I am a Board-Certified Ayurvedic Health Counselor with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA). I am also a Certified Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (graduate of New World Ayurveda School), after training with Dr. Paul Dugliss, M.D. This document is a free educational resource for those who are interested in preventive healthcare and restoring balance in their physiology through natural, holistic, non-invasive methods.
Ayurveda is the 5,000-year-old Indian holistic system of medicine that is widely practiced in India and South Asia, and like Yoga (which comes from the same source as Ayurveda), gaining popularity in the West. Both Yoga and Ayurveda address the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of the individual and place a strong emphasis on meditation and self-awareness to help guide a person to do what is right and best for his or her own unique circumstances. Some of the fundamental tenets of Ayurveda are:
1) The human being is a microcosm of the universe – all the elements and energies that exist in the cosmos also exist within.
2) The body/mind has the ability to heal itself.
3) Everything in Nature can be used to bring the internal environment of body, mind and spirit back into balance by countering any unbalancing effects of the external environment.
4) Each individual is different, with his/her own unique mind-body constitution. “One man’s meat can be another man’s poison” and there is no single perfect diet or practice that applies to everyone. Developing one’s awareness of one’s own constitution and how it is affected by external factors (food, emotion, experience, environment) is therefore important for understanding, restoring and maintaining health and well-being.
5) Imbalances are created when the physiology gets out of tune with one’s innate nature and as well as with Nature as a whole, and prolonged imbalances that are left unaddressed eventually lead to the manifestation of disease. By detecting minor imbalances in advance, the body can be rebalanced long before the onset of disease.
6) There is a strong belief in the mind-body connection in Ayurveda, and therefore that the external manifestation of symptoms in the physical body is a reflection of the internal (mental/emotional/spiritual) state of the individual. The body is often a metaphorical expression of the mind. For example, stiff joints can coincide with a rigid mental attitude. Heart disease can correlate with a sad or broken heart. It is not uncommon for a person suffering from asthma to have an extremely strong-willed person in his or her energy field whose strong will he or she finds suffocating. Recurrent infections can be a reflection of recurrent internal emotional intensity, such as the repression of anger or frustration. Altering one’s mental, emotional or spiritual state and letting go of unproductive patterns of behaviour in favour of those that serve us well can often bring about profound healing in the physical body. Most people who have experienced spontaneous remission of cancer, for example, have done so after making dramatic, life transforming changes in their beliefs, attitudes, and circumstances (e.g. career, relationships). (The book “Dying To Be Me – My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing” by Anita Moorjani is a profound, fascinating account of the author’s near-death experience after she went into a coma while ailing from cancer, her expanded consciousness and enlightenment while in the coma, and her miraculous, spontaneous recovery. “Proof of Heaven” by Dr. Eben Alexander is another captivating first-hand account by a neurologist who experienced spontaneous healing following a coma caused by meningitis.)
7) Diet is anything that we take in at all levels of life (or in Ayurvedic terms, koshas, or the spheres of existence – physical, energetic, mental/emotional, intuitive and spiritual – that every individual is made up of), be it food, emotion or experience. An experience in one kosha can cause an affect in another kosha (e.g. the mind-body connection where vividly imagining biting into a slice of sour lemon will make your mouth water, or how listening to soothing music will make your heart rate slower and more even). When we are unable to digest or process our diet properly, it can lead to imbalances within our system.
