Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine that originated in the ancient Indian Vedic civilization and has been practiced for over 2000 years. Today, Ayurveda is more successful than ever and people all over the world are choosing to live according to Ayurvedic principles. What this actually means, what characterizes Ayurvedic medicine and on which principles it is based, you will learn in this article. Have fun reading!

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What is Ayurveda?

The Sanskrit term Ayurveda translates as “knowledge of life” (from ayus ‘life’ and veda ‘knowledge’). Ayurveda found its origin in India over 2000 years ago. The golden age of Ayurveda lasted from about 600 BC – 1000 AD and was primarily characterized by the creation of the classical Ayurveda texts Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, which are still considered standard works of Ayurveda today and contain knowledge about medical practices, medicinal plants, a healthy lifestyle and diet. However, Ayurveda does not only teach theoretical or therapeutic knowledge, but shows us in a very practical way how each of us can lead a healthy and happy life with the help of Ayurvedic principles.

Is Ayurveda effective?

Ayurveda is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a traditional medicine and in 17 countries as a complementary medicine health system. Ayurvedic medicine has a long history as a science of life and its basic principles are still effective today. However, the climate, plants, genetics, environment and human lifestyle have changed. Thus, for Ayurveda to be practiced effectively today, modern adaptations and continuous research on the safety, quality and efficacy of Ayurvedic therapies and products are needed.

For whom is Ayurveda suitable?

Ayurveda works always, everywhere and for everyone. Even though Ayurveda originated in India, it is a universal model of health care based on the laws of nature. And the laws of nature know neither state boundaries nor temporal epochs. So you can live Ayurvedic everywhere. Ayurveda is for everyone. Children can find help in their healthy development, adolescents can learn to balance the pubescent effects of their lifestyle and even the elderly can stay physically and mentally healthy in the long term with the help of Ayurvedic knowledge.

Origin of diseases and diagnosis

Ayurveda is a holistic healing science – this means that not only the respective symptom is treated, but the person as a whole. Physical, psychological and spiritual aspects are taken into account, as well as external factors that shape the patient’s life. The therapy is also holistic and multimodal and can include manual therapy, order therapy, phytotherapy, yoga and more.

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We are considered healthy when the following conditions are met:

  • The doshas are in balance
  • Normal condition of the tissues (dhatus)
  • Excretions (malas) and metabolism are functioning well (agni)
  • normal sensory functions
  • clarity and balance of the mind
  • the soul is “happy”

Balance is not a static condition, however, but an ongoing process. It must be found again and again and adapted to changing living conditions and situations. However, with the help of a balanced Ayurvedic lifestyle and the holistic recommendations, we can approach this goal every day.

When we feel listless, constantly tired and simply not really in our strength over a longer period of time and do not know why, many of us consult a doctor. Of the six stages of disease development in Ayurveda, conventional medicine only recognizes the fifth or sixth, namely when the first symptoms appear and the disease thus manifests itself. However, an Ayurvedic doctor can react much earlier by means of a detailed questioning, by assessing the state of Agni and measuring the pulse, and thus perhaps even prevent the manifestation of the disorder.

For which disorders is Ayurveda used?

Ayurveda serves three goals: prevention, healing and longevity. The therapy of disorders is always about finding and eliminating the cause of them. In principle, Ayurveda can be used to support all diseases. However, the following symptoms are typically treated with Ayurveda:

  • Disorders of the musculoskeletal system (e.g. arthrosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatism)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, indigestion)
  • Detoxification (e.g. elimination of metabolic residues)
  • Metabolic disorders (e.g. diabetes)
  • Cardiovascular disorders (e.g. high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias)
  • Allergies (e.g. hay fever, food allergies or intolerances)
  • Skin disorders (e.g. psoriasis, neurodermatitis, eczema, acne)#Respiratory disorders (e.g. asthma, chronic sinusitis)
  • Gynecological disorders (e.g. menstrual cramps, endometriosis)
  • Psycho-mental balance disorders (e.g. burnout, depression, tinnitus, sleep disorders, stress)

Basics of Ayurvedic thinking

Who am I, how do health and illness come about and how can I individually keep myself in balance or lead myself back to it? These questions are at the heart of Ayurveda.

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Holistic view of life and health in Ayurveda

Ayurveda assumes that we can only answer these questions if we look at the human being holistically.
Life (ayu) is considered a four-dimensional entity, consisting of:

  • sharira (physical body),
  • indriya (senses),
  • sattva (psyche) and
  • the soul/atma.

