What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda: The Art of Balance and the Origin of Modern Medicine

In Japan Ayurveda is commonly mentioned as a part of yoga therapy, but do you know what it actually means?
Ayurveda combines two Sanskrit words: “ayur” (life) and “veda” (knowledge, science). From this, it’s easy to see that it means “the science of life”, and indeed this is how its practitioners practice it to this day: as a holistic field of study that deals with all aspects of our lives.

The World’s First Holistic Medical Practice

Ayurveda was born in India over 5000 years ago from the same philosophies that created Buddhism. In 5-6 BC it had already evolved to the form we know it as today. It not only influenced Chinese medicine, it went on to cross the Silk Road and the Suez Canal to serve as the basis for Greek medicine, and by extension modern western medicine.

Ayurveda believes that there are five elements that make up all people: space, air, fire, water, and earth. It believes that life is a micro-universe, born with body, emotions, mind, and organs all in balance. That physical phenomena (body) and emotional phenomena (emotions) are equal in both stature and presence. That all of the conditions surrounding these things have direct effects on our health. That stress, poor diet, our environment, and other external factors break down this balance and distance us from our natural, proper states, and that we feel the effects in declining health and illness. In other words, for our minds and bodies to be sound, we must maintain balance between our minds, our bodies, and our environment. These are the basic tenets of Ayurveda.

The reason why Ayurvedic treatments and western medical treatments differ so much for some patients is the practice of preventing disease instead of just treating its symptoms. In other words, Ayurveda cares for people who are already healthy as well as those who are sick. Questions like “What is a happy life? A sad one?” “What are good and bad conditions for life?” “What are the things that lengthen life? The ones that shorten it?” and so on. When we look at people’s entire lives rather than one limited aspect of their health, we see that the “secret” to living a long and health life lies in preventative medicine as well as treatment, and in incorporating healthy beliefs and practices into our everyday lives. In this way, Ayurveda is not only the world’s first and largest medicinal practice, it is also the very first holistic one as well.

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