8) Hindu spiritual philosophy, which is the source of Ayurveda, maintains a strong belief in karma and reincarnation. The word “karma” means “action”. The law of karma can be defined as the universal law of cause and effect, or of action/intention and the consequences of that action/intention. Theosophy (a relatively modern spiritual philosophy) defines karma this way: “it is an unerring and undeviating tendency in the universe to restore equilibrium, and it operates incessantly.” One of the Ayurvedic views is that many of one’s common or chronic ailments (be they physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual) are often a result of one’s karma from past lives as well as past actions in this life. Reincarnation is a process of human development for the evolution of the individual soul, manifested as a progressive (but not endless) cycle of birth, death and rebirth, where the circumstances of rebirth into a new body or life are a karmic result of one’s choices and actions in the previous life (or lives). It should be noted that in the Eastern religions such as Hinduism (theist), Buddhism (agnostic), Jainism (atheist) and Sikhism (synthesis of Hinduism and Islam) which believe in reincarnation, reincarnation is considered to be neither desirable nor something willed by God – rather, reincarnation, if and when it occurs, is the result of one’s own making due to the consequences of one’s actions and one’s unfulfilled earthbound desires, and the goal of an individual is, through the use of his or her free will, to overcome and transcend mortal weaknesses and imperfections such that reincarnation on the earthly plane no longer occurs, and the soul ascends to higher and higher realms closer to (and ultimately one with) God. In the Hindu sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita, which comprises a discourse between God (Lord Krishna) and man (Prince Arjuna) on the various paths that lead to union with God (the ultimate aim of Yoga), Lord Krishna declares: “The way of light leads to liberation, and the way of darkness leads to rebirth.” Meditation (the final component of the practice of Yoga) is strongly encouraged for attaining wisdom, self-awareness, self-correction and consequent liberation from detrimental behaviour and its karmic consequences. Buddha taught liberation from the karmic wheel of reincarnation through living a moral life unfettered by destructive, materialistic or sensual enslavements. Paramahansa Yogananda, a renowned Hindu yogi who is credited with introducing Yoga to the West (and who also wrote the spiritual masterpiece “Autobiography of a Yogi”), describes the concepts of karma, reincarnation, and being liberated from their bondage in his book “The Second Coming of Christ – the Resurrection of the Christ Within You”. The concept of karma is also expressed in Western scriptures and attitudes (“you reap what you sow”, “what goes around, comes around”, etc). Problems often disappear or are greatly alleviated once karmic patterns are noticed, understood, and transcended. Vedic astrology (or Jyotish) charts, which take into account the individual’s date of birth, time of birth, place of birth, and the alignment of planets and constellations at the instance of birth, can shed light on the patterns of energies (i.e. karmic tendencies) that we bring into this lifetime, and we can use the information as a guide, and choose to go along with those energies, go against them, or transcend them. Though I was initially skeptical about such seeming “mumbo jumbo”, I was stunned to see a classic textbook example of the biggest unresolved issue in my life reflected in my Vedic astrology chart which my professor interpreted for me, and which he had no prior knowledge about.
9) Medical ethics in Ayurveda concerning issues such as abortion, assisted suicide, contraception, etc are similar to those in Catholicism i.e. life is considered sacred from the moment of conception until natural death and therefore abortion and euthanasia are prohibited; the form of birth control advocated is abstinence from sexual intercourse versus artificial methods of contraception; it is believed that at the moment of conception, a psychic bond is created between the biological mother and biological father, therefore artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization using sperm and/or eggs not belonging to the married couple themselves (marriage being considered a sacrament) are not recommended because from a karmic perspective, such artificial measures would be spiritually akin to adultery or having a child out of wedlock – adoption is recommended instead if a couple really desires but is unable to conceive a child. For a detailed description of Ayurvedic medical ethics for a range of modern day issues, read the article on Medical Ethics in Hinduism Today.
Being Indian, many Ayurvedic practices were passed down to me by my parents and grandparents, and have been a natural part of my life since birth. Below are some examples of practices and remedies that have helped me and my relatives over the generations, as well as other recommendations that I learnt about during my formal study of Ayurveda with Dr. Paul Dugliss, M.D., but have not personally tried. The best education is experience, so you can try the following recommendations (**but please read the Disclaimer first and consult with your licensed healthcare provider if necessary**) and see first-hand how the experience affects you, and let the awareness of your experience help you to understand your own unique nature and guide you to attaining and maintaining balance in your physiology. For example, after trying any of the methods below, ask yourself: Do you sleep better? Do you experience less pain or discomfort, physical or emotional? Do you feel more alert? Since herbs can interfere with medications, I have chosen to leave out recommendations based on herbal preparations on this web page, and I strongly recommend working closely with a physician who is very knowledgeable about drug-herb interactions and various herbs and herbal formulas if you are considering herbal remedies. There is also a saying: “Without proper diet, herbs are ineffective; with proper diet, herbs are unnecessary.” However, Ayurvedic methods for correcting imbalances are many and varied, ranging from diet, spices, herbs, meditation, massage, yoga, behavioural rasayanas (e.g. spending time in nature, walking in the moonlight), purification routines (e.g. Hot Water Routine, Panchakarma), visualization (e.g. Healing Breath), colour therapy, sound therapy (e.g. music, mantras), gemstones, Vedic counselling, all the way to astrology-based rituals, so there is plenty to pick and choose from based on one’s constitutional strength, preferences and nature of complaints.