What Are the First Steps for Learning Ayurveda and how can you begin your journey into Ayurvedic knowledge and lifestyle?
The history of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a preventive form of medicine and a holistic healthcare system that originated in ancient India about 5,000 years ago. Its philosophy emphasizes on promoting the quality of life through self-care and preventive lifestyle adaptations. Ayurvedic way of life, in its original form, can be understood as a life-long journey and a path to self-realization. Ayurveda and its interrelated practices that encompass every aspect of human health are enjoying huge popularity in recent times. Its promising principles are attracting scientists and health-minded individuals alike. So what are the first steps for learning Ayurveda? Let’s have a thorough discussion.
Learning Ayurveda #1: Five fundamental elements
Ayurveda believes that every living and non-living thing is made up of five fundamental elements – air, fire, water, space, and earth. These elements are present in everything and everyone in varying proportions.
Human anatomy also starts with these five elements that are considered as the building blocks of tissues and organs. Each element manifests itself with certain qualities that can be recognized by simply paying close attention to your body, emotions, and sensations.
Learning Ayurveda #2: Three doshas rule all bodily functions
In humans, the five elements combine to form three doshas (bodily energies) that work in close cooperation with each other to perform all the physiological processes in the body. Air and space combine to form the energy of movement (Vata); fire and water combine to rule all chemical changes (Pitta), whereas earth and water combine to form the energy of cohesion (Kapha). Just like elements, doshas are also present in everyone with varying proportions.
Learning Ayurveda #3: Know your doshas – know thyself
Every body-mind has a unique combination of three doshas, and this combination is called the Prakriti of that person. This Prakriti defines physical as well as the psychological characteristics of an individual, such as body structure, weight, skin type, inclinations, mental abilities, memory, and temperament.
There are seven different body-mind types in the world – Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, Pitta-Kapha, and Vata-Pitta-Kapha. Ideally, getting to know yourself should be the first step for learning Ayurveda. Observing your emotions and paying attention to small details about your body is where this journey starts.
Learning Ayurveda #4: Doshas go corrupt at times
In an ideal situation, when you are doing everything right, and the weather is not too harsh, doshas keep performing their specific functions at an optimal level. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes, one or more doshas accumulate in excess due to environmental stress, weather, bad eating habits, or an ignorant lifestyle. This imbalance of doshas is believed to be the root cause of diseases in Ayurveda.
Learning Ayurveda #5: Medicines target this imbalance
Healing in Ayurveda is all about targeting the root cause of the disease, and since dosha imbalance is the root cause for all diseases, the whole medication system of Ayurveda relies on correcting this imbalance of dosha. For example, if a person is facing hormonal imbalances (which is a sign of Pitta imbalance), ayurvedic medicines, diet, yoga, exercises, therapies are all targeted to pacify Pitta.
Learning Ayurveda #6: Ayurvedic medicines are not always safe and do not work equally on everyone
Every ayurvedic medicine has some energetics. Some herbs are warm and stimulating, while others have cooling energies. When a Pitta person is taking a warming herb (like ashwagandha or black pepper) for a long time, she may face a Pitta imbalance over time because warming herbs are known to increase Pitta. A Vata or Kapha person, on the other hand, will benefit immensely from the same herb, especially in case of long-term use. Also, just like the food we eat, ayurvedic medicines have some side effects as well if not taken properly.
Learning Ayurveda #7: Seasons affect your health
Seasons are defined by certain characteristics that resemble some of the doshas. That season is therefore dominated by that dosha. In other words, that dosha is prone to corruption in that season for almost everyone, and in particular, people of that dosha type. For example, the spring season is predominantly Kapha, and many people face sinuses, allergies, excess mucus production, and nasal blockages in this season. Ayurveda, therefore, recommends seasonal self-care for every person to avoid seasonal diseases.