While many of us think of massages and wellness when it comes to Ayurveda, few know of the vastness of this ‘science of life’ (the translated meaning of the word Ayurveda) that it has to offer.
When I think back on my personal journey with Ayurveda, I was initially fascinated and subsequently became overwhelmed by the vastness of the subject which seemed to me like an immense sea. I then started to latch onto catchphrases in my attempt to get some kind of grasp of the ideas that make up the wealth of knowledge that is Ayurveda. Finally, I was fortunate enough to find someone who was able to convey the information in a way that was digestible for me.
So what is it that you need to know?
Ayurveda is like an old herbal witch, a pagan, a shaman, a guru – in short Ayurveda is a healing science that tries to make use of the fact that whatever happens on the outside (in nature) is also always happening on the inside. Do I mean when it rains outside, it rains inside? Almost! When the climate changes to more rain and maybe heat, it simply means that our system is affected by these conditions (warm, moist or cold/damp) and wants to return itself to a state of balance.
Ayurveda – the offer to heal through balance
And here is where the healing part sets in. If there are different climates that balance each other (irrespective of whether it is in the western or eastern hemisphere) this is what the body does on a smaller scale: day to day, hour to hour. In short, in the eyes of Ayurveda, healing or thriving happens when we allow balance to occur. If we are constantly ‘on fire’, we will burn-out. If we are constantly chilled, we will have no desire to participate, create and be part of the growth around and within us.
So where does Cooking, Lifestyle and Massage come into the picture?
Using herbs and spices in the kitchen is a way of creating heat, coolness, moisture etc in our bodies which helps us to remain in balance. Spices we have in our cupboards like marjoram, pepper etc act as healing herbs. Some more foreign herbs like Triphala, Amla and Neem are very specific in how they act and should be taken only if you are trying to cure yourself over a certain period of time, ie. in an Ayurvedic cleanse.
While many of us love massages for their soothing effects, they shift our system beyond the flesh. You see, we are not only the eating/thinking/sleeping machine we sometimes falsely perceive ourselves to be. Rather, when we look through the Ayurvedic lens, our body is always whole. So some of our ailments might not be due to intake of food, for example, but rather, to some of our experiences. The on-going fight we have at work, the stress and struggle to maintain harmony in the family etc, all of these things can lead to imbalance which can be addressed by Ayurvedic massage (allowing the energy body to function optimally again) or can be remedied through looking at how we lead our life.
And to tell you a secret – this is the central feature of Ayurveda. We know of so many types of diet (vegan, paleo, etc.) and certainly, they can play a role in restoring us to a state of balance, but in its emphasis on lifestyle, Ayurveda is ideally suited to directly address modern problems. Unfortunately, there is no food, massage or dress-code that will deal with too much screen-time, more stress at work, trying to be a helicopter parent. The only way in is to look at what can stay and what needs to go.
Okay, this is way more than an introduction, but this for me describes the essence of what Ayurveda has to offer.