Sustainability In Ayurveda: Essential Principles & Guidelines

 

Sustainability In Ayurveda
Essential Principles and Guidelines By Sarah Devi Otto­-Combs

While words like “sustainability” and “Ayurveda” have become increasingly popular in recent years, there has been little conversation about what it really means to practice Ayurveda sustainably. As Ayurveda has taken hold in the West, there has been a corresponding surge in use of herbs from the Ayurvedic Apothecary. Aushadhis, or medicines, such as ashwagandha and triphala that were once foreign commodities are now commonplace and readily available in most cities in local co­ops and natural food stores. This in addition to the plethora of products available from India directly online has vastly changed the face of this market. While this has a been a boon for many reasons, there is a side of this industry that hasn’t been talked about as much, namely the environmental impact of ordering herbs from halfway around the world. How can we practice Ayurveda sustainably for both ourselves and our clients in a globalized marketplace, and what does that really mean?

To understand this question requires that we step back and take a look at the history of Ayurveda. Though Kerala is often referred to as the birthplace of Ayurveda, this science has been practiced across the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years, with varying expressions based on the climate, culture, and substances available for medicinal use. These regional differences were integral in shaping the differences seen in treatment, especially in terms of herbs. The underlying principles of treatment were and are the same, but the substances used for treatment were not. People were not importing herbs from across the globe, they were using what was available in their own backyards.

Environmental Sustainability - We Have Choices

 

Essential Principles & Guidelines ...
It is precisely this notion that must be imported with the rest of the glory of Ayurveda. Many herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousand of years are now endangered due to over harvesting, and should not be purchased. Such stories are a result of demand as much as they are of supply; let us be impeccable in our choices as consumers, purchasing only that which has been verifiably sourced as organic and sustainable. We must also consider that even when organic and sustainably harvested, these medicines are travelling thousands of miles to get to us, contributing to fossil fuel emissions in addition to often being shipped in plastic packaging and containers. By seeking out what is available locally or growing our own herbs, we are supporting sustainable practices and getting fresher product to boot!

How else does practicing Ayurveda sustainably translate practically? Remember that Ayurveda is vast in scope, and that herbs are in fact only a small portion of what we use to treat ourselves and clients. By following these simple guidelines, we can help ensure that Ayurveda is practiced effectively without putting unnecessary strain on precious resources like herbs and fossil fuels.

 

1) Diet & Lifestyle First.
Always use diet and lifestyle first and foremost to treat yourself and your clients! Ayurveda teaches us that all diseases begin in the g.i. tract, caused primarily by wrong foods, poor food combining, food at the wrong time, and eating food in the wrong way. If we give and take herbs without addressing this, then we are using herbs irresponsibly and unsustainably. This is a very different paradigm from what we are accustomed to in the West, and requires that we are personally accountable for our actions and how they impact our state of health. Don’t just blindly take herbs without addressing the foundation of what sustains you, namely your daily routines and what you digest!

 

2) Act Locally.
Get to know herbs available locally! This could mean using yarrow or elderberry instead of sitopaladi to support yourself in cold and flu season, or becoming familiar with the medicinal properties of your spice cabinet. Many locally available herbs have actions parallel to what we import from India, and when administered with with the precision of Ayurvedic preparation and administration can yield greater potency and efficacy due to the freshness of the plant.

Common spices such as cumin and turmeric also have profound healing properties, and are powerful allies in our arsenal of medicinal substances. Tulsi is an herb easily grown in a pot indoors, and is said to bring blessings simply by having it in your home! These are just a few examples of the many ways we can augment our health without importing herbs unnecessarily.

3) Be impeccable with sourcing!
Be impeccable with sourcing! If you or your practitioner determine that traditional Ayurvedic compounds are the best option for treatment, make sure that your herbs are organic and sustainably harvested. Be aware of what herbs are endangered, and of what herbs are appropriate substitutes for such medicines. Companies like Banyan Botanicals and Organic India are great resources for herbs from India, and many Ayurvedic practitioners grow their own herbs for client use. Herbs like jatamansi and sandalwood are highly endangered, and should not be used lightly. Though wonderful medicines, we have a vast array of other medicines to choose from that are not endangered, and in fact should do so.

The Takeaway ...
The takeaway is that to practice Ayurveda does not require use of only the Indian pharmacopoeia. Ayurveda is a science based on a universally applicable set of principles, adaptable based on what you have access to, and does not require knowledge of traditional Ayurvedic formulations. To practice Ayurveda is to practice a philosophy of awareness of the impacts of the choices we make on a daily basis. The resources of our planet are precious and to be cherished as dearly as we cherish our own lives, for without them there is no us. It is through our cooperation and oneness with Nature that we are able to flourish, and to live this way is to embody our fullest capacity as human beings. This is the ultimate expression of Ayurveda.

About The Author 
Sarah Devi Otto-Combs

Sarah Devi Otto-Combs
 uses the Ayurvedic paradigm of constitutional analysis to help her clients achieve the foundation of good health that we all deserve and desire. Using Ayurvedic principles, she helps her clients to rectify both recent and long lingering imbalances, that they may live life to its fullest and with joy.

