health

What is Ayurveda and the best lifestyle?

By Monica Bhatia, PhD
Students of San Diego College of Ayurveda

We asked our students to give their interpretation on the four types of lifestyles described in Ayurveda, as well as the three types of sufferings described in Vedas. These four 'lives' are:

Ayurveda is the knowledge of 'life'. There are four life paths that we may choose to live -- Hitayu, Sukha-ayu, dukhha-ayu, and, Ahita-ayu. I will mention them later in this article.

1) hit-ayu: A Life with righteous living, truthfulness, living in harmony with nature
a-hit-ayu: A Self absorbed life, conservative , not living in harmony with nature, other entities and environment
3) sukh-ayu: Good Health with sound body and mind, life with comforts. Partial consideration to the nature.
4) dukh-ayu: Disturbed mental and physical state. Negative Karma Accumulation. Harming the Balance of Nature, environment and other entities.

Vedas, as well as the Bhagavat Gita describe three sufferings -- for all living entities -- caused by environment, caused by other entities, caused by physical and mental suffering.

So, if we look at the above four kind of lives, we can actually say that Ayurveda is the systematic knowledge of life.

A student answered, "We have learned that Ayurveda literally translated means life knowledge. This is fascinating to me as the word Ayurveda brings together two words or concepts that independently each hold definitions that are both quantitative and absolute and qualitative and interpretive. In this way the term Ayurveda can represent both the finite and the infinite depending on the balance of the elements and knowledge being considered at any given moment. In this way Ayurveda encapsulates our level of being by interpreting our level of consciousness with what we understand to be our live environment and the knowledge we access to construct that understanding at any given time.

With this in mind, my understanding of Ayurveda is that it is a way of engaging life that embraces a constructivist approach to engaging our presence through a dynamic interplay with the universe - not through an adherence to structure laws of nature but rather through our adaptive capacity to our metaphysical environments. In this regard I was drawn to Ayurveda for it's dichotomous connections with both systems theory and chaos theory two elements that assist me in understanding disease through Ayurveda.

What is most compelling about an Ayurvedic approach to health is it's acknowledgement of the body beyond it's mechanics and form. Emotion, stress, over attachment, lack of attachment, resistance and even persistence all impact our health. Sun, rain, snow, wind all inform our cell structures. Most strikingly - balance in ourselves lies beyond ourselves in our appreciation of that part of ourselves that we see in others (positive or negative). This initiates the connection between the internal cosmos of humans and collectively amongst human beings and the universal cosmos. More concretely - in order to heal ourselves we can support that in those around us that we have nurtured within ourselves.

Response # 2. Ayurveda, defined as the science or the study of life carries with it a description of 4 different types of Life. These types of life are based on the lifestyle of the individual, and takes into account our existence as mulit-dimentional beings.
I have interpreted the text in the passage as a way of describing causes of illness and disease based on these four types of Life's or "Ayu".

According to Ayurvedic Science, our karmic balance of our exsistance (on all levels), determines our likelyhood to develop disease, as well as the type of disease we will likley develop.

For example, if an individual has a life of Hit-Ayu they are less likely to develop disease of any kind. While a person who has a life of A-Hit-Ayu may be more likley than most to develop mind and body illnesses (Adhyatamika). A person who is more Sikh-Ayu may be at risk to develop diesases caused by other living things (Adibhautika). While a person more on the Dukh-Ayu side may be more likely to experience seasonal or environmental diseases (Adhidaivaka).

This is my understanding of the quoted text. I Believe that it describes very well the connection of our exsistance (Physical, Soul, Energetic, Mind and Intellect) and how it comes into play with our lifestyle and finally the diseases we are likley to encounter throughout that exsistance.

Based on the above statements, Ayurveda, as a holistic philosophy, teaches us quite simply that every thing that we do affects our health. From our life styles to the food we ingest, to the good or ill works we do towards others and the planet.

Response #3. These separate parts of our being; physical, spiritual, intellectual, as well as our behaviors, are often seen by western society as statically separate from one another. Ayurveda, like TCM and other Asian philosophies teaches us that these components of self are deeply interconnected and interdependent on one another.

You cannot possibly be physically well if the mind is out of balance. You cannot be emotionally well if the body is unbalanced and so on.

