By Afrin Sopariwala
Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences, both originating in the vedas which came from the great rishis (seers) of ancient India, some 5000 years ago. While Yoga has needed no introduction in the west for several decades, Ayurveda, is quickly catching up to being a much sought-after and dare I say, desperately needed way of holistic wellbeing in today’s time.
Ayurveda is the science or knowledge (veda) of life (ayur). As a living science it sheds light on things as basic as what a healthy daily routine should look like, to as complex as how to treat disorders that western medicine may consider untreatable. It is a complete system of creating wellbeing and health but with higher goal — yoga, or union with the Divine.
My journey started with yoga several years ago. I was lucky to have a teacher who showed me that yoga was far more than asana and it quickly became clear to me that my life had purpose and an incredible potential. I wanted to know everything I could about how to get there.
Of course, the path is not an easy one. While my reading gave me buddhi (discernment) to recognize what habits, attitudes, behaviors I needed to drop, change, give up; actually manifesting them was its own challenge. But life has its way of giving you opportunities to learn, grow and evolve and it usually involves a knock on the head and its accompanying pain.
For me, one such knock on the head was my divorce. It was devastating, heartbreaking, debilitating, and terrifying. And out of all that emerged a reminder: of who I really am and what I really need to accomplish in my life.
My divorce also brought me another uncomfortable experience — the start of an ulcer. That was what brought me to Ayurveda. When I started researching Ayurveda, I was felt like I had found a lost friend or rather, found missing answers to questions I had had for several years, some from my childhood.
If you grew up in India, you’re fairly likely to have grown up with some bits of Ayurveda, mostly in the form of your mom’s home remedies and your grandmother’s advice. I certainly did. When I got a sore throat or a cold, I was treated with ginger tea, turmeric and salt gargles, eucalyptus steam inhalations, tulsi-and-pepper decoctions, and only given an allopathic medicine if none of those worked (which was very rare).
My frequent stomach aches also had a range of home treatments, going from raw onion juice to rubbing asafoetida around my belly button. Of course, why and what and how were never questions I asked — I simply took what was given to help me out of my dis-ease.
Later, as an adult in the US, when I offered these simple home remedies to people around me, I encountered the western response — skepticism, doubt and of course, lots of whats, whys, and hows and I realized I didn’t have answers more helpful than “because my mom said so.”
So when I started reading books about Ayurveda and found answers to some of these questions, I was elated. Not only the home remedies, pretty much a guide to healthy-yogic life. My journey and path toward spiritual transformation is nothing without the interrelated wisdom of Yoga and Ayurveda together.
Some of my early yogi aspirations led me to focus strongly on my energetic and spiritual practice, dismissing my body as a trap or a burden — “you are not your body”.
Over time, I have realized that while I might not be my body, my body is a temple and my main tool toward my spiritual evolution and so I must treat it like so.
Some of the most intriguing things about Ayurveda to me:
- Ayurveda’s definition of health is more than the absence of disease. It is a complete and holistic mind-body-and-spirit system.
- Just like yoga, everything in Ayurveda is a step toward the ultimate, and everything is done with reverence to the same life force, prana.
- Ayurveda sees the universe (and the human body) as a play of the 5 elements – ether, air, fire, water and earth. If we are made of them and they operate in us, we must understand how they function.
- Ayurveda sees these energies as dynamic and ever-changing. Not only are they changing in us, but around us in our environment, with time, and also affected by our mental and emotional states.
- Ayurveda sees each human (or any living) being, as a unique mix of the 5 elements. And so each being is affected by them differently and each treatment and recommendation is unique and customized to the person.
- Ayurveda says that everything in the universe is medicine if you know how and when to use it.
- Ayurveda recognizes the interconnected nature of the universe. What you do to a single strand in the web of life, affects the whole web. This truth is shared by spiritual traditions from around the world.
- Ayurveda says the patient herself is the healer, not the doctor or the practitioner, who are just there to remind the patient of their innate healing powers.
I could go on and on, but I hope I was able to share a small glimpse of my gratitude towards the infinite and eternal wisdom of yoga and Ayurveda.
About the author: Afrin Sopariwala is a certified yoga teacher and Ayurvedic counselor. She has studied Iyengar yoga for the last 4 years and completed the Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor certification with the Kerala Ayurveda Academy,where she is continuing her Ayurvedic study. She was born and brought up in Mumbai, India and currently resides in Seattle. She is also an environmentalist and activist. Join us with Afrin on February 18-19, 2017 for our Ayurveda Immersion Workshop.