“There is so much to be gained through understanding ourselves through the lens of Ayurveda, and I am here to guide my clients through that process. My hope is that the aforementioned may serve as a guide to deeper understanding of this paradigm, as this is also the foundation of how we treat clients as Ayurvedic practitioners.” In addition to practicing and studying Ayurveda, Sarah Devi is a student of Odissi classical Indian dance.  She is also the co-proprietor of Keeper of the Ink, an all natural tattoo aftecare product made in the Pacific Northwest.  Feel free to contact her with any questions or comments.


“Who Are You? “ Understanding the Prakruti / Vikruti Paradigm Of Ayurveda

 

“Who are you? “ 
Understanding The Prakruti/Vikruti Paradigm Of Ayurveda
By Sarah Devi Otto-­Combs

Many of us have begun our forays into Ayurveda by reading various books and articles on the subject. This mode of learning can yield moments of great clarity and insight into who we each are as individuals, followed by confusion as we wade through the symptomatology attributed to various doshic imbalances. These "aha!" moments followed by "what?" are related to the foundational understanding of prakruti and vikruti that is necessary to fully understand the paradigm of Ayurvedic medicine and diagnosis.

Are you new to Ayurveda? 
Click Here To Learn More About Ayurveda & The Wisdom Of The Doshas

To understand our unique constitution, we must first determine what our “prakruti” is, or rather, our constitution at birth. While many say that you can’t truly know a person’s prakruti without reading their pulse (which I am in agreement with), we can get an idea of our constitutional makeup through self quizzes found in many books on the subject. This means we look at things like bone structure, how your body holds weight (thin to chubby), color of hair, and your general nature (competitive vs. anxious vs. passive, etc.) over your whole life, i.e. more permanent aspects of your way of being.

Vikruti - Your Currrent State 
This is in contrast to determining your “vikruti”, which is your current state or ratio of doshas, literally defined as “imbalance”. Here we look at fluctuations in weight, quality of skin and hair, energy levels, and our emotional status, to name just a few examples. 99% of us are imbalanced in some way or another, with the 1% who are categorized most often as saints and enlightened beings. In my lineage of Ayurveda, we compare these two using numbers. For example, if someone has a birth constitution, or prakruti, of Vata 1, Pitta 3, Kapha 2, but a vikruti of Vata 2, Pitta 3, Kapha 2, we would see that this person has elevated vata, or a vata vikruti, though we consider them to be a Pitta dominant individual.

Seems straightforward, right?
Well, not always. What may be confusing is that we can often have doshic imbalances that are not related to the dominant dosha of our prakruti. This may be unclear from much of the literature people use at home to determine their Ayurvedic constitutions. For example, I had a friend who was quite clearly a pitta­-kapha type constitution, who clearly also had a vata type imbalance. I told her that she was vata, something she didn’t relate to because she was only identifying herself with her prakruti, instead of her current state, or vikruti.

"Oh, You Are So Vata!"

Confusing Point Number Two ~­ Semantics!
When referring to the doshic state of others, we are often guilty of saying things like,”Oh, you are so vata”, without referencing whether or not we are referring to a person’s prakrti or vikrti. This can leave the average person who has little to no formal Ayurvedic education feeling very confused, and with good reason! No wonder my friend didn’t relate to my declaration that she was vata, because every book she had read described her prakruti as Pitta and Kapha, and rightly so. I wasn’t clear that it was her vikruti that was being referenced.

What does this mean for the average person who wants to understand their Ayurvedic constitution? It means that we need to take a look at our current physical and mental makeup as compared to our historic physical and mental status to understand our foundational state vs. “imbalances”. This is best done with the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner, and here is an example of why ...

A Practical Example ... 
A client may come to us wanting to balance pitta or kapha dosha, when in fact it is vata that is wreaking havoc within the body, . This is a very important point of differentiation and without this understanding, we may manage the underlying cause improperly, only aggravating the underlying imbalance. What happens if someone identifies themselves as kapha through self diagnosis and starts to follow a kapha pacifying diet and lifestyle when in fact they have a vata vikruti or vata imbalance?

This would serve only to exacerbate rather than remedy the feelings of ill health they may be experiencing, as pacifying kapha would cause them to follow a vata aggravating diet and lifestyle. As with any journey, a knowledgeable guide can save us from many wrong twists and turns, which is why it is so important to consult with a professional so we don’t get lost in the maze of wrong diagnosis. Ayurveda is a profound art that can yield great healing and understanding of self, but only if properly understood.

About The Author
Sarah Devi Otto-Combs
Sarah Devi Otto-Combs uses the Ayurvedic paradigm of constitutional analysis to help her clients achieve the foundation of good health that we all deserve and desire. Using Ayurvedic principles, she helps her clients to rectify both recent and long lingering imbalances, that they may live life to its fullest and with joy.

"There is so much to be gained through understanding ourselves through the lens of Ayurveda, and I am here to guide my clients through that process. My hope is that the aforementioned may serve as a guide to deeper understanding of this paradigm, as this is also the foundation of how we treat clients as Ayurvedic practitioners." In addition to practicing and studying Ayurveda, Sarah Devi is a student of Odissi classical Indian dance.  She is also the co-proprietor of Keeper of the Ink, an all natural tattoo aftecare product made in the Pacific Northwest.  Feel free to contact her with any questions or comments.