There is much to be said in this earthly life for the laws of attraction. It can be associated with the Vedic viewpoint on karmic balance. If one is consistently thinking negative thoughts and doing negative deeds, they will in fact create and be more susceptible to disease and negative consequences, whether immediate or in the distant future.

Conversely, if one focuses on balance of body, mind, and spirit, strives to do good works and stay positive, the majority of the time good health and wealth is bestowed upon this person. This is not necessarily because we are being rewarded by some cosmic power but rather because our entire universe responds to this energetic law.

That being said, we still suffer, obviously from things that are outside of our control. No one chooses to be affected by earthquakes or to be accidentally hit by a car. No one wants to be infested by a parasite or even to have allergic reactions to their household pet. Most of these things are outside of our power and have little to do with karmic balance. We can, however, influence the healing process with Ayurveda and return once more to homeostasis to the best of our abilities.

All of our being, physical, mental, emotional wants to work toward homeostasis. When we eat foods that are “anti-doshic”(yes I just made up that term), when we are too sedentary or too stressed, when we think ill thoughts of ourselves and harbor hate, grief, and pain, when we do not forgive, when we are unkind to others, when we do not breath and allow in new experiences and love, when we use drugs or become dependant on mood altering substances, when we ignore divinity; these are all contributors to disease.

Meditation Techniques

Meditation is an essential tool for bringing a person’s mind back into balance and should be incorporated into everyone’s health regimen. There are varying types of meditation available depending on a person’s prakruti and depending on if a person’s mind is in a state of rajas, tamas, or sattva. For example, a kapha mind should be kept busy. Conversely, a vata mind should be quieted and kept still. A pitta mind should be calmed. So an appropriate meditation technique should be chosen based on a person’s manasa prakruti and what state it is in.

Vata energy and rajas are similar because both have the qualities of irregularity and movement. Any mediation that aids in stillness will benefit vata minds and minds in the rajas state. Pranayama is an excellent exercise to balance vatas minds and rajasika states. A pranayama practice should be built up gradually, adding a round of breathing each day for about one month. Like any meditation practice, it is ideal to practice daily. Astanga yoga helps to focus the mind and is also beneficial for a vata mind or a mind in rajas. Any mediation practice that helps to ground the airy vata mind will be beneficial, sitting meditations are encouraged.

Kapha minds tend to have the opposite problem from vata minds. Kapha minds are slow and need a kick start. Meditation practices for kapha minds should keep the mind engaged. Guided visualization, contemplative questions, tai chi, or walking meditation would be a great meditative tool for kaphas, or minds that are in a tamasika state. All four methods focus the mind while tai chi, chi kung and walking meditation engage the body while keeping the mind focused.

Pitta minds often need to be calmed. Pranayama is excellent for calming a mind. Alternate nostril breathing and shitali pranayama (breathing through a curled tongue) are cooling and can calm a heated or agitated pitta mind.

A mind that is in the sattva state is a balanced mind. A daily meditation, a diet suited to your prakruti, a healthy lifestyle, balanced elimination and senses will keep a mind in balance.

Many meditations are good for balancing all states of mind and can be adapted to suit the manasa prakruti of a specific individual (for example, walking vs. sitting meditations). Mantra meditation is also an excellent example on how different mantras can bring different doshas back into balance. There are mantras that are good for pacifying pitta, and mantras that increase a person’s purity and goodness (sattva). In summary, there are various meditation techniques and adaptations to suit each individual person and their current state of mind. The best way to keep a mind in balance is to practice meditation daily and have a healthy lifestyle.

by Laurel Hricik,
Student: San Diego College of Ayurveda

Meditation Suggestions from an Ayurvedic Perspective

Meditation for your Mind
Dr. Nandini Daljit

Vata Meditation Recommendations:

The Vata mind would benefit from Transcendental meditation with 20 minute sessions that concentrate on the mindful/silent repetition of a mantra - allowing thoughts to be acknowledged and the mind to release thoughts freeing up space by focusing on the mantra thus enhancing relaxation and increased silencing. TM would be particularly beneficial for a vata mind in Sattva and Rajas.

