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Excerpt from "The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda"

What Is Ayurveda?

by Michelle S. Fondin

Ayurveda is mind-body medicine that originated in India at least five thousand years ago. The name Ayurveda comes from two Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) words: ayus, meaning “life,” and veda, which means “science” or “knowledge.” So the name literally means the “science of life.” Ayurveda is a complete medical system or science that includes observation; diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease; detoxification and rejuvenation of the body; surgery; and herbal medicine. Ayurveda is called a consciousness-based system of medicine because the practitioner seeks to understand the patient fully before recommending or administering treatment, and because the practitioner works not only on observation but also on intuition. The Ayurvedic practitioner knows that the patient is not simply flesh and bones but a dynamic being with a mind, a body, emotions, a soul, and a spirit. As the Charaka Samhita states, the physician needs to enter the heart of the patient “with the flame of love.” If she does not, she cannot help him. I believe this statement points to what has been lost in allopathic, or Western, medicine, and to what can be found in Ayurvedic medicine.

Why Ayurveda Rather Than Another Healing Modality?
Ayurveda is all-encompassing. The practice of Ayurveda addresses diet, lifestyle, seasonal and daily routines, herbal medicine, massage or touch therapy, detoxification of the body, energy work, spiritual practice through yoga and meditation, and surgery. The philosophy behind Ayurveda says that if it works, then you should try it. Even if you apply the principles in this guide, you can still continue to follow your physician’s protocol, take prescribed medications, and make use of other methods used in allopathic medicine.

Another reason to follow an Ayurvedic practice is that it’s the most complete medical system on the planet. Other disciplines of Ayurveda, which I don’t have space to examine here, include Ayurvedic astrology and the study of object placement and space.

Finally, Ayurveda focuses on the practice of preventive medicine first. Awareness of the body, mind, and intellect can lead you to recognize subtle changes that occur before full-blown illness erupts. Reversing subtle changes in the body is much easier than curing a disease. By learning little things and applying them, you can make a big difference in your health.

Balance versus Imbalance
One major difference between Western medicine and Ayurveda is that Ayurveda looks at health and illness as a matter of balance and imbalance. If a person is balanced, she is healthy, vibrant, energetic, alive, happy, and motivated, and her skin and eyes glow. When a person is out of balance, she is dull, achy, tired, lethargic, worried, nervous, or depressed. Whether or not physical symptoms are present, Ayurveda can detect that a person is out of balance, and this imbalance will ultimately lead to a manifestation of symptoms and disease if not corrected. Discovering this imbalance before the patient becomes ill gives the Ayurvedic practitioner a little more wiggle room to help the patient. Patients go to the doctor because they are uncomfortable. And if the doctor doesn’t detect any physical symptoms or abnormalities, then all too often he sends the patient home in exactly the condition he arrived in. But the Ayurvedic practitioner, through observation, palpation, and a series of questions, can easily detect the state of imbalance and help tweak the patient’s health back into balance by recommending alterations in diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, and lifestyle, along with emotional clearing or herbs.

The Ayurvedic Definition of Health
Often, clients come to me for Ayurvedic consultations who claim to be completely healthy. On the questionnaires I send them before the first visit, they write, under the inquiries about their physical health and emotional health, that they are in “excellent” or “very good” shape. These same clients may be notably overweight or addicted to alcohol, or they may struggle with insomnia or anxiety or some other complaint that prevents them from living their lives to the fullest. Upon further questioning, they admit, “Yes, I have a few pounds to lose.” Or: “I can’t end my day without a drink.” Or: “I haven’t slept more than five hours a night in ten years.”

The shift I will ask you to make in your definition of health is from one that is typical of a Western mind-set — “If I have no symptoms, I am healthy” — to an Ayurvedic definition: “Health is an integration of my mind, emotions, soul, spirit, physical body, and purpose in life.” If one of these is out of balance, they are all out of balance, rest assured. 

Michelle S. Fondin is the author of The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda. She holds a Vedic Master Certificate from the Chopra Center and is a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and Yoga Alliance. She treats clients at her Ayurvedic Path center, speaks and offers workshops, and lives in Herndon, Virginia. Visit her online at http://michellefondin.com

Excerpted from the book The Wheel of Healing with Ayruveda  ©2015 by Michelle S. Fondin. Printed with permission of New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com

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