Ayurveda as a life science

Published by Shruti on

I wanted to dedicate this post to share why I started to care deeply about Ayurveda and writing this blog.

I’d love to share my experiments in wellness with you through this medium. This is a blog about learning and applying Ayurveda for well being. I want to share all the details from my personal life story; as honestly as possible. 

But two unexpected things happened when I started writing this blog which reaffirmed my belief that this blog should exist. 

Stinky poop, smelly sweat and bad breath: Too much information?

One, while writing these first few posts, I found myself writing about things that are socially awkward or taboo to share in public. Stinky poop, smelly sweat, bad breath.. Especially being a woman, this is socially unacceptable. My husband read the post and asked me an important question. 

Are you sure you want to put this stuff out for everyone to see. Is this too much information?

I won’t lie but I did panic for a moment. My friends, family, ex colleagues, future colleagues.. What will they think of me? 

But the truth is that we can’t talk about wellness without talking about stinky poop, smelly sweat and bad breath! There are only a few situations when we are forced to talk about this with someone else. One is when we are feeling unwell and our parents or spouses hound us. Two, when we are unwell and see a doctor. Honestly, this doesn’t make sense. 

Ayurveda is a rich resource to understand good or poor health based on the observation of our stool, urine, sweat, nails, breath, tongue and eyes etc. Thousands of years back, there were no x-rays, ultrasounds or microscopes. Yet, Ayurvedic texts use observation, testing and evidence to develop a rich diagnostic tool kit which can be used at home by anyone. Thousands of dollars didn’t need to be spent to diagnose and treat imbalances in the body.

Each of us as individuals can learn about this natural intelligence in our body that indicates the status of our health. Ayurveda can teach us how to observe and read simple signals from the body. For example:

  • What healthy stool, urine or sweat should be like?
  • What does healthy breath smell like?
  • What does a healthy tongue look like?

For example, let’s talk about what defines healthy poop according to Ayurveda. Healthy stool occurs one to two times daily. In a perfectly healthy individual, the first bowel movement of the day occurs within a few minutes of waking, ideally before sunrise. If there is a second bowel movement later in the day, it often occurs after a meal, in the afternoon or evening. 

Signs of a balanced stool:

  • Well formed, about the consistency of a ripe banana
  • Maintain their shape after being eliminated
  • Light brownish-yellow color
  • Float (if eliminated into a toilet bowl containing water).
  • Slightly oily
  • Not sticky; the anal orifice is easily cleaned and the stool does not stick to the toilet.
  • Mild odor

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn any of this in school and I may not be alone.

So if we want to make a difference to our understanding of wellness, we can choose to foster awareness. If we can get past the idea that this is embarrassing or inappropriate to talk about; I am very optimistic that we will find something profound, something life-changing that can positively impact our journey towards wellness.  

Ayurveda versus Science?

The second unexpected realization was that my interest in Ayurveda began in scientific inquiry. Many people come to Ayurveda on their path to yoga, spirituality, body work or religion. I have a lot of respect for people practicing these disciplines however I personally haven’t been doing that. I don’t have many people around me who are practicing these either. 

For people like me who studied sciences like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths in school but never got exposed to holistic approaches – there may be a big hurdle to becoming open to sciences like Ayurveda. I was talking about Ayurveda to a friend who studied Psychology and she made a comment that made me pause.

I don’t believe in Ayurveda.

I wasn’t talking about flying carpets. I wasn’t talking about unicorns. Yet I could totally understand where her statement came from. We aren’t taught Ayurveda in school as a scientific subject like Maths or Biology or Physics. For example, we never say, 

  • I don’t believe in Newton’s laws of physics. 
  • I don’t believe in the periodic table.

No, we never say that. Because we learnt those sciences at a young age. We didn’t question those principles as kids the way we might question something new today. Someone new to the modern sciences, could be equally baffled by Newton’s Laws or the Periodic table. These are the building blocks to understanding Physics or Chemistry. At some point, we simply believed these to be true. Without that belief, there is no moving forward in these subjects. Therefore, belief goes hand in hand with scientific inquiry.

However our interactions with ancient practices like Ayurveda are often shrouded in religious faith, doubt and mystery. We hear about sages who’ve been living in the Himalayas for 200 years. We see god men wearing saffron colors doing yoga and selling Ayurvedic medicines. We hear about mystics whose touch can heal you. We hear of treatments involving swallowing of raw, live fish or putting ghee (clarified butter) in the eyes. It is not familiar; at times it borders on crazy talk. How can we become open to something that we do not understand? So we joke that it’s all mumbo jumbo, superstition, grandma’s tales or new age hippy stuff

What if there could be another way of looking at this? 

I came to Ayurveda looking for a way to supplement my scientific understanding of health and well being. I will not attempt to prejudge this discipline. I will lean in to my sense of doubt and scientific questioning when I feel it. Yet, I will also open myself up to learning a new science & its possibilities.

For me, Ayurveda goes hand in hand with scientific inquiry. It’s not Ayurveda versus Science. It’s Ayurveda and Science. I’m very optimistic that this blog allows us to engage in a healthy conversation around this. 

In order to understand this science, we will sometimes make little detours into  some of the fundamental concepts in Ayurveda. Like we did in the last post about 3 Ayurvedic principles. Or learning about the concept of Prakriti and the 3 doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Understanding these concepts will help solidify our understanding of Ayurveda as a science so I definitely encourage you to dig deeper into the concepts or ask me questions when something doesn’t quite add up.  This will keep me honest as well as allow us to engage in meaningful discussion.

I invite you to join me on this journey of seeking wellness and hope that you will find it meaningful. 

The next few posts will begin to uncover the first few weeks of my journey towards wellness. In the next post, I will share how the concept of Agni can help with assessing one’s lifestyle to uncover opportunities for change. See you there!