    Thus, in Ayurveda, the individual living being is a comprehensive psycho-physio-spiritual entity. According to Ayurveda, in order to prevent or effectively treat diseases, all levels of being must always be taken into account. In therapy, an Ayurvedic doctor thus takes into account various factors, such as lifestyle, diet, medication, traumatic experiences and fears, stress at work or in a partnership, sleep disorders, the environment and more. In Ayurveda, therefore, not only the symptoms but also the underlying causes of a disorder are recorded and treated on different levels.
Junge Frau steht im Wald und wird von der Sonne angeschienen

The Ayurvedic Elemental Theory

Ayurveda also assumes that man is part of nature and is in constant interaction with his environment. All five elements that Ayurveda considers to be present in nature – and these are space (or ether), fire, water, air and earth – are also found in man. And they connect us to the world. If we live in harmony with our “inner nature” and the “outer nature”, there is a balance between the elements and we feel healthy, powerful and happy. However, if they get out of balance, symptoms of illness and disorders can develop.

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Agni and its role in digestion, metabolism and tissue formation

According to Ayurvedic conception, our Agni (“digestive fire”) represents one of the most important active principles in the body. Agni is active in the digestive tract in various metabolic organs as well as at the tissue level and controls all important digestive and metabolic processes. The task of Agni is primarily the transformation of food into body tissue. Without an optimal Agni state, according to Ayurveda, all processes are disturbed and our life energy is limited. Ayurveda thus assumes that for the overall function of the body, its immunity or even reproductive capacity, a constitutionally appropriate diet and lifestyle as well as optimal metabolism of nutrients are of paramount importance.

The three doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha – Ayurveda constitutional theory

At the center of Ayurvedic teachings are the three doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha. On them is based not only the determination of the individual dosha type, but also a large part of the physiology, symptomatology and therapy of Ayurveda.

The physical constitution of every human being is composed of the three dosha types Vata, Pitta and Kapha in different weighting. Vata is determined by the elements wind and space/ether, Pitta by fire and some water and Kapha by earth and water. A balance of these principles leads to health and well-being and an imbalance to disorders of various kinds.

Eine Illustration des Tridosha-Systems

The physical constitution of every human being is composed of the three dosha types Vata, Pitta and Kapha in different weighting. Vata is determined by the elements wind and space/ether, Pitta by fire and some water and Kapha by earth and water. A balance of these principles leads to health and well-being and an imbalance to disorders of various kinds.

Vata dosha, when healthy, provides us with creativity, lightness or a quick perception and controls any form of movement in the body. If Vata becomes imbalanced, it can cause ailments such as dry bowels or joint problems. A healthy Pitta ensures a strong charisma, assertiveness and analytical thinking – in excess Pitta can lead to acidity or disorders of the skin. When Kapha is in balance, it provides grounding and stability. Too much Kapha, however, can lead to lethargy and obesity. On Dosha level there is therefore no “good” or “bad” Dosha, but around the individual balance, which must be maintained.

In Ayurveda, the principle applies: like strengthens like. Vata dosha is dry, light, harsh and cold. Anything that has these qualities in it reinforces Vata: the windy autumn storm, dry heating air, and even emotional cold, raw foods, or low-fat foods. Pitta is hot, light, and somewhat oily in nature – so we should not amplify these qualities, preferring to avoid midday sun and spicy foods. Kapha, on the other hand, is moist, cooling and heavy. Ice cream, damp cold and little exercise are not ideal for Kapha. Kapha people keep themselves in balance with an active walk, followed by a dry sauna and a warm, stimulating vegetable curry. Thus, there is an individually ideal way of living and eating for each person.

If the balance is disturbed, it is necessary to return the person to this original state. With the help of massages and other manual therapeutic applications, Ayurvedic Panchakarma or Rasayana cure as well as Ayurvedic food supplements, the increased doshas are mobilized and then discharged.

On our website, in addition to general nutritional recommendations, you will also find many tips for a dosha-appropriate diet and lifestyle, as well as suitable recipes for your dosha type.

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Ayurveda Nutrition

In Ayurveda, the principle is that our food is the best “medicine” and great importance is attached to a healthy, wholesome and type-appropriate diet that satisfies us holistically and can be well digested and absorbed by the body. Ayurveda assumes that we will only remain healthy in the long run if our digestion functions smoothly and thus new, healthy body tissues can be formed every day. The “Agni”, our digestive fire, which controls digestion, metabolism and the processing of nutrients, therefore plays an overriding role in Ayurveda in prevention and therapy. So when you cook Ayurvedically, it means adapting your meals, spices, portion sizes and preparation methods to your digestive power and constitutional type.

Detox and Panchakarma in Ayurveda

The famous Ayurvedic Panchakarma is considered the supreme discipline in Ayurveda and is based on five (panch) actions (karma) that aim to eliminate toxic substances and excess doshas, which in excess can lead to health problems. According to one’s constitution and disorder, the proper purgative procedures are selected. Among the therapies that can be eliminated are:

  • Basti (enemas)
  • Virechana (purging)
  • Vamana (vomiting)
  • Nasya (treatment through the nose)
  • Rakta Moksa (bloodletting)

    A Panchakarma cure lasts between 2 to 12 weeks. The duration depends on the type and severity of the disorder.

