If you want to know if Ayurveda is right for you, you are likely a sincere seeker of knowledge for health, vitality and longevity or have been suffering with a chronic problem. Either way, it is also likely that you have been struggling to make sense of the vast amount of health-related information that is readily accessible on the internet, much of it contradictory or tied to financial interests. We moderns value individualism and there are simply too many choices to evaluate.
Yet, this is the wrong question. Ayurveda is the original owner’s manual for the human body. It is not man made. In simplest terms, Ayurveda describes the laws of nature from the perspective of the five senses. You don’t need biochemistry or physics—just your intellect. Ayurveda also gives us a framework for understanding our individual differences and how to harmonize with them to maintain balance throughout life. Thus, the wiser question is “Am I committed to taking full ownership of my health?” If you are, Ayurveda is your best guide.
Too many people are stuck in poor me mode. They see themselves as victims—of this germ, that syndrome, such difficult circumstances, etc. Yes, bad things happen to good people. Our hearts go out to them. But if you look closely at the group who have suffered a serious accident, illness or brutality, those who view themselves as survivors do far better than those who remain victims. Same problems, different outcomes. Some like Christopher Reeve and Stephen Hawking become inspirations to others. We always have a choice of how to respond.
Willingness to apply your intellect is an asset in adopting Ayurveda. The application of Ayurvedic principles is not all black and white. One must deal with shades of gray to make the best choice in some situations. Equally, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Whatever recommendations you choose to embrace will bring their benefits.
More significantly, Ayurvedo Amritanam. Ayurveda is for gaining the nectar of immortality—Enlightenment. Real human life begins in Cosmic Consciousness and reaches its ultimate expression in Unity Consciousness. Suffering is not necessary. It’s our birthright to live long and prosper in bliss.
Ayurveda is a gift of the creator. All healing traditions and surgical practices trace their origin to the same place, even though much has been lost or distorted with the passage of time. In a general way, we could say that anything that works well to improve health without serious adverse effects is Ayurveda. Western medicine excels with serious life-threatening problems. Ayurveda excels at reversing chronic disorders and as a guide to preventing problems from arising. They complement each other.
But neither is a panacea. The more advanced the disease and the greater the tissue destruction, the less likely the problem can be fully reversed. Take the case of advanced osteoarthritis. You can replace the joint to relieve the pain and ignore the imbalances that gave rise to the disease. After 3-6 months of rehab you’ll likely have a good result. Alternatively, you can fix the imbalances, get relief of pain, improve function and possibly avoid surgery. Better, but not perfect.
Nothing is arbitrary in Ayurveda. All its recommendations are supported by a deep understanding of how nature operates. For example, in English we speak of digestive fire just as in Ayurveda. It’s not hard to appreciate that iced beverages and cold food might impair digestion, although we don’t think much about this problem in the USA where ice water is the norm. Similarly, Ben Franklin and others echoed the ancient wisdom of early to bed, early to rise, though to understand why that is important, you need to appreciate how qualities of time vary throughout the day and night (see https://qatoqi.com/ayurveda/doshas.htm#time).
Nature doesn’t differentiate your level of understanding of her laws. Ignorance is no excuse. Neither is disdain. If you violate them, sooner or later there will be consequences. This is Karma: all thought, speech and actions reverberate throughout the universe and return in time like echoes for better or worse to nudge us in the evolutionary direction.
Ayurveda in the Modern World
Nevertheless, when looking at basic Ayurvedic recommendations, some complain that they are out of touch with modern life. In truth, modern life is out of touch with the laws of nature and is thereby fostering a huge burden of chronic disease and suffering. Highly processed convenience foods have been implicated in the world-wide epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Just because we can enjoy the convenience of electric lighting doesn’t mean it’s smart to stay awake in its glow or watch TV until 1 AM. Should Ayurvedic principles be more widely respected, we would find that modern life could fully deliver on its promises of more and better.
Some people would prefer to take a pill and not be bothered with anything else. This is similar to the elephant who bathes in the river and then rolls in the mud. There is a famous Ayurvedic aphorism that advises, “Without proper diet [and daily routine], herbs are of no benefit. With them, they are not needed.” While a fundamental principle of Vedic technology is to do less and accomplish more, it doesn’t really apply to this situation. Our choice of bedtime is just that: a choice. No greater effort is required to go to sleep before 10 PM than at some later time. For the most part this is also true for dietary choices. Whether you take your main meal at noon when digestion is strongest or in the evening when weaker digestive power is less capable of handling it, it’s the same amount of work. Also see https://qatoqi.com/ayurveda/blog/quick-and-easy-ayurvedic-meal-preparation/.
No Sacrifice Required
Others worry that Ayurveda might require sacrifice of things they enjoy. This is not so. You always have a choice. In general, however, the things we enjoy can always be replaced by things we will enjoy more. The biggest challenge is often just getting started on the road to personal improvement. The good news is that the benefits of following Ayurvedic principles far outweigh the effort required for change. Still, it’s not wise to try to change too much too fast. (See my advice for Managing Personal Change.)
On my first encounter with a Vaidya (the traditional term for an Ayurvedic doctor) in 1984, I was advised to stop adding bananas to my morning granola & yogurt. My chronic nasal stuffiness cleared within a few days. Later, after I adopted Nasya into my morning routine, my chronic sinus drainage resolved. In the late 90s, I decided to forego alcohol. I got fed up with the gastritis and rosacea that invariably followed ordering wine with dinner when out with friends. I also came to dislike feeling fuzzy in the head when I was so clear, alert and settled from my meditation practice. At that point, I was happy to give away my stash of cognac and fine liqueurs.
About 20 years ago while taking some advanced training in Ayurveda, I decided to re-commit to lacto-vegetarianism. I never felt I was sacrificing anything. Cooking in harmony with my Doshas, I avoided the gas which had plagued me the first time around. I soon enjoyed a greater sense of well-being. My aggressive tendencies gradually subsided. I also delighted in not having to deal with greasy hands and kitchen surfaces from handling meat.
My clients have had similar experiences in following Ayurveda. One recently shared this story:
I have lost 7 lbs. in a month which for me is a major miracle. In the past I’ve had to go to 750 calories a day just to lose a pound a week, so I am quite happy. I ate a burger, fries and a beer the other week and promptly got sick – my body is telling me that kind of food is not digestible for me.
These few examples are only part of the story. Once you make progress on the path of self-improvement, the experience of feeling good is self-reinforcing. Moreover, Ayurvedic recommendations enhance Sattva, which is the force of purity, evolution and progress in life. At a deeper level, such purification of the physiology and mind supports more rapid growth toward higher states of consciousness through regular meditation practice. The immense bliss of the unbounded, eternal, unchanging transcendental field of pure consciousness (Atma—the Self of everyone) dwarfs the transient pleasures we derive from various aspects of the material world. Atma is the home of all the laws of nature. The more we connect with that, the more joy we experience in daily life and the more we act spontaneously in accord with natural laws and create the Karma for a better future. When we don’t make innocent mistakes, we suffer less.
If I’ve convinced you that Ayurveda is worth investigating further, you can learn the basics beginning with this Overview. Alternatively, you might start by evaluating your Health Habits against Ayurvedic ideals to get an idea of your improvement opportunity. Either way, you’ll find lots of resources on my website and blog. I wish you all success and fulfillment.