The Healing Art of Ayurveda
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Buddha bowl by Natalie Seldon

As the ancient Indian science of life gains popularity outside of Asia, we take a closer look at its health and wellbeing benefits.  

By Katja Pantzar

Although the healing science of Ayurveda is well known in its homeland of India, the ancient holistic system has yet to go fully mainstream in other parts of the world. But that may soon change, as there are strong signs that 2020 could be the year of Ayurveda.

In the past few months alone, Ayurveda has graced the headlines of media ranging from style bible Vogue to quality British newspapers such as the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, and the cosmopolitan globetrotter’s digest Condé Nast Traveller.

“We’ve certainly seen a resurgence in ancient systems of wellness in the last few years and Ayurveda has become quite a buzzword,” says Mira Manek, the London-based author of recently released book Prajñā: Ayurvedic Rituals for Happiness.

Photo by Natalie Seldon

“We have started realising and understanding the mind-body connection, something that Western medicine failed to acknowledge for a long time,” says Manek, who also runs Chai by Mira, a café, lounge, and event space tucked inside a Soho yoga studio.

“This connection, the belief that everything in the body is related to the mind and that our thoughts and emotions affect the body is key to Ayurveda. The principles of ancient systems of medicine and healing are making sense to us now as we realise the innate power and wisdom of our body and mind,” she says.

Her newest book is all about how Ayurveda can boost wellbeing and happiness.

“Ayurveda is a lifestyle at the heart of which is digestion, the digestive fire or agni, as well as prana – our life force, which flows through us through our energy centres or chakras. Food, stress, movement, and timing all affect our digestion and agni,” she says.

Mira Manek, author of Prajñā: Ayurvedic Rituals for Happiness. Photo by Emma Dudlyke.

“What we eat and when we eat are both as important as each other. Everything is interdependent and happiness is the result of finding this balance within ourselves,” says Manek, who calls Ayurveda “the wellbeing toolbox for life.”

Ancient wisdom

There are many ways that the 5,000-year-old health system can help to address the challenges of modern living.

“Ayurveda, a Sanskrit word which literally translates as the science of life, has universally applicable principles,” says Ayurveda practitioner and expert Urvashi Naithani, who is based in Dehradun, the capital of the Indian state of Uttarakhand which is nestled near the Himalayan foothills.

“Ayurveda caters to each individual’s daily existence. It takes a holistic view of health, encompassing a balanced diet, healthy lifestyle, physical fitness, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing for a disease-free, long and healthy life,” explains Naithani, who has also consulted with VEEN on their line of Ayurveda Water and Ayurveda Super Shots.

“Water is a basic drink and a necessity,” she says. “In today’s fast-paced life, when you need to be ahead of the game, a quick source of goodness of herbs on-the-go is provided through Ayurveda waters and super shots,” she says. “There’s only one healing force in the universe and that’s nature. Our role is to facilitate and promote this process of healing with the help of pure goodness that nature has in abundance, extracted in these shots and drinks,” says Naithani.

Urvashi Naithani, Ayurveda practitioner and expert

Our modern, fast-paced lives are increasingly having a negative impact on our physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing, according to Naithani. That negative impact is manifesting itself in symptoms such as stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.

“Ayurveda takes an individualised approach and doesn’t follow the theory of ‘one size fits all,’” she says. “It encourages you to discover your individual needs, as well as grow, heal and reflect on your life in the most tailored way possible. Ayurveda does not focus on symptoms but addresses the root cause. When you know what’s causing you to feel out of balance, you can simply refer to the suggested foods to eat or avoid, and lifestyle regimes to follow or avoid according to your dosha to restore balance.”

In Ayurveda, there are three doshas or energies present in the body: vata (air and space), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water).  Though a person may have a combination of doshas, which are derived from the five elements, usually one or two are prevalent. The proportion of each dosha may change over time due to environment, age, and diet, for example.

A person with a kapha dosha often has their feet firmly planted on the ground. Physically strong, they are often emotionally stable, patient, and calm. Yet they are prone to weight gain and feeling sluggish at times.

The recommended diet for a kapha type includes fruits such as apples and grains like rye, barley, and buckwheat and the recommendation of minimising oils and fats. Those who are kapha type should favour light, warm foods.

Photo by Natalie Seldon

Future vision

Traditional medicine is witnessing resurgence in popularity, in part due to globalisation, says Naithani, who comes from a family of allopathic doctors. She believes this is a positive direction, as the ancient Indian healing system can offer something for everyone.

“I strongly believe that principles of Ayurveda should become part of the education system. Ayurveda is a lifestyle – a way of living and being. Today, we see a lot of lifestyle issues even in children, and by the time they are adults those issues have already taken a toll on their health. Through Ayurveda we can sow the seeds of physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing right from childhood,” she says, adding, “Ayurveda can provide a strong, nurturing foundation that can lead to wisdom and growth and a brighter future for our youth.”