Nope. It’s not that either.
The pronunciation is ai-yr-vei-duh and I swear it took me two years before I new the proper articulation and enunciation of the name of this ancient Hindu philosophy and art of medicine and wellbeing. This week marks the start of the spring term of my Ayurveda Practitioner certification and with it, my continued studies. I don’t know when I will be certified, its a long and complex road of lifelong learning and application. But what I do know is that Ayurveda has been like learning a Universal language of health and healing that has not only helped me understand myself, but also everyone and everything around me.
But my understanding didn’t start out that way. In fact, during my first yoga teacher training here in Halifax, I learned that Ayurveda is a timeworn and tested philosophy that describes all organic and inorganic things in elemental theory. Ether, air, fire, water and earth are the basis upon which everything in the universe is created and connected. And based on the unique combination of everything, called dosha in Ayurvedic terminology, health and wellbeing is established when everything is optimallly working in its own unique way. This, as I learned later on, was just a scratch in the surface of my comprehension.
Six months after my first YTT graduation, I found myself living on the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram in South India in which the Sivananda Institute of Health is situated. Here is where I extended my understanding and began the application of various Ayurvedic self-care practices like abhyanga (self-massage), panchakarma (cleansing and rejuvenation techniques), and learned about the key aspects of agni, ojas, and ama functioning (digestion, nutrition and immunity operations respectively). Here is where I also had my first taste of Ayurveda food and drink, including Triphala tea (yuck), as well as the symbolic Ayurvedic clock which provides insight for staying in sync with the unique circadian rhythm, or dinacharya, with which each of us is exclusively born with.
Practicing our panchakarma on the shore line
After my second trip back to yet another ashram in Northern India and my third YTT just a year later, I embarked on my own journey of Ayurvedic study. I bought every book I could find on Ayurveda. I listened to podcasts, YouTube videos and read articles. I bought Ayurveda textbooks and read them, studied them, and then signed up for a free online course. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could so that I could live my best life. But as much as my fascination and dumbfoundedness kept me hooked on learning, my studies also triggered a negative reaction. If you know me, you know I love a good challenge. But when the challenge is to really look, see, acknowledge and accept the attitude that is your reflection, that takes things up a notch. Long story short, I was pissed at what I was uncovering about myself.
At the time, I was in the best physical shape of my life, but I was, and sometimes still am, an emotional roller coaster. I was also complacently moving through my days, half-assedly ‘showing’ up. The more I studied myself through this rich philosophy, the more I found myself bitterly retaliating, irritatingly cranky and just down right ungrateful. Ugh. Sometimes the truth really does hurt. But in studying Ayurveda, I was learning how to hold up a mirror and gaze, with honest eyes, at my reflection. My yogic practice of repeatedly showing up, was helping me stand mountain pose still fuelled by strength and determination to just simply take stock of what was looking right back at me.
I study Ayurveda because I feel it is a comprehensive system of communication that breaks down and simplifies the patterns of psychological habit, relational responsibility, emotional conditioning, kinetic action, dietary necessity and spiritual discernment all based on the inherent qualities, and more importantly rules, of nature. It has helped me understand that under the right set of circumstances, everything has the potential to flourish or fall to disease. It has been, and will forever be, a practice of learning to look at and live with all the pieces of myself.
Morning to night, work day to week end, season to season, Ayurveda has taught me how to hold space for process, to honestly and clearly define who or what is in front of me, and to surrender desire for perfection while whole-heartedly embracing the ebbs and flows that are the true gift that life is.