A spiritual meditation would also be beneficial for the vata mind as it is a quiet and communicative type of meditation with God or the universe (or the higher being of choice) which is aligned with the vata strengths of reflection and communication.

As well, this time of meditation also allows the vata mind to dialogue about a personal issues or concern as a silent witness. A spiritual meditation would offer much peace and enlightenment to a vata mind in Sattva

Yoga as meditation is also a very positivie for the vata mind as it combines physical movement with mental focus allowing prana to move to flow and move througout the body and nourish the mind. In this regard, tai chi and dance could also serve as a meditative vata practice as well as the playing of music.

For visualization, Vata people would benefit from warm images and colors. Mantras such as RAM and HRIM AND SHRIM are warm and calming for vata. Yoga would benefit a vata mind in Tamas by increasing prana to combat dullness.

Pitta Meditation Recommendations:

For visualization, the pitta mind would benefit from cool images and colors. Transcendental meditation would be very beneficial for a pitta mind in order to keep the fire in pitta in check. TM would be very beneficial for a pitta mind that is Sattvic.

Movement meditation would be very appropriate for the pitta dosha type who may find sitting still more agitating than relaxing. In movement meditation the individual can focus on the movement of their breath or engage in a gentle swaying or circular movement.

This gentle movement would be very beneficial for a pitta mind in Tamas by disrupting inertia.

Pitta pacifying mantras are SHAM, SHRIM and OM. These mantras should be repeated silently. If highly agitated - pittas may even find the repetition of their mantra relaxing when they are engaged in more active physical activity. Ensuring their safety, a mindful repetition of the mantra during stationary cycling, rowing, and stairclimbing. This may be very helpful if a pitta mind is highly Rajasic.

Kapha Meditation Recommendations:

The kapha mind would benefit from meditation that includes loud chanting where the vibration of the mantra can flow through the body and mind. Beyond vocal mantra repitition Kaphas would also benefit from Kirtan meditation.

Kirtan is the chanting of mantras and hymns and in that way not only has a vocal connection to the meditation
but a spiritual connection when hymns are chosen. This vocalization is highly recommended for a kapha mind in Tamas.

Transcendental meditation, with its mantra focused meditation would serve the kapha mind in sattva very well by providing kapha with a focused time for re-energizing of the mind which would also be appropriate for a kapha mind in Rajas or Sattva.

Kapha pacifying mantras are OM, HUM and AIM. Visualization of nature based colors and images of earth, sky and sun would benefit the Kapha mind that flourishes in warmth.

What does Ayurveda teach us?

By Shyam Madas

Ayurveda teaches us that there are five dimensions of our being. These five dimensions are physical, spiritual, energetic, mental and intellectual . Just as a river flows into a sea, and clouds from the sea feed the river, each dimension of self effects the other. In this context all disease can be defined as systemic imbalance.

Ayurveda recognizes that health and self do not begin and end within the confines of what we would consider “an individual”. Our relationship with nature and the world around us is a constant exchange. Just as the five levels of humans are interwoven, so are we interwoven into the community of life. It is because of this understanding Ayurveda will take into consideration the quality of a persons relationship with nature as a part of the qualitative assessment of a persons health.

Ayurveda recognizes that our health is connected to the health of everyone and everything around us. It teaches us of three types of disease and suffering. Those which are directly related to the body and mind of self, those which are caused by other living beings and those which are outside of the first two, such as a rock falling on your head. All three of these are thought by most Ayurveda practitioners to be driven by personal karma.

Putting aside the more esoteric ideas of the deeds of past lives, we can easily see karma at work in our lives every day. Karma is action. Every action has a reaction. If we do not follow healthy lifestyles , we are likely to get get sick. Simple action and reaction. This same understanding of action and reaction can also be applied to actions related to other beings, not just actions performed upon yourself by yourself.

The Buddha said “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” When anger arises , and we then cling to it, or act upon it, one could say that this is a negative karma. If we are the type of person to cling to anger, we will always be burning with this rage and will soon develop any number of pita related diseases. If we tend to act upon our anger the action will create a pattern in our psyche , resulting in our becoming angry more and more often. This too would create imbalance , ultimately manifesting itself as disease.

