Ayurvedic medicine—also known as Ayurveda—is one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and soul. It was developed thousands of years ago in India and over a period of time has gained much popularity in the global west. In this health special edition, Indian Weekender spoke with Linda Sinden, an Auckland-based Ayurveda practitioner, about how Ayurveda can make a difference in our lives, with special emphasis on summer-related health issues.
IWK: How did you start practising Ayurveda and how did you develop an interest in it?
Linda: In 1993, I attended a meditation course in Holland over Christmas holidays. There, I had my first experience of pulse diagnosis from a lady Ayurvedic doctor. As I was calling back home later that evening to wish my family, I knew I was to become an Ayurveda specialist. At that moment, I realised I had found my dharma. It then took six years for the course to become available under the guidance of Maharishi Ayurveda and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
IWK: How aware are people about Ayurveda in New Zealand?
Linda: Awareness of Ayurveda has increased greatly since 1989. Now, people often know about Ayurveda and use its principles and herbals to help stay well and to aid in restoring health when sick.
IWK: How has Ayurveda developed in New Zealand? Do you find it receptive as an alternative medicinal therapy in New Zealand?
Linda: Word of mouth has been a key way in which Ayurveda has become known. Also, the classes that Wellpark ran in the past helped knowledge of Ayurveda to spread more quickly. I have even had a medical doctor suggest to their patient that coming to see me would be the next best step for them and have had some medical practitioners come to me for consultation.
IWK: Do you think a person has to be sick to introduce Ayurveda into their lifestyle?
Linda: When the body hurts, we often feel compelled to stop the pain and therefore are ready to take action and get help. When the body is okay, then we can be complacent.
Today, I was speaking with a man who used to have head pressure, cloudy thinking, low energy with headaches and couldn’t find any help. With a few little changes in his diet and lifestyle and with some herbals, now he has been well for quite a long time. He came back today because he started to feel something is not 100% and he wanted to restore balance before it became a problem.
Increasingly, now people come because they want to understand the right food and lifestyle choices for their nature. People want to stay well and live a long happy life. Ayurveda knows how to help a person do that.
IWK: Ayurveda says that a poor digestion is the root cause of many diseases. However, modern doctors rarely ask about diet and digestion. Why is digestion so important in Ayurveda?
Linda: The quality of the fire and the quality of the cooking pot are important in the kitchen for making a nutritious meal. The same goes for in our body. The digestive power is the fire and the stomach and small intestine is the cooking pot. There is a saying in Ayurveda that you can give poison to someone with good digestive power and they will make nectar and give nectar to someone with poor digestive power and they will make poison with it.
When ama—impurities from partial or incomplete digestion of food—accumulates in the stomach and intestines, it can move about the body disrupting health functioning and bring discomfort and disease. When an illness takes a while to heal, it is often because the body needs to have the ama impurities addressed through simple dietary and herbal choices.
IWK: What are three different doshas in the Ayurveda? Can you explain to our readers why this is so important in Ayurveda?
Linda: All of the creation is composed of five basic building blocks or Mahabhutas—earth, water, fire, air, and space. These combine to make three operating principles of nature called doshas. The three doshas govern key functions in your mind and body and are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata is dominant in the elements of fire and a little water. It controls the activities of the nervous system and the process of elimination. Its main seat in the body is in your colon. Imbalance in Vata causes roughness of the skin, weight loss, dark complexion, anxiety, restlessness, worry, constipation, difficulty going to sleep, decreased strength, arthritis, and hypertension.
Pitta is dominant in the elements of air and space. It controls the activities of digestion, metabolism, and your body temperature. Its main seat is in the small intestine. Imbalance in Pitta causes yellowish complexion, anger and resentment, excessive body heat, insufficient sleep due to waking in the night, weak digestion, inflammation, skin diseases, heartburn, and Peptic ulcer.
Kapha is dominant in the elements of water and earth. It controls the activities of building and maintaining your physical body. It governs strength, immunity, and proper body structure. Imbalance in Kaphacauses a pale complexion, coldness, laziness, excessive sleep (nine hours or more), dullness, asthma, excessive weight gain, looseness of joints, and depression.
Knowing which of the doshas are dominant to you by birth or nature can help you to stay well and to get well easily and faster when illness strikes. Knowing your dominant dosha allows you to choose the foods and lifestyle choices that will best suit you.