Ayurveda Treatments and Massages

Ayurvedic therapies are always customized to the patient and may include massages, forehead casts, sweating treatments, herbal baths and more. The well-known manual therapy oil and dry treatments are not only relaxing and soothing, but also specifically support the body in its cleansing process. During a Virechana and Vamana treatment, the patient is not only oiled internally by taking ghee, but also externally. The oil massages ensure that the tissues soften and toxins can be released, which are then eliminated through the sweating treatment and elimination.

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But oil massages also have a nourishing, strengthening and restorative effect and can be easily performed at home as part of a self-massage, especially by Vata constitutions and in autumn or early winter. It is best to use medicated Ayurvedic oils for this purpose, in which the base oils are enriched with plant or mineral substances and which have a particularly profound effect. Alternatively, Vata types can turn to warming and heavy oils such as sesame oil, Pitta types to cooling oils such as coconut oil, and Kapha to heating oils such as mustard oil. However, dry massages with silk gloves (garshan) are more recommended for pronounced Kapha personalities, in spring, with mucus and colds.

For a successful Ayurveda therapy you do not necessarily have to go to India or Sri Lanka – Ayurveda has long since arrived in Germany and Europe and is now an indispensable pillar of naturopathy. There are numerous qualified Ayurveda doctors and therapists in their own healing practice or special health resorts.

Yoga and Ayurveda – the perfect symbiosis

Both yoga and Ayurveda aim to strengthen the balance in people’s lives and thus promote health and well-being. However, both follow different paths to achieve this. The goal of yoga is primarily to stabilize and clarify the mind through meditation, breathing exercises and body postures (asanas). Ayurveda, on the other hand, focuses more on the physical level. Both knowledge systems can therefore enrich each other: We need a strong, yogic mind to make beneficial choices every day that serve our health and well-being. At the same time, yoga benefits from the knowledge of Ayurveda – the realization that every person has a different constitution and thus needs can help us find a yoga practice that really suits us and sustainably strengthens and supports us.

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Ayurvedic living: 10 tips for your Ayurvedic lifestyle

  1. Take natural needs seriously: Hunger, satiety, thirst, exhaustion – our body tells us daily what it needs. Our task is to perceive our needs and also to take them seriously. Many people have lost touch with their primary source of experience – the body. Instead of following their natural appetite for certain foods, many people get lost in the jungle of complicated nutritional theories and thus become more and more alienated from their own needs. But many imbalances can be prevented just by starting to pay attention to our body’s signals again, mindfully and every day.
  2. Choose healthy and wholesome foods: your body is made from the raw materials you eat. When you eat high-quality foods, you have a greater chance of building a high-quality body. However, you also need to digest what you eat. Therefore, food must be prepared to suit your dosha type.
    Rest and deceleration: Incorporate yoga or other mindfulness practices into your daily routine. It is not enough to decelerate the body, it is also important to quiet the mind. Make sure to take small breaks in your daily routine and allow yourself time just for you.
  3. Eat until you are three-quarters full: Overeating is one of the main causes of disease. Ayurveda teaches that ¼ of the stomach should always remain empty. You will know you have eaten the right amount when you are no longer hungry and feel pleasantly full and satisfied, but not full.Healthy Sleep: Sleep hygiene begins with preparing for bedtime by relaxing in the evening. Gentle activities are appropriate. It is best to go to sleep around 10:00 p.m. and wake up around sunrise. Sleep is one of the three pillars of life in Ayurveda. Health is not possible if sleep is not adequate.
  4. Fresh Air: Without oxygen, there is no energy – because the body needs it to maintain energy production in the cells. Make sure to get out into the fresh air as often as possible. Take walks, open windows regularly and practice breathing exercises (pranayama)
  5. Get enough exercise: Make your daily routine more active. Make phone calls standing up, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and find a sport that you really enjoy. The positive effect is immediately noticeable, both mentally and physically!
  6. The power of chronobiology: Natural rhythms such as sunlight and sleep are crucial for our well-being and health. Sleep between 6-8 hours and get up refreshed in the morning with the sunrise. Complete tasks that require high concentration in the early morning hours and do not go to bed too late – such a healthy rhythm saves energy, gives energy and gives well-being.
  7. More time with friends, partner or family: Spend more time with people who do you lasting good and enrich your life.
  8. Sufficient water: Water ensures that our metabolic processes function appropriately, more nutrients are transported into the cells. Warm water is recommended in the cold season and room-temperature or lukewarm water in the summer. Choose a low mineral water and drink at least 1-1.5 liters of it daily.

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What does it mean to live according to Ayurveda?

To live Ayurvedic means first and foremost to find a way of life and nutrition that suits you individually and is really good for you in the long term. Because the goal of Ayurveda is a life in harmony, joy and health. The longer you integrate Ayurveda into your life, the easier it is for you to directly recognize and counteract small imbalances. Ayurveda thus offers us the chance to take our health into our own hands and to take responsibility for our own well-being.

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