Ayurveda a is a healthcare system that originated in India over 3000 years ago, principally to support individuals on a spiritual path including Yoga and Meditation. Ayurvedic wisdom is still practised to this day and has long been considered the “sister science” of yoga. The name literally translates as “knowledge of long life” coming from the Sanskrit:
Ayur = length of life
Vedas = knowledge
Ayurveda believes that we each have a distinct combination of physical and mental characteristics and the Ayurvedic approach places emphasis on treating the individual based on their unique constitution. We are all made up of five physical elements: earth, wind, water, fire, and ether/space and these combine in pairs in three doshas:
These three doshas are within us all but their relative balance determines our individual mind-body type or Prakriti, Ayurveda identifies 3 combination patterns as follows:
One dosha predominates
Two doshas combine with equal strength
All three doshas are equally represented (rare)
When it comes to diet and lifestyle, Ayurveda offers specific guidelines, which are based on dosha; the advice is based on the physical elements that make up each dosha and also three energetic forces or Gunas, known as;
Sattva – purity, creativity, wisdom, courage & empathy
Rajas – action, drive & energy (excess provokes anger or loss of self-control)
Tamas – a heavy, grounding force responsible inertia and apathy as well as relaxation
Mind balance in Ayurveda means modifying Tamasic and Rajasic forces and moving towards a Sattvic dominant state. Choosing those foods and activities that are Sattvic in nature in preference to those that are Rajasic or Tamasic is one of the most powerful ways to alter the balance. With consistent attention to diet, environment and sensory experiences, we can improve our sense of physical balance and find greater mental harmony.
It takes discipline and effort to become more Sattvic, but the mental clarity, health, strength and immunity that is obtained from this state of mind prepares us for a more sincere yoga practice and helps us to deepen our process of self-enquiry. Sattvic foods are natural and unrefined as modern food processing destroys the vital nutrients in many foods, rendering them much less nutritious.