Ayurveda: The Science of Life
by Sunita Tarkunde
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning the Science of Life. There is no formula for health that works for everyone or we would have no need for medicine. Our bodies and the lives they live are all unique, and our health and wellbeing is inextricably linked to every part. The way we live our life day to day; the food we eat, the exercise we take, even the amount of traffic we sit in and our attitude about it will support or hinder our body’s ability to heal itself.
The underlying philosophy of Ayurveda is balance. This planet we live on and the bodies we live in are always trying to balance themselves, but the raw materials that our body can work with are up to us to provide. The primary role of an Ayurvedic Practitioner is to find what is out of balance; not only in your body but also in the way you interact with the world around you.
An Ayurvedic Practitioner wears the hats of several Western Health Specialists. A person with a chronic skin condition might go see a Dermatologist who will give them creams or steroids, and the rash may go away but then it slowly creeps back. There is a pattern to chronic illness that can be discovered if you ask the right questions; it could be what they actually need is to see a therapist to talk about how they are coping with the stress in their life.
Finding the root cause of the misfirings of the human body is often missed in the world of specialized medicine and this is why so many people are turning to Ayurveda for help. Western Medicine is only putting a bandaid on their problem and it keeps coming back. Ayurveda works from both sides, calming the issue to create comfort in the body while also seeking to pinpoint the cause and treating that as well. People generally fear changing their habitual behavior even though they desperately want to feel better. Habits are developed slowly and we can only undo them at a similar pace, but it will only be lasting change if we find joy in it.
This is a foreign concept to many Westerners, to lose weight we have to suffer, right? We can’t enjoy food the way we did as we gained the extra weight in the first place, but, did you really enjoy it? When you wake up the morning after excessively eating meat, bread, cheese and sugar do you feel rested and renewed? Consider instead what other area of your life is depriving you of joy that you are compensating for it with food and you are already practicing Ayurveda.
There is so much healing power in the roots, leaves, seeds and flowers of plants, but the way we use them as medicine here is a little different than the way Western Medicine administers medicines. There are only a few herbs that we will sell over the counter because even though our medicines aren’t synthesized in a lab, they have an effect on the body and that effect can be positive or negative depending on the person and their constitution. We honor the potency of Ayurvedic herbs by making sure they are needed.
When someone is out of balance we prefer to start treatment in a subtractive way, with detoxification. When we are looking for a root cause of illness the simplest method is to first help the body get rid of what it doesn’t want. If the problem persists when the body is clean, then we will begin to use herbs, not with the intention of taking them long term, but only as a crutch until your body catches up.
There are several places where Ayurveda really shines, and times we will ask you to see a Western Specialist in conjunction with your treatment here (if you have a suspicious lump, we would prefer you have it properly examined). This goes the other way as well, Ayurveda can help keep your body
strong enough to withstand the negative side effects of aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.
Disorders caused by stress are what we see the most of and this can manifest in so many ways; insomnia, changes in weight, digestive distress, hair loss… so if you come to us for acid reflux don’t be surprised if we recommend that you have a massage, but we will also ask you to make small, manageable changes to your daily routine to mitigate the sources of stress in your life. You can’t quit your job, but you can find windows of opportunity to be less stressed about it.
If there is one thing you learn here today it is that prevention is so much easier than trying to undo the damage stress creates. Have a massage, take a walk, take ten minutes out of your day to sit quietly in appreciation of being alive! Value yourself and your peace of mind.
Sunita Tarkunde is the Founder and Director of The Houston Ayurveda Center; she currently specializes in Ayurvedic Consultation and Education. Sunita graduated from Tilak Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya in 1992. She has since been committed to helping her community find health and happiness