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Learning the Science of Life: Ayurveda

Jan 04, 2014 01:37AM

Ayurveda, “the science of life”, derives from India, with roots going back 5,000 years to the Vedic period. Not surprisingly, it is called “the Mother of All Healing”. Ayurveda is a system of naturopathic medicine, covering all domains found in naturopathic schools, from herbs to surgery. It is perhaps the world’s oldest and most complete form of naturopathic medicine.

Our modern world is a great achievement of controlling nature, but we pay the price of being out of sync with the environment that supports us. With a little understanding, we can learn to re-establish health and harmony within ourselves and in our relationships.

The Ayurvedic view is that the entire manifested Universe, from the planets, stars and galaxies, to the simplest living creatures, is an expression of a cosmic dance of energy, spinning out in a display of creativity. It mirrors an inner guiding intelligence that is accessible to each individual for greater understanding of health and happiness. Simply put, it is the knowledge to live in harmony with the natural world and with our own true nature.

A way to view this cosmology is to contemplate energy as an un-manifest potential exploding from a point of deep conscious stillness, that “steps down” through a myriad of densities and expressions, culminating with the five great elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether (space). These are the building blocks of all animate and inanimate forms. It is understood that the energy that composes these elements contains “Supreme Consciousness”, the Source.

Ayurveda teaches us how to live in accordance with this consciousness in our outer lives, which includes the mind and its workings, while yoga, its sister science, gives practical tools for discovering and aligning with the Source inside. It is further understood, that the highest goal of a human being is to recognize and align with the Source within and that health manifests when we are in alignment with our soul.

The Ayurvedic approach to treating imbalances is the application of opposites. With an understanding of the nature of our own bodily constitutions (Doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha); foods, spices and herbs, from the six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent; and the 20 attributes, such as hot/cold, dry/wet, soft/hard, etc., we can learn to return balance to our body and minds.

Deeper patterns of imbalance stemming from the long term accumulation of undigested food (Ama) require therapies of cleansing, followed by re-building or “tonifying” with the correct nourishment for the individual. Ayurveda is a vast, deep and complex science in its entirety, yet holds a basic simplicity that we can all apply with great benefit. We are indeed what we eat, from food to thoughts, and we can learn to optimize for more harmonious lives. 

Neva Ingalls is director of the Inner Domain Teacher Training Programs and will be offering an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor certification course beginning January 25 at the Yoga Fusion Studio in Chevy Chase. 

For more information, visit or contact Ingalls at [email protected]


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