Why Ayurveda (for the brainiac)? 2019-08-01T15:33:47-07:00

Why would I go to an Ayurvedic practitioner instead of
a Western medical doctor, Naturopath, chiropractor, or acupuncturist?

All of these modalities (and many others that exist!) offer great options for healing and supporting us through times of stress and imbalance. The toolbox they each offer is different and unique, so in my life I choose a practitioner of the modality that will work well with what I have going on. Most of us do this already: we go to a dentist for dental issues; we go to a dermatologist for skin disorders. Thus, you would work with an Ayurvedic practitioner for what they offer that is unique and distinct. Most people don’t know what that is, so I’ll explain it.

the Body–Mind–Spirit Connection

Ayurveda is an ancient form of medicine that originated in what is today India. Conservative estimates state that it has been around for 5,000 years. Ayurveda is a holistic form of healthcare that is focused on body, mind, and spirit. Ayurveda, which literally means the science of life, views these three aspects as inseparable; to effect change in one aspect effects change in the other two.

the Importance of Self-Care Practices

Ayurveda really shines in its focus on doing daily and seasonal self-care practices that, done consistently over time, yield great cumulative benefit and deeply support us in optimal health. We already do this: we brush our teeth! The kinds of self-care practices that I typically recommend to my clients are at this level. They take up a smidge of time in your day, but they really make a difference.

Harnessing the Rhythms of Nature

Ayurveda has made a study of the natural world and knows that we do better when we work with those rhythms. Accordingly, a fair amount of the work that I do is in educating Western “civilized” people about nature’s biorhythms—and how we can hook into them for our benefit. These rhythms operate throughout each 24-hour day, a calendar year, and a human lifetime.

Working with your Constitution

Ayurveda works from an understanding that we are all unique and distinct beings. We know this through Western science; we talk about genetics and DNA. Ayurveda uses a different language but has the same understanding. There are three body–mind types called doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). We each have these three doshas within us; we have them in varying proportions, and they express uniquely through each of us.

One of Ayurveda’s strengths is in recognizing these doshic body–mind types—and in tailoring all recommendations and protocols to the client’s constitution. For instance, if a client has a fever or inflammation or otherwise runs hot, we would recommend only cooling therapies so as to avoid exacerbating the heat (ie: creating more heat). This consideration makes sense, but many non-Ayurvedic modalities leave it out of consideration.

the Root Cause of Disease

Ayurveda’s understanding of how imbalance—and disease—manifest in us is sophisticated and common-sense. And it all starts in the gut. If we eat foods that are appropriate to our constitution; if we have a “good” digestive fire; and if we eat in calm surroundings, chances are high that that food will be easily used to build and maintain bodily tissues. If any—or all three—of these components is compromised, imbalance is probable, and disease becomes likely in time.

We eat ~3 times every day. We have ~3 opportunities every day to choose foods that are beneficial to us. We know that when we make smart, considered choices 80+% of the time, we tend to fare well. When we make choices from other standpoints, we get into trouble. Returning to Ayurveda’s intelligent model of nutrition shines a light on how we can make better choices about what we feed ourselves.

the Tools that we Use

We are very lucky that Ayurvedic practitioners have a large number of tools available:

  • recommendations around foods and eating habits
  • herbal formulas used in therapeutic doses
  • specialized massage and bodywork
  • site-specific therapies for what ails ya
  • cleanse protocols

… and a host of allies including aromatherapy, color therapy, gem therapy, astrology, the ways our living and working spaces support us, breathing exercises, chanting, yoga and movement work, and practices aimed specifically at increasing our connection to Spirit.

a Basis in the 5-Elements

Ayurveda is based on a 5-element model that is surprisingly simple and effective. Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth all have qualities that we can easily understand.

  • Fire is the only element that confers heat; everything else is cold.
  • Water is the only element that has moisture; everything else is dry.
  • Air is the only element that generates movement; everything else is still.
  • And so on.

This accessible 5-element model can be effectively utilized by everyone. If you are cold (ie: if you have too little fire element present), find ways to warm up (increase your amount of fire). We already do this instinctively: we put on a sweater, or we turn up the thermostat, or we drink a hot beverage.

At its heart, Ayurveda, is no more complex than this. There is, of course, an art to knowing what remedy to implement, in what way, and with what timing. We practitioners keep in mind the entire picture of what is happening in a person’s life so that in restoring balance in one area we don’t inadvertently aggravate or create an imbalance in another area.

Ayurveda is based on a set of foundational principles that have stood the test of time; it is not a fad. Ayurveda will work for you if you are ready to take responsibility for your health—and when you are ready to invest time and effort in your health. One of my teachers has a quote:  “If it’s worthwhile, it should take a while.” This is true. You will notice some immediate improvement by following Ayurvedic recommendations, and the real, lasting benefits will come with time, patience, and consistency. After all, it took you a while to come to your present state of illness/imbalance; it will take time to slow down and stop the train that you are on and then to reverse course. There are no quick fixes, and ultimately no one can do this work for you. The benefit in this scenario is that you get the credit for making healthier choices; you earn the accomplishment of improving your health and wellness; and you will feel better.

There are some things that Ayurvedic practitioners can’t do. We can’t diagnose medical conditions. We can’t prescribe medications. We can’t order diagnostic or imaging tests. We are not appropriate for emergency or urgent care. And we are not surgeons. But, honestly, for everything else—simple or complex—Ayurveda is an appropriate modality and offers real solutions.

The “science of life” is aimed at you living both a long and a healthy life. Your journey along that path will be as unique as you are. An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you chart the proper course, guide you along your way, and champion you when you need to be brought back to the path.

Philosophy Ayurveda Western Medicine
Human Being Defined As

integrated mind, body, and spirit;
energetic understanding of all functions;

all individuals are unique;
treatments and doses are individualized

physical body only;
mechanistic understanding of bodily functions

all people are basically the same;
one size/dose fits all

Focus of Treatment

treating the imbalance; prevention is key

treating the disease; management of symptoms

Diagnostic Tools

subjective observation;
using the five senses & patient input

objective test results;
using machines

Treatment Considerations

correct the root cause;
takes longer but is more effective

the patient is the expert;
client participation is key

multiple approaches; ie: diet, lifestyle, herbal formulas, breathwork, bodywork, exercise, etc.

natural remedies; botanicals that our bodies are able to digest and have few, if any, negative effects

stop the symptoms;
speed is important

the physician is the expert;
patient participation is minimized

single approach;  ie: pharmaceuticals, surgery

synthetic drugs; have poor or negative interactions in our bodies; have unintended “side effects”

Relationship to Nature

we are a part of nature

we are separate from nature

Triage

good for proactive prevention and first aid

good for emergencies and surgeries

Approach

common-sense

intellectual