This month in the Newbie’s Guide to Alternative Wellness, we address Ayurveda. To get to the bottom of it, we reached out to Pennsylvania yoga instructor and Certified Ayurveda Specialist, Maya Kowalcyk, to talk about Ayurveda.
What is the concept of Ayurveda? What are its benefits?
Ayurveda literally means “life wisdom” and is the “sister science of yoga”. The practice of Ayurveda is centered around the concept that we are all made up of a combination of elements (water, fire, air, space, earth). These elements are found in everything. When these elements get out of balance through lifestyle, disease, and diet, we suffer from illness and disease. We identify these imbalances and use locally grown foods, lifestyle, yoga, meditation, massage, and herbs to bring us back to balance and health. It is when our bodies are in balance that the systems of the body can work properly to heal itself. Ayurveda provides the body the space it needs to do the job it is meant to do – heal itself.
What are the origins of Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is the oldest traditional healing method in existence, originating in India 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. It predates Chinese medicine. At its root are both spiritual and practical elements. It is very much a spiritual practice, like yoga and meditation can be. However, it can also simply be practical and used to help you regain and maintain health.
Can Ayurveda be practiced in regions where produce is limited during cold seasons?
Yes, definitely! For example, in the middle of January in Pennsylvania, you would eat stewed, cooked apples with cinnamon, cloves, and ghee instead of fresh, raw pineapple (which doesn’t grow anywhere near us) to stay balanced. There is a ton of produce grown locally in our area, and we simply have to become more familiar with cooking root vegetables, leafy greens and northern fruits. It is also important to remember that it’s all about balance. If you eat pineapple in January, you won’t die. It’s certainly better than opting for that Big Mac! 😉
Tell us some common misconceptions people have of Ayurveda.
I think most people don’t know a lot about Ayurveda. They might have heard the term associated with yoga and have an idea that it has something to do with health. Some who know a little bit about the subject have probably heard of the doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are every person’s basic constitutional types, their physical body’s type. Even if they know this much, they probably don’t realize that we all have ALL of the doshas in each of us. We are all a combination of each, not just one type. Another misconception might be that Ayurveda is some esoteric, mysterious alternative medicine, when really, it is an incredibly common sense approach to healing. It addresses food, lifestyle, yoga, meditation, herbs–all things that we can control to help become healthier and more balanced.
What would you recommend as a way to start practicing Ayurveda to someone who has never tried it before?
I would recommend going to see someone who has knowledge about Ayurveda, like a counselor or specialist, and learning about how Ayurveda can help YOU specifically. There are also some very accessible books out there like “Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook and Guidebook for Modern Living,” and Amadea Morningstar’s “The Ayurvedic Cookbook.” Both of these are chock full of delicious recipes, and they also contain a wealth of super informative knowledge which will teach you the basics (and more) of this vast subject.
~ Maya received her Ayurveda Yoga Specialist Certificate from the Himalayan Institute in 2015, after completing their year-long training program. She has been practicing yoga since 1997 and teaching yoga since 2007. Maya currently teaches classes and workshops in both yoga and Ayurveda at Jim Thorpe Yoga in Jim Thorpe, PA, leads yoga retreats, does Ayurveda consultations, and also continues to study yoga and Ayurveda. You can visit her at her website www.jimthorpeyoga.com.
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