In the world history of health care and medicine, Ayurveda is among the first, and not only alphabetically. This ancient Indian system has both an array of practical tips and a strong philosophical background. But is it as good for a today’s human? Let’s break it down and see how applicable it is now.
What Are the Principles of Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a 3000-year-old Indian system of maintaining health. It is deeply rooted in Indian culture and still widely practiced in India and Nepal. Behind its recommendations, there is a complex view system that specifies certain universal categories and applies them to the human body. For example, there are five Ayurvedic elements: earth, fire, water, air, and ether. According to it, human body is said to consist of three biomaterials, known as doshas:
- Vata, responsible for movement and pain.
- Pitta, responsible for metabolism and body heat.
- Kapha, responsible for lubrication, heaviness, and nourishment.
We select doshas among all the other Ayurvedic categories because they are meant to keep in balance by nutrition and procedures. Remember that Ayurveda formed in the era when nutrition and drugs were not viewed separately. So, one of the ways to keep healthy included special nutrition, as well as exercise, massage, enemas, and special procedures like 21-day detox.
How to Apply Ayurvedic Principles Here and Now
You are a Westerner who heard of Ayurveda and now wants to practice it. What methods can you apply right now, given that your experience is probably not as advanced as it takes? There are several ways you can apply Ayurveda in your life, and they include:
- Ayurvedic diet. It is formed according to the person’s temperament and meant to keep doshas in balance. To start practicing it, you need to consult a specialist and learn about your personal disbalance to fix.
- Ayurvedic massage. They are usually made with oil on certain body parts. There are some massage methods you can do on yourself. Still, you will need a specialist.
- Ayurvedic detox. It’s usually a 21-day program that combines special nutrition mode, massage, oil and spice procedures,
- Ayurvedic rituals. They include a cup of water as you wake up, meditation in regular hours, and more consciousness in what you eat, drink, smell, feel – and what you do in general.
While all of these can be practiced alone, they are all just elements of Ayurveda known for its holistic approach. This approach sees a human being as a whole, not separating organs and organ systems, as well as physical and psychic. It also sees a human as a whole with the universe. That’s why it’s so philosophical, and there are many new terms to learn before you at least approach an understanding of this teaching. On the other hand, we don’t live now like ancient Ayurveda practitioners lived, and cannot embrace this wisdom it in its fullness. So, if certain diets or procedures make you feel better, there’s nothing wrong with their incompleteness.
And no, you cannot start practicing Ayurveda on your own! No matter how many books on it you read and how many YouTube videos you see: the practice always involves specialists, first of all, to detect your dominant dosha and how exactly your balance is shifted, to restore it with practices. The first step is anyway to consult.
It’s better to visit the specialist in real life, to provide the full impression of you. The way you look, move, talk, smell, sound – holistic. But in our quarantine times, there are specialists that work online as well. Many of them are real Indian Ayurveda specialists, speaking English well and experienced enough to make their judgments by what they see and hear on Zoom. It’s a shame a massage doesn’t work this way.
And yes, the benefits of certain practices are often reported. For example, some herbs are good for inflammations, and meditation practices improve your sleep and heart health. These effects are rather local, but they make the entire practice worth a shot. Still, there is a bigger question…
Can Ayurveda Replace Conventional Health Care?
With all due respect, we must admit that Ayurveda, despite claiming universality and having a strong philosophy behind it, formed before today’s science. So, from today’s position, it’s pseudoscientific. It doesn’t mean that it’s all fraudulent: Ayurveda is based on centuries of practice and observation, so there are many rational conclusions and instructions in it. It means that Ayurveda is not as omnipotent as it may appear. Again, in its time, it indeed was among the best health systems, so it’s not to be simply dismissed.
Nevertheless, Ayurveda does not replace our conventional medicine. More than that: before you start practicing Ayurveda, you should consult with an Ayurvedic specialist and then with your doctor to make sure the recommendations you receive won’t do you harm. As for benefits, there really may be some. But even the Indian Medical Association (which has all the reasons to be proud of such a legacy) doesn’t now take Ayurveda seriously as an alternative to con-med.
The two systems do have something in common, though. Do you, for example, plan your nutrition with an app like MyFitnessPal and check the balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates? Then you follow the rule of balance and harmony and use the latest knowledge and technology – like the first practitioners of Ayurveda did. A cup of lemon water in the morning? Ayurvedic. Intermittent fasting? Ayurvedic too. There are many everyday things that can be traced back to Ancient India.
Where Do You Start?
The leitmotif of this text is the following: Ayurvedic practices require assistance from experienced specialists. No matter how fully you want to embrace it: for a modern human, you need to be checked by both your doctor and an Ayurveda master you’re going to. And then follow the recommendations and accept the help.
Got anything to add about your own Ayurveda practice? Welcome to our comments but remember that what’s good for some of us may be harmful to somebody elese. Know yourself: that’s the conclusion from Ayurveda that can’t be doubted.