What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is the most ancient comprehensive system of medicine – it is believed to date from around 3000 BCE. While its principles can appear simplistic, once you start to practise them it’s impossible to doubt their relevance. Today we might go and see a doctor, who prescribes drugs, then a homeopath who gives us alternative medicine, an acupuncturist who works on pressure points and meridians, a personal trainer to lose weight or get fit, or a masseur who helps us relax . . . the ways in which we seek help for our health issues are diverse and disparate – no one practitioner is able to offer us a 360-degree health solution. Every expert is an expert in something specific, be it general medicine, homeopathy, aromatherapy or dermatology, but when we have a rash, a bad stomach, can’t sleep, get back-ache and are overweight – where do we go first? The GP? And then when the pills or creams don’t work – where from there?

Ayurveda counts health not just as physical wellbeing, but also as a state of uninterrupted physical, mental and spiritual happiness and fulfilment. Now, isn’t that a much nicer way to think of ‘good health’?

The beauty of Ayurveda is that it applies a scientific approach to living. In Sanskrit ayu means ‘life’ and veda means ‘science’, so, how to live sensibly, healthily and be in possession of the knowledge of life are all meanings that we can take from the word Ayurveda itself. Ayurveda embraces all aspects of wellbeing, including our spiritual health – something, sadly, that is so often overlooked by Western medical practitioners. Ayurveda counts health not just as physical wellbeing, but also as a state of uninterrupted physical, mental and spiritual happiness and fulfilment. Now, isn’t that a much nicer way to think of ‘good health’?

When our minds and bodies are imbalanced we see the inevitable consequences. With the incidence of stress-related ailments continually on the rise (Bupa estimates an average of 10.5 million working days are lost in the UK, every year, to stress-related illness), it makes sense to try to solve the underlying problem. When your gut isn’t working optimally, a lot can go wrong. Immunity is compromised, sleep is affected, we are not vital, we do not feel strong, we are not firing on all cylinders. It’s common-sense stuff.

Ayurveda stems from ancient Vedic science – it is the medical arm of the Vedic system, which also incorporates yoga, meditation and even astrology (read The Cosmic column, for an insight into the month’s planetary activity, and how it will affect you).

Ayurveda is, and always has been, about the treatment of the individual as a ‘whole’. And if you want to feel that wholeness, that sense of centre, that feeling of balance, your approach to health must, in turn, be holistic. Body, mind and spirit need all be taken into account if you’re seeking life-long wellbeing. The Balance Plan also seeks to update certain element of Ayurveda which can seem at odds, or just too impractical, for modern life. So, here, you’ll get the Ayurvedic tenets, underlined with a foundation of solid, modern, medical sense. We know a lot more today than we did 5,000 years ago, so I feel it’s remiss to ignore the enormous progress we’ve made in health and wellbeing, which is why I often cite modern studies on health and nutrition. Fascinatingly, Ayurveda almost always nails it and has a pertinent answer for every health concern I’ve ever encountered. Ayurveda deems that food is medicine – a belief that we’re only now embracing again, as we become privy to the effects that decades of fast, convenience and junk food have had on our bodies. People knew then that everything they put into their bodies had an effect, good or bad, and made a rich healing science from this knowledge.

I hope you enjoy the process: savour the food, enjoy the sense of renewed energy, delight in the newfound sense of peace that will come when your body is balanced . . . that’s the thing about Ayurveda – at some point or another the spiritual side of the science takes hold, and you begin to feel different, but also, your self, again. For a much more detailed look into Ayurveda, and which foods best suit your body type, please refer to The Body Balance Diet Plan