Long before the birth of modern medicine, ancient Indians subscribed to a form of medicine called Ayurveda, which in Sanskrit translates to the knowledge for long life. Even today, as a complement to all of our modern technologies and medical science, Ayurveda can teach us valuable knowledge for living. Ayurvedic medicine, healing methods, and living habits seek to find a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit.
Dr. Deepak Chopra, the primary purveyor of Ayurvedic healing to the West, maintains the authoritative database on all things Ayurveda.
After his time as Chief of Staff at the prestigious New England Memorial Hospital in Stoneham, Massachusetts, he was frustrated by the fact that “none of our medical interventions either get to the root cause of disease, or make a significant difference in mortality or morbidity. They just alter its expression.” In an interview with alternative healer Daniel Redwood, Chopra goes on to say that he and his staff would “see patients again and again…giving them sleeping pills, tranquilizers and antibiotics, for their hypertension or ulcers, knowing [we]’re not getting rid of the problem or disease…[we] are just treating the patient. ‘Curing’ is a term that all physicians avoid.” So, Chopra decided to find a more holistic approach to medicine – and he only had to look five thousand years or so into his own culture’s past to find a satisfactory solution.
So what exactly is Ayurvedic healing? At its most basic, Ayurveda emphasizes healthy metabolism and digestion through natural remedies, meditation, and exercise – especially yoga. But in Ayurveda, good health extends beyond the purely physical. Ayurvedic medicine recognizes human beings as another part of nature: pieces in the puzzle of the greater world. Since every individual maintains different balances of the elements of nature, Ayurvedic healers customize each and every patient’s treatment based on their unique physical characteristics, body type, and emotional state. We all know healthy living means more than chemical reactions and pill-popping – and Ayurveda takes into account all those other important pieces of our daily lives – our environment, psychological influences, stress, relationship conflicts and lifestyle habits all contribute to our quality of life.
And how can you take advantage of the benefits of Ayurveda healing? For one, by eating properly! Pitta, one of the three natural elements of Ayurveda, is believed to govern the metabolic processes of the body. Those with a fiery nature or hot tempers can keep their bodies calm and cool by avoiding sweeteners, and instead by eating foods like molasses and honey, olive, sunflower and coconut oils, coriander, cilantro, cardamom, saffron, and fennel. Potatoes, pumpkin, cucumbers, zucchini, melons, grapes, mangoes, pineapple and cherries can also benefit the body’s metabolic processes. Vata, the second element of Ayurveda, is believed to govern the body’s nervous system. Those with sensitive digestive systems can promote their health by eating ghee and extra virgin olive oil, low-fat dairy products, rice, wheat, cooked asparagus, beets, carrots, bananas, plums, berries, figs, papaya and rhubarb. The third and final element, Kapha, governs the body’s muscles, bones and fat, so those with stronger builds and slow digestion can benefit from eating all beans except soybeans, pungent spices such as pepper, cayenne and ginger, and apples, pears and apricots, non-sweet veggies and barley, buckwheat and rye grains.
But healthy eating is only one small component of Ayurvedic healing. For more information on the benefits of Ayurveda in many more contexts:
The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies
Thanks to its customized yet holistic approach to health, every unique person with his or her unique needs can find benefits in the art of Ayurveda.