I first came across Ayurveda on a holiday in Goa nearly twenty years ago. We were staying at a hotel on an all inclusive basis and so took advantage of a free consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner. I can’t say I was sold at the time. It felt like a lot of work but over the years I have come to appreciate this practice more and the benefits it brings to you on a long term basis.
So, what is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic medical systems in the world originating in India over 5000 years ago. For thousands of years Ayurveda has acted as a preventative medicine offering a body of wisdom designed to help us stay healthy so that we may realise our full human potential the word Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit word Ayur which means life and Veda which means science or knowledge. Ayurveda therefore is a science of life.
A fun fact to know also is that Ayurveda is known as the sister science of yoga. Both Yoga and Ayurveda share the same foundation, both having come from the Vedas - the oldest books in the world. Now in the West we often think of yoga as a practice designed to support the body and physical well being but the purpose and aim of yoga (which means union) in Sanskrit is “oneness”. Yoga was created to help us access our higher self, our state of ultimate wellbeing (or Nirvana) and cultivate a higher consciousness.
Meanwhile the science of Ayurveda was developed for healing purposes with the aim to keep the physical body healthy so that we can pursue our dreams of spirituality and experience our full potential. After all, we know that when we're sick or lacking energy or feeling unwell it's challenging to focus on anything else than simply getting better. The main difference between Ayurveda and western medicine is that the western medicine approaches to focus on treating the disease instead of the whole person and western medicine also tends to treat the symptoms of a condition instead of the root cause. Western medicine is focused on alleviating the symptoms so that we can feel better as soon as possible. Ayurveda on the other hand considers the whole person, mind, body and spirit and aims to address the root cause of the disease or imbalance. In addition Ayurveda is that there are is a mind and body connection - the idea being that the mind and body are connected and that one of the most powerful ways to transform your body is through the power of the conscious mind. Secondly, Ayurveda recognises that we are each unique and that there is no one size fits all. Everybody is unique and there’s no diet or lifestyle routine that works for everyone. In Ayurveda, prevention is key. Ayurveda teaches to prevent the disease not just later treat the symptoms. Ayurveda teaches to fix the root cause of the condition. Finally the other thing that really stands out in Ayurveda is that Ayurveda recognises that we are all connected to nature therefore we thrive when we align with the rhythms of nature. So this understanding that we are all unique in body, personality, lifestyle environment and other factors this is one of the things certainly I appreciate most about Ayurveda. There's no one size fits all diet or one healing treatment. Instead Ayurveda promotes personalised treatment based on the unique constitution of each individual and the unique nature of the illness so treatment plans and so are beta are tailored to each person ‘s problems.
Also when it comes to treatment another difference between modern western medicine and Ayurveda is that western medicine often relies on surgery or prescription medication treatments whilst Ayurveda on the other hand focuses on restoring balance by engaging all five senses naturally so in Ayurvedic treatment approach may include things like diet and herbalism, aromatherapy, colour therapy, sound therapy and touch therapy. These are different therapies that will engage each of our different senses. Amongst the most powerful tools used to restore mind body balance in Ayurveda are things like meditation, yoga, nutrition, movement and daily exercise, abundant restful sleep, herbal medicine and oils. Oils for internal and external so oils for massage therapy, using healthy cooking oils.
One question I think gets asked a lot is how do you know when to embrace Western medicine and when do you know to embrace Ayurveda. In my view we can tap into both western medicine and Ayurveda depending on each situation. There's a place for both. Western medicine is ideal when there is an emergency or a life-threatening crisis. In these cases modern medicine can truly save a life. Ayurveda, on the other hand is best practised as a daily preventative medicine with where we can each be empowered to take our daily health and wellness into our own hands. Through choices we make, we can control things such as diet, lifestyle, exercise and even our thoughts working to live a happier and healthier long life.
This is a brief overview of Ayurveda and how it can help you and the difference between Ayurveda and western medicine. I would suggest if you want to embrace an Ayurvedic lifestyle that you speak to a practitioner. There are many Ayurvedic practitioners in London and surrounding areas. If you’re interested in hearing some recommendations, drop a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you…. xoxo