When we look at the karma of anger through Ayurveda's holistic perspective, we can see other ways our health can be effected by our anger other than just it's immediate effect on our body. An example could be a employer yelling at an employee. Any number of external negative consequences could arise for the employer, but let us just assume that the employee's reaction was to be saddened by this experience and no longer as happy when he/she is at work. Modern studies have proven that through olfactory influences, and visual empathy one human can effect the autonomic, endocrine and immune function of another simply by sharing the same room. This imbalance would then become a systemic element within the office which would ultimately effect the employers health along with everyone else in the office.

This Ayurvedic perspective of karma shows us that every thought , word and deed has a reaction that will impact on our own health, and ultimately the health of the biological community as a whole.

Samkhya Philosophy and Ayurveda

Authors: Students of San Diego College of Ayurveda

Samkhya to me is the most realistic, understandable and exquisite philosophy of creation and the components of our being. From physical/material existence to the highest level of consciousness Samkyha explains it all.

Our origins and how we came into existence was always a mystery to me. From a young age I was taught that God miraculously created us. Later on I went to find out that we evolved from microscopic organisms. I, like many people out there in the world, still had many questions that couldn’t get answered. After doing a lot of soul searching and reading about metaphysics, quantum physics, yoga, and eventually Vedanta through my yoga studies I discovered Ayurveda and Samkhya. It all clicked instantaneously.

On a different note, learning about the elements of Samkhya to me is equivalent to my learning, as an artist and designer, the principles of creating art. When I was attending private art college years ago I had so much intensive training in the foundations and principles of art. No matter what form of art is created, industrial design, animation, glass blowing, painting it was required to learn these principles.

These elements of art are: movement, pattern, unity, harmony, variety, balance, emphasis, contrast, and proportion. These are the building blocks used to compose any work of art just as the elements of Samkhya are the building blocks that compose the masterpiece of the universe and our body.

Sankhya philosophy is one of the oldest and most influential of the six systems (shad darsanas) of Indian perspectives of knowledge. Sage Kapila was the founder of Sankhya philosophy. The term Sankhya literally means “enumeration”
Sankhya great achievement lay in enumerating the 25 tattvas, or cosmic categories which reflect the different states of consciousness described in Indian mystical literature.

Sankhya teaches us the discrimination knowledge between purusha and prakriti. The real self is purusha the inner witness, the unchangeable , absolute consciousness. The self is not one’s thoughts or feeling or experiences. your thought comes and go,but the inner self remains the same. Purusha is completely distinct from the matter and never interacts with it. Prakriti is a fully real material substance, and not the creation of Brahman's.

Sankhya philosophy divides the universe into 25 distinct yet related principles called tattvas. The purpose of sankhya is also that its followers attain liberation of jiva atma. In my understanding the jiva is not mentioned separately from individual soul.

The 25th element is Brahman. It is the goal of jiva to free itself of these 24 element that they are all maya in this world and recognize the brahman the 25th element as a truth liberation Moksha.

24 elements:

5 Karmendriya, 5gnanedriya, 4 Anthakaran, 5Bhuta, 5tanmantras.

The three gunas are the rope that binds both purusha and prakriti. One can cut this rope with the sword of self-knowledge and devotion.

Samkhya theory founded by Sage Kapila gives an explanation on the origin of universe and life. It offers a model of evolving consciousness from non-material to material. It regards the universe to be consisting of two realities: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (un-manifested/matter). Both the “Purusha” and “Prakriti” are completely distinct. They alone cannot create anything.

Purusha is uncreated, absolute, pure and passive witness to creation whereas Prakriti is dynamic, creates, impure and which is the first principle of manifestation. It contains 3 gunas-Raja, Tama, Satva. Prakriti is the force that works like automation. All the cause and effect are already latent in it.

When the Purusha and Prakriti comes in contact with each other, the equilibrium of the 3 gunas break which results in manifestation of Mahad (Buddhi) which further manifests into Ahamkara(Ego) which activates the 3 gunas.The action of Rajas on Tamas results in, 5 tanmantras and pancha mahabhutas. These mahabhutas result in the 3 doshas of Vata,Pitta and Kapha.The action of Raja on Satva gives rise to 5 Jnyanindriyas and 5 Karmindriyas.

Student Input:

Juliana Adhikari
Paola Beth
Deepti Vats
Palak Timbatiya

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