.
The vata dosha, associated with air and ether, supports movement and lightness. People who fall under the vata category are typically thin with light features, dry skin and energy. An imbalance of vata appears as nervousness, hyperactivity, sleeplessness and headaches.
The pitta dosha relates to fire and water, which support metabolism and digestion. Pitta people have a medium build, fair skin and strong digestive organs, and are focused. An imbalance shows up as anger, aggression and stress.
The kapha dosha conveys water and earth, which supports calm and peacefulness. Kaphas are generally heavy-set with oily complexions. An imbalance leads to fatigue, greed, sloth behavior and obesity.
Ayurveda is new to the western world, so little research has been conducted. However, many communities across the country have a well-established relationship with this approach to healing. Boulder is one such place.
Boulder houses several Ayurvedic doctors, medical centers and professional training programs are found at the Rocky Mountain Institute for Yoga and Ayurveda Alandi Ashram Clinic.
Suzanne Spiegel, Ayurvedic Wellness Cleanse leader at CorePower Yoga said, “I think that the biggest lesson that Ayurveda reinforces for me is to listen to my body and to nature in order to notice the effects that different foods, seasons and activities have on me. It’s a cool science because built in, there is flexibility and a recognition that every person will have different needs based on their personal constitution, experience etc. If practiced, I definitely think ayurveda can be hugely helpful in shifting harmful habits. Just noticing our tendencies throughout the year is a huge step toward shifting habits.”
Kourtney at the Ayurveda Alandi Ashram Clinic in Boulder attempts to meet people where they are to avoid judgment in resisting, or giving into modern temptations such as processed foods and alcohol.
“Patients have a 1.5 hour initial appointment, where we assess their constitution and current state of the doshas. Then we recommend an herbal treatment plan along with diet and lifestyle recommendations. The plan is tailored to the individual and their needs. Any yoga asana recommendations depend on the case and the practitioner – this is a sister science that complements ayurveda well, but not all practitioners are trained in this practice. recommendations may be made, or patients may be referred to a qualified teacher or therapist, however, we do tend to focus more on ayurvedic modalities,” said Kourtney.
Ayurveda Alandi Ashram Clinic works with about 50 people per month. About 75 percent of practitioners return regularly while the other 25 percent visit the clinic and then do their own practice.
Cleanse programs at CorePower Yoga and the Yoga Pod use Ayurveda diet techniques to detoxify participant bodies and encourage healthy lifestyle changes. These cleanses are lead four times a year, one with each season.
“In fall, it is the time to begin to eat warm heavier foods like root veggies and warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom. The heavier food helps to create a feeling of groundedness or stability in a season that is know for transformation (leaves dropping, hot to cool, everything is letting go) and the spices heat up and stimulate our digestive system for winter, which is time when everything slows down. In order to keep our digestion moving toxins through efficiently during the slow, heavy winter, we eat warming spices that stimulate the digestive fire,” said Spiegel.
As the practice of Ayurveda continues to gain in popularity throughout the country, it is likely that many more communities will be able to take advantage of this ancient science of healing to lead happy and healthier lives.
Hope Nartonis grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but now studies journalism at CU-Boulder. She adores yoga, the outdoors, lululemon athletica and Boulder, Colorado. She strives to educate her community by writing about yogic philosophies and discoveries.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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