What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a philosophy or way of life that has its roots in ancient India. The word Ayurveda comes from Sanskrit and can be translated in two parts – Ayu and Veda – meaning “The Science of Life”. It has been practiced for thousands of years as a way to maintain balance, and support the body’s natural healing process.
More than just a science of medicine, Ayurveda is a way of life. Its main aim is to lead the individual along a balanced path that maintains health, prevents the onset of disease and rejuvenates the spirit through reinforcing the interconnectedness of all Life.
The philosophy of Ayurveda teaches that each human being is a manifestation of the Divine. In order to live healthy, balanced lives, we need to live in harmony with nature and in oneness with the Universe. Accordingly, ayurvedic wisdom draws upon broad therapeutic influences including plants, foods and yoga, as well as the effects of minerals, gemstones, planets and the seasons. An Ayurvedic practitioner can work with a variety of tools, including astrology, to help an individual maintain health and wellbeing.
“The essence of Ayurveda is to enlighten mankind about man’s harmony with nature and the individual’s oneness with nature. Ayurveda has recognized that being healthy is not just a physical state but also includes a pure state of mind. The word “health” here does not mean only physical health but also spiritual and mental health. An individual is termed healthy only when there are no impurities in his body, mind and spirit or soul.” from AIHM, Perth W.A.
Originally, Ayurveda was considered the Medicine of the Gods. Tradition says that it was first practiced by the Ashwini Kumaras, heavenly Twins who acted as the Doctors of the Gods. Ayurveda has been mentioned in the great scriptures or Vedas of India, dating back over 5000 years ago. Many of its original concepts were revealed through intuitive insight to the Rishis – or ancient sages of India – much as a quantum leap in scientific discovery would happen today. These insights were then passed down and applied over thousands of generations to become the complex system of knowledge about the human body, mind and soul that we have available to us today.
Ayurveda is thought to be the oldest system of medicine in the world today. From its origins in the Vedic texts, the influence of Ayurveda spread throughout the ancient world. Scholars from as far afield as China, Egypt, Greece and Persia travelled to India to learn about these healing arts. Around 1500BC, the teachings of the Vedas were delineated into eight specific branches of medicine, dealing with every aspect of the human condition from gynaecology and paediatrics to psychology and mental health. Ayurvedic scholars were the first on the world to conduct detailed studies of anatomy, perform surgery and understand the mechanic of the human body. Ayurvedic texts were translated into Arabic to become the foundations of Islamic medicine, and studied by Paracelsus, who is known to be the father of modern Western medicine.
Today, there are two main schools of Ayurvedic thought, the Charaka and Shushruta Schools. Each school takes a slightly different approach to Ayurvedic study and practice. A typical Ayurvedic treatment involves looking at the individual as a unique entity and exploring the lifestyle factors, food choices, exercise routines and daily practices that will help that individual achieve a state of health. Various forms of therapy are employed, including massage, gem therapy and yoga to help an individual maintain optimal health. An astrological consultation may also be included to understand how the body’s innate disposition is described by the position of the planets at birth.
As students of astrology we can learn from Ayurveda and how the planets connect with the body in subtle yet profound ways. As students of Life, we can employ Ayurvedic principles to live more happy, fulfilling and meaningful lives, deeply rooted in a sense of Universal connectedness. From connectedness comes understanding, so that the ultimate goal of Ayurveda is to help us understand the essence of who we are. At the end of the day, this truly is a total ‘Science of Life’.