I don’t recall when or how I was introduced to Ayurveda. But whenever or wherever it occurred, it made such a big splash in my consciousness, the ripples of that first moment of appreciation are still with me.
Ayurveda feels like one of those things that when you learn about it, even though it might be the first time you’ve heard the information, it feels like you’ve known it all your life… and you’re just remembering it right then. Do you know what I mean?
Here’s what I LOVE about Ayurveda:
I love Ayurveda’s emphasis on disease prevention! I love looking into the root cause of imbalance! I love using a kitchen pharmacy! I love the importance placed on digestive fire! I love the understanding of oneself, the world, and the universe that comes from applying Ayurvedic principles!
In the ancient Ayurveda text, Charaka Samhita, Maharishi Charaka explains that we are all composed of a combination of Five Vedic Elements, the Pancha Maha Bhutas. Each one of the elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether) is characterized by a set of particular qualities (gunas).
If we understand the nature of the qualities that make up each element, then we can recognize which elements are abundant or deficient in ourselves. In turn, we can allow the qualities of the elements to inform the choices we make in our yoga practice in order to customize our routine to the needs of our body/minds on any particular day.
To use a specific example, the Earth element provides us with the qualities of heaviness and dullness (or slow speed). When we are feeling ungrounded and rushing from task to task, consumed by busy-ness, we’re lacking the qualities of heavy and slow… We can remedy this and avoid further imbalance, which could lead to symptoms like anxiety, irritability, or lower immune function, by allowing Earth element qualities to inform our approach to that day’s yoga practice. To increase the qualities of heaviness and slowness in our yoga practice we can move more slowly, choose repetitive movements, enjoy the ritual of our practice, become more aware of the physical sensations of our body, etc.
Below is an outline of a 5 element-approach to a personal practice. I’ve included the gunas, or qualities, associated with each element; signs that tell us when the element is in balance, and signs that indicate we need more of that particular element. Below that are suggestions for applying the qualities of that element in our yoga practice in order to increase that particular element. The asana suggestions link to form a progressive practice, taking the body/mind on an exploration of the elements from Earth to Water to Fire to Air and finally to Space, but they could also be enjoyed as separate sections. More important than the actual pose is the approach taken while in the pose.