Ayurveda for Aging
Ayurveda is a holistic and integrated science of preventive and restorative health care practiced in India for more than 5,000 years. Both traditional and Maharishi forms of Ayurvedic Medicine developed from close observation of nature and emphasize the importance of a harmonious mind-body-spirit relationship. Ayurveda practice includes various principles and means to maintain and restore optimum health and energetic balance throughout the entire lifespan. Certain Ayurvedic health practices are of particular benefit to individuals experiencing the emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges of aging.
How Does Ayurveda Benefit Aging?
The accumulation of various physical and emotional stresses and environmental toxins throughout a lifetime tend to weaken an individual’s energy and vitality and lead to various degenerative illnesses frequently associated with aging. Ayurvedic medicine serves to slow down and reverse some of the deterioration and gradual loss of function experienced during aging. Ayurvedic practices assist in restoring strength, agility, clarity, and emotional and physical balance.
Some Ayurvedic practices of particular benefit to aging persons include:
- Yoga asanas are physical stretching and strengthening exercises that can be safely practiced well into old age. Regular practice will increase flexibility, improve circulation, physical stability, and strength, while relieving pain, promoting restful sleep, and preventing or minimizing osteoporosis, dementia, and other common degenerative ailments. Yoga asanas also act to tone and cleanse internal organs and assist in the elimination of accumulated toxins.
- Meditative techniques are introspective and mind-calming techniques that serve to reconnect the individual to the source of natural intelligence, which is the basis of health and well-being. The Transcendental Meditation taught in Maharishi Ayurveda helps connect an individual to the basic intelligence governing and underlying all physical manifestations. This underlying intelligence corresponds to theories in Western quantum physics of a single unified energy field.
- Herbal and mineral preparations and dietary changes are adjusted throughout the aging process to promote healthy digestion, efficient assimilation of nutrients, and optimal weight. The Ayurvedic approach to a healthy diet takes into account specific individual needs, the local environment, and the time of day in which meals are taken.
- Panchkarma is a rejuvenating and detoxifying therapy that makes use of massage, warm oils, and heat therapy to eliminate impurities from the system and flush out damaging elements.
Basic Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine
Ayurveda is a combination of two Sanskrit words meaning life knowledge. This science of life has developed specific techniques designed to facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal. Ayurvedic therapies take into account the individual’s distinct and changing energy patterns, characteristics, and life circumstances. Ayurveda methods and techniques have been proven over the centuries to balance body, mind, and spirit. Addressing the needs of spirit, a component of the individual believed to exist prior to and after the demise of the physical being, is an aspect of Ayurveda practice not typically found in Western medicine.
Ayurvedic Medicine takes into account the five basic elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth, which are believed to comprise every material body. According to Ayurvedic teachings, these five natural elements combine in distinct proportions in every individual to make up the tissues (dhatus), waste products (malas), and energetic forces (doshas) active in each individual.
Ayurvedic treatment depends on an individual’s basic energy and body type. This is determined by the doshas, the three basic energetic forces that underlie all bodily processes and determine the overall health of an individual and her susceptibility to illness and degenerative disease.
The three doshas are:
- Vata: a vital energy that regulates circulation of the blood, breath, heartbeat, and even the blinking of the eyes. A person with balanced vata energy remains vital and in touch with her creativity. An imbalance in vata leads to anxiety and depression.
- Pitta: a vitalenergy that regulates the metabolic systems including body temperature, digestion, and absorption of nutrients. A person with balanced pitta energy maintains clarity and contentment. An imbalance of pitta can result in anger and digestive distress.
- Kapha: a vital energy responsible for physical growth, maintaining the immune system, and providing body parts with the necessary moisture. A person with balanced kapha energy is loving and able to forgive and let go of grievances. An imbalance of kapha can result in feelings of insecurity and envy.
Incorporating some of the Ayurvedic approaches to healthy aging into one’s daily life will help assure that one’s body, mind, and spirit will continue throughout the entire lifespan in optimum health. Engaging the services of an Ayurvedic practitioner to obtain an initial assessment and to recommend specific treatments appropriate for one’s unique needs and characteristics will enable one to embrace aging as a natural process where vitality is maintained and the wisdom of years can be fully appreciated.
The Web site of Maharishi Ayurveda offers information on this comprehensive approach to the ancient science of Ayurveda.
The California College of Ayurveda offers a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist Program, helping to educate and certify Ayurvedic Medicine specialists.