What is Ayurveda?


The term Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit words, Ayus and Veda, meaning Life and Knowledge, so when they are combined the term describes a system of medicine based on the knowledge of life. This system of medicine originated thousands of years ago in the region of modern day India, and surrounding countries. The relevance of such an ancient system of medicine may at first seem unimportant, but upon further reflection the concept is really amazing. Think about it, from Ayurveda we have access to what is essentially an instruction manual for the bodies that each of us “own”. You may wonder why you would need an instruction manual for your body, but do many of us seriously know how to properly use our bodies for maximum health and productivity? Most of what we know we initially learned from our parents who most likely have health problems and bad habits of their own. Beyond our parents, modern day scientists and medical doctors claim to have all the answers, but their focus is often on fixing you after you are broken, and sometimes even that doesn’t work. Corporations are quick to offer you solutions for improving your life, but you should probably think twice about taking lifestyle advice from these entities whose primary purpose is usually to make profit by selling you convenience and pleasure.

Food as Medicine

Sorry for being vague, but to dive deep into the mechanics of Ayurveda would require me to write a textbook. Without getting into all the details, let me just start by saying that Ayurveda is a system of preventive medicine that treats each person as a unique individual. Ayurveda focuses mainly on the diet and lifestyle of the individual not only to prevent disease, but also to recover from disease. Using the concept of Food as Medicine, natural methods are used to maintain optimal health, while pharmaceuticals and surgery are avoided as much as possible. Obviously pharmaceuticals didn’t exist thousands of years ago, so in their place herbal formulas were often used. Ayurveda may be difficult for the beginning American student or patient to understand, but it is really quite simple. Ayurveda is cooking with fresh local ingredients grown with natural methods. Ayurveda is treating the cause of disease and not only the symptoms as we often do today. Ayurveda is about having an awareness of how your body reacts to inputs from the surrounding environment, and listening to the signals your body sends rather than always relying on experts for advice. Ayurveda is achieving a balance by not over or under exposing your body to various foods, routines, or elements.

Evolution, Revolution, Love

I often claim that Ayurveda is today where yoga, acupuncture and massage therapy were about 30 years ago. Back then these disciplines were relatively unknown, but now they are mainstream and it is difficult to find a person who hasn’t either experienced them or at least heard of them. To put things into perspective, many health insurance plans now include coverage of multiple visits to an acupuncturist or massage therapist, which was unheard of not long ago. Perhaps the day will soon arrive when all natural, preventive medicine services like Ayurveda are also available to everyone.