Expand Your Practice: Ayurveda

5 min Article Meditation & Mindfulness, Healthy Eating
Ayurveda aims to find a state of equilibrium in the body, and meditation is one of the modalities used for this harmony.
Expand Your Practice: Ayurveda

When it comes to wholistic wellbeing, Ayurveda plays an important role. The ancient Indian system of healing is all about finding the right alignment and balance between mind and body.

The History of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the oldest known medical system, dating back 5,000 years. It aims to treat the root cause of illness, rather than simply treating symptoms, says author and Ayurveda practitioner Geeta Vara in her book “Ayurveda: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellbeing.” 

“Known as the understanding (veda) of life (ayus), Ayurveda is a traditional philosophy," she writes. "Sages and rishis, or the ‘seers of truth’ got this wisdom ... through deep meditation. In Vedic mythology, Lord Dhanvantari was the first incarnation to impart the wisdom to mankind ... The rishis passed the teachings on to their students by the oral tradition until sages, such as Sushruta and Charaka, transcribed this knowledge into the earliest authoritative written texts, around 1,000 B.C.E. These texts were called "Sushruta Samhita" and "Charaka Samhita.”

The Ayurvedic lifestyle is called the science of living, says Nikhila B. Hiremath, professor at the department of Swasthavritta and Yoga at Sri Sri College of Ayurvedic Science and Research, Bengaluru, India. She explains that Ayurveda is seen as an outline for a healthy lifestyle, along with meditation and yogic practices. According to her, “The origin of Ayurveda is from the vedas around the same time that yoga originated. Yogis underwent sadhana to reach the samadhi state, an entry point to a higher spiritual level. For this practice, they wished for sound, body, and mind, therefore Ayurveda shastra (scripture) was said to be requested from the gods to be taught to humankind to let yogis continue their sadhana. Ayurveda is not primarily meant for a person who is sick, it is for a healthy person who wants to maintain their health.”

Ayurveda and Its Role in Meditation

Ayurveda aims to find a state of equilibrium in the body, and meditation is one of the modalities used for finding this harmony. “Ayurveda and meditation have always been connected," says Roundglass meditation teacher and certified Ayurvedic wellness coach Greta Hill. "Ayurveda deals with the whole person, not just the physical body. The sages knew this, and today, modern science supports the idea that what we eat affects the state of our mind.” 

Ayurveda works on the principles of awareness and intuition. According to Hiremath, it's essential to engage in practices and rituals to help calm the mind. “Meditation is the next step of concentration; we begin at one point and slowly enter a meditative state. This requires a mind that is light and free, to get to that mental state you need to be disciplined. The mind is like a child, through Ayurvedic rituals and lifestyle guidelines — dinacharya (daily rituals), ahara (meal plans), ratricharya (night rituals), ritucharya (seasonal rituals) etc., we initiate this discipline,” says Hiremath.

Ayurveda also emphasizes the link between food and mental state. To enhance your meditation practice and experience the benefits of Ayurveda, it is important for the body and the digestive system to be balanced. “What we eat has a big impact on the mind and gut," says Hill. "If we eat heavy, fatty foods, they make us lethargic, or sleepy. If we eat spicy or sugary foods, our minds may seem agitated. The gut is connected to our happiness levels, and essential to the feeling of calm and peace that we are searching in meditation. Ayurveda focuses on the best nutritional requirements for your unique body constitution. This is important for the mind-body connection.” 

Ayurveda recognizes that everyone is made up of energy/life force that corresponds to natural elements like air, water, fire, and earth. These biological humors/energies are called doshas, and these are listed as vata, pitta, and kapha (corresponding to the elements — air, fire, earth, and water) Each one of us is a mix of these energies or doshas that guide our body’s constitution.

In Ayurveda, matching a person’s dosha to the right food is said to help the body find mental and emotional balance. “Each of us are made of all the elements, but each of us has a unique mixture or recipe, so depending on which one is dominant we can eat foods that create balance for that,” says Hill. In Ayurveda, it's understood that a yogic meal will enhance a meditation practice. Yogic food (a sattvic meal) includes foods that are easily digested and free of additives or stimulants like caffeine, and depressants like alcohol. “Think whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and fresh fruit," says Hill. "Certain kinds of greasy food, or too much animal protein, takes the body time to digest, can pull the mind down."

Ayurveda and Body Rhythms  

Ayurveda doesn’t have a “one medicine for all” approach—it is specific to each body. Hill explains, “In Ayurveda, when and how we eat affects our body, way more than what we eat. The biorhythm of the body mirrors its surroundings (day-night cycle). It is best from the Ayurvedic perspective to have a very light breakfast and light dinner, and to make your biggest meal lunch, because that is when our digestive power is at its peak. And if we can’t digest our food properly, it can leave a lot of toxic, undigested residue, called ama, and this can impact our ability to have clear focused minds and presence in meditation.”

Try this mini meditation by meditation teacher Lisa Kring to help you find your inner voice.

About the Teacher

Sharon Fernandes

Sharon Fernandes

Sharon Fernandes is an editor at Roundglass. A journalist with bylines in leading publications like The Times of India and The New York Times . Sharon is a published children’s book author and food writer.
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