Ayurveda: Ancient and Universal

Written by Keith DeBoer on . Posted in Ayurveda

For those who want to explore healing alternatives outside of the medical profession, Ayurveda is a tempting path. The "science of life" is considered by many to be the sister practice to yoga, and the oldest science of natural health care, with written records more than 5,000 years old.

Several decades ago, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, of the Transcendental Meditation technique, began working with India's top Ayurvedic experts to purify and revive the tradition of Ayurveda according to the ancient Vedic texts. This expanded system, dubbed Maharishi Ayurveda, overlaps nicely with many Ayurvedic principles from other disciplines.

General Ayurveda is dedicated to an individual's health, but Maharishi Ayurveda considers societal health, the development of consciousness through Transcendental Meditation, Vedic astrology and Vedic architecture. These factors influence health and quality of life. Maharishi Ayurveda also adheres strictly to the Vedic texts. Slight changes have crept into Western Ayurveda, as it has been co-opted and diluted through the years.

 

There are three operating principals, or doshas, that govern our mind, body and universe. The doshas become disturbed and imbalanced when we expose ourselves to unnatural activities and substances, such as stress, fatigue, overexertion, improper diet and the toxins found in our air, food and water. Imbalances in the doshas can produce unhappiness, fatigue, sickness, disease and premature aging.

On the other hand, balanced doshas can create happiness, health and higher consciousness. When the doshas become imbalanced they can often be adjusted, through daily and seasonal routines, diet, herbal supplements and meditation.

The main doshas (there are also sub-doshas) are vata, pitta and kapha. These three are present in every individual and in every part of the universe. They can be understood in terms of their general qualities and the way they manifest into various styles of mind, body, personality and health.

The vata dosha’s qualities include quick, light, dry, rough and variable. This dosha controls all movement systems in the body, including breathing, circulation and the transmission of nerve impulses and thoughts. When vata dominates in the physiology, it can manifest as quick thinking, light hair, light skin and a friendly, enthusiastic personality. It is the leader of the other two doshas and of the three, it is the one most easily imbalanced.

Some of the qualities of pitta dosha are hot, sharp, sour and wet. This dosha controls all forms of metabolism including the processing of food and sensory experience. Its presence can create a sharp intellect, articulate speech, a muscular body, powerful digestion and an ambitious personality.

The qualities of kapha dosha are heavy, oily, slow and cold. It governs the structure of the body, and its presence creates a strong, solid physiology, thoughtful speech and an easygoing, compassionate personality.

All three doshas function within us, and although there are methods to identify and balance individual doshas, I’ll first focus on practices we can start right away. They will soothe and balance all of our doshas.

Sleep: It’s the foundation of our day. A full, deep night of sleep is fundamental for good health. Avoid the stimulation of TV, computer and strenuous exercise in the evening to create faster, deeper sleep. Be in bed before 10 p.m. and awaken naturally without an alarm clock. If you need an alarm clock to wake up after eight hours of sleep, you may be either sleep deprived, have a sleep disorder or both. Years of improper or insufficient sleep can result in under performance, sickness, disease and premature aging. Many people find the earlier they go to bed, the less sleep they need.

Diet and digestion: Even when we eat proper food, many of its benefits are lost due to weak or incomplete digestion. To maximize digestion, eat meals sitting down in a settled environment. Don't eat in front of the computer or TV, and avoid snacks between meals. Avoid cold drinks such as ice water, cold milk and soda, especially around meal time. Digestion will also benefit if you avoid cold foods like ice cream and raw vegetables in the winter, and consume them in moderation during the summer months. Eat freshly cooked, organic foods and avoid leftovers, fast food restaurants and processed and packaged foods. Make fresh, raw fruit a significant part of breakfast and have lunch be the largest meal of the day. Eat a light supper toward the end of the day, and avoid eating after 7 p.m. At the end of a meal, sit at the table for five minutes to allow food to settle and begin the digestive process.

Follow these guidelines, and within a week you could notice positive changes in your happiness and energy levels, and other problems related to digestion, elimination and sleep.

More info: mapi.com.

What’s my dosha? Take the quiz here.

Disclaimer: The sole purpose of this article and all my writings is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively.

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Keith DeBoer is a freelance writer, lecturer and consultant who became a certified teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique in 1976. He has studied Maharishi Ayurveda in the United States, Europe and India, and is the former Director of Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Lancaster, MA.  He has a doctorate of World Peace Studies from MERU Holland.

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Keith DeBoer is a freelance writer, lecturer and consultant who became a certified teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique in 1976. He has studied Maharishi Ayurveda in the United States, Europe and India, and is the former Director of Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Lancaster, MA.  He has a doctorate of World Peace Studies from MERU Holland.

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