While preparing for teaching my class on the yoga of digestion and reviewing the classic medical literature, I was reminded of Ayurveda’s viewpoint on digestion and diet. Ayurveda is at least a 5000 year-old system of medicine that originated in India. Ayurveda is a combination of two Sanskrit words, Ayus meaning ‘life’ and Veda meaning ‘science’ or ‘knowledge;’ thus, Ayurveda is the science of life. It is considered by many to be the oldest existing medical system.
Ayurvedic wisdom is a comprehensive science that sees all areas of life impacting one’s health. From this standpoint, health means harmony in our mind, body and spirit. The practice of Ayurveda involves the science of medicine, philosophy and spirituality.
Ayurvedic literature is vast, including three prominent texts, Caraka Samhita, Sushurta Samhita, and Ashtanga Hridaya. The Caraka Samhita was written around 800 BCE by Caraka, an internist at the University of Taxila. This text is composed of 8,400 verses written in Sanskrit.
One English translation, by Dr. P.V. Sharma, states “The distinction between health and disease arises as the result of the difference between the wholesome and unwholesome diet of body and mind. Therefore, disease begins as the result of faulty nutrition.”
It is important to note that digestion in the science of Ayurveda includes the ingestion, processing and release of food, thoughts, emotions and relationships. The quality, manner and duration of how we receive nourishment is one fundamental key to health and vitality. A healthier digestive system makes a healthier you at every level of your body, breath, mind, and spirit.