When we use the word longevity in the West, we mean extending life, growing old gracefully, staying healthy the whole way. We often measure longevity in numbers—eighty, ninety, one hundred years. To reach this goal, there may be rigid diets to follow and many herbs and supplements to swallow. Stress-reduction techniques, exercise, and yoga are surely a part of the current longevity mix. And while most people feel better following this path, few are able to stick to it for long because it is restrictive and time-intensive.
When we use the word longevity in Ayurveda, we mean something different—life extension is considered a side benefit of a very comprehensive approach to life itself. The word Ayurveda literally means the knowledge (veda) of life (ayus). It studies how to be fulfilled and reach full human potential now, rather than simply adding a few good years.
While Westerners focus on connecting the mind and body for living life to the fullest, Ayurveda focuses on connecting the mind, body, and self. The self represents the field of consciousness from which, according to Ayurveda, everything comes. It is understood that our individual mind and body are reflections of that field, and that the cause of disease or illness is when we lose connection to our roots in consciousness. This loss is called pragya paradh, which means the “mistake of the intellect”—the intellect chooses to see itself as separate from the self or the underlying field of consciousness from which we come.
So, when we look at anti-aging and longevity in Ayurveda, we are considering techniques that will restore this memory of consciousness into every cell of the body. The resulting experience, much like an atom, a hurricane, or a solar system, is silent on the inside and incredibly powerful on the outside. Stress, which triggers the production of degenerative stress-fighting hormones and free radicals, literally strips the silence or consciousness out of our cells. The goal in Ayurvedic longevity and Ayurveda in general is to replace that stress with silence and live life to our full potential, in the eye of the hurricane—calm and powerful.
Rejuvenate with rasayanas
The eight major branches of Ayurveda range from pediatrics to longevity. The branch that deals with longevity is called rasayana, meaning rejuvenation.
A rasayana is also a category of herbal preparations designed to rejuvenate the body, mind, and self at the deepest possible level. In Ayurveda, stress is understood to be a causative factor in the disease process, in part because stress lodges toxins deep within the tissues of the body. A rasayana is designed to remedy stress and repair and rejuvenate the deep tissues of the body. Usually a rasayana is a combination of many herbs and minerals, sometimes as many as forty, that are put through an extensive preparation process that can take days or even weeks to complete. This elaborate process is designed to refine and enhance the potency of the herbs so that they can be absorbed into the deep tissues of the body.