Ayurveda [ah-yer-vey-duh, -vee-] is the oldest continuously practiced health care system in the world. In Sanskrit, ayus means "long life" and the word veda refers to a system or "knowledge". So the rough translation of Ayurveda is "the art of longevity" or "science of life". It is India's traditional medical system, a powerful natural healing approach for mind, body, and spirit, with antiquity and depth parallel to the Yoga tradition (Frawley, 2001, pp.ix). Comprised of eight branches (pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, opthamology, geriatrics, otolaryngology, general medicine, and surgery) it is both a medical system and an art of daily living. Here in the West, the practice of Ayurveda is largely focused on the latter aspect as a form of preventative medicine.
Ayurveda examines the relationships between the Universe's five elements (Ether [space], Air, Fire, Earth, and Water) and their inherent energies that govern our physiology and well-being. Treatment approaches include lifestyle modifications surrounding diet choices, yoga and meditation, breathing exercises (pranayama), the intake of herbs, and receiving specific bodywork treatments to detoxify, restore and rejuvenate the mind-body. They are relative to time and the individual's unique make up of these elements. At once a vast body of knowledge and an inclusive approach to healing, Ayurveda does not subscribe to rigid applications of "do's" and "do not's". It is a richly-layered system steeped in tradition, and "...developed in a culture where worship, religion, philosophy, health, poetry, dance, and music were interwoven on a daily basis" (Frawley, 2001, pp. vii). It is said that the act of studying Ayurveda is likened to that of swimming across the ocean. It's a life-long process where a teacher can teach you how to swim, but the swimming is up to you.
Its natural approach compliments treatment plans from other medical systems without interfering and is what allows for the greatest results over time with little to none of the side-effects most commonly experienced in allopathic approaches - especially for chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. It is a lens thru which to view your life, knowing where your natural tendencies and inclinations serve you or create more challenges. It is a means of uniting the senses with the soul, mind, and body and unlocking your latent potential for self-healing and higher levels of consciousness.
Reference: Frawley D, Summerfield Kozak S. (2001). Yoga for Your Type: An Ayurvedic Approach to Your Asana Practice. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press.
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