Q: Is Ayurveda a form of holistic medicine?
A: Yes. Ayurveda is a healing system that treats the whole person – the integration of body, mind, and spirit – rather than simply treating individual symptoms. For instance, we know that ongoing stress damages our immune system, and when the immune system is weakened, we are more vulnerable to disease and illness. We also know that when our mind experiences pleasure, our brain releases healing chemicals to our entire body, creating feelings of happiness and well-being as well as promoting health.
Ayurveda takes holistic medicine a step further, treating people not as isolated individuals but as an inextricable part of the whole universe. In India’s ancient Vedic tradition, there is an underlying intelligence that flows through and connects everyone and everything in the universe. Ayurveda sees life as the exchange of energy and information between individuals and their extended body – the environment. If our environment is nourishing, we thrive; if our environment is toxic; we may become sick. Therefore, learning how to eliminate toxicity and surround ourselves with a healing environment is the key to health.
Q: How is Ayurveda different from conventional Western medicine?
A: In contrast with conventional medicine, which has devoted a lot of effort to isolating the differences among various diseases, Ayurveda focuses on the unique qualities of individuals, pointing out that diseases differ mainly because people are so different.
Ayurveda teaches that all health-related measures — whether an exercise program, dietary plan or herbal supplement — must be based on an understanding of an individual’s unique mind-body constitution or dosha. By knowing a patient’s dosha, an Ayurvedic doctor can tell which diet, physical activities, and medical therapies are most likely to help, and which might do no good or even cause harm.
In addition, while Western medicine has tended to treat the symptoms of disease, Ayurveda seeks to eliminate illness by treating the underlying cause. For example, for a patient suffering from depression, an allopathic physician would likely prescribe a standard course of antidepressants and, perhaps, therapy.
Q: What is the Ayurvedic perspective on health and illness?
A: The guiding principle of Ayurveda and the other Eastern healing arts is the interconnection of all things. We aren’t simply an isolated collection of atoms and molecules, but are an inseparable part of the infinite field of intelligence. From this holistic perspective, health isn’t merely the absence of illness or symptoms ― it is a higher state of consciousness that allows vitality, well-being, creativity, and joy to flow into our experience.
In contrast, illness is a disruption ― a blockage in the flow of energy and information that creates a sense of separation or alienation from the field. Symptoms and sickness are the body’s signal that we need to restore balance, eliminate whatever is causing the blockages, and reestablish the healthy flow of energy and information.
Q: What are Ayurveda’s guiding principles?
A: Ayurveda teaches that the mind has the greatest influence in directing the body toward sickness and health. Thousands of years before modern medicine “discovered” the mind-body connection; the ancient sages had mastered it. They developed Ayurveda as a system for contacting our own inner intelligence (or mind), bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body.
The Ayurvedic principles for restoring and maintaining mind-body balance are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago:
1) Take time each day to quiet your mind (meditate).
2) Eat a colorful, flavorful diet.
3) Engage in daily exercise that enhances flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.
4) Sleep soundly at night.
5) Eliminate what is not serving you.
6) Cultivate loving, nurturing relationships.
7) Perform work that awakens your passion.
Q: Can Ayurvedic medicine help with physical injuries?
A: Ayurveda has been used for thousands of years to alleviate every type of health issue, including physical injuries. Ayurveda contrasts with the mechanical allopathic approach to medicine in that it looks at the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—but by including consciousness, it is not excluding the physical body. For virtually every physical ailment or injury, Ayurveda offers a healing protocol.