The key to wellbeing is to first recognize the best balance for us in our body and our mind

One of the fundamental teachings of ayurveda is to recognize pairs of opposites. Our natural world can be viewed through the balance between such pairs. For example, heat and cold are a pair of opposites in the external environment. It is only when they are in balance that they create the beautiful ecosystem of life that we see on the earth.

Though hot and cold oppose each other, they operate cyclically in the world, so that neither goes to extremes for too long. For instance, when heat increases, hot air rises and eventually brings rain back to the earth and cools it. The seasonal changes that sweep across the face of the earth are a result of this balance. And that balance is essential for even the tiniest species of life to exist on the earth.

Just as there are opposing forces in the environment outside, we can see that there are similar opposing forces inside our human body as well. Too much heat or too much cold will upset our inner balance. When body temperatures shoot up more than a few degrees above normal, a person can suffer irreversible brain injury or even die. Likewise, a person will die if their body temperature drops too low. This is an extreme example of what we call the imbalance of heat and cold. Similarly, excess of water or too much dryness, excess movement or too much stasis, excess heaviness or too much lightness, can all lead to ill-health.

Overseeing this balance of functions in our inner ecosystem is the innate intelligence in our body, our life force. But that inner ecosystem is profoundly affected by the choices we make, by the inputs we feed it. We can support an external ecosystem or destroy it by our actions and inputs. We can grow a forest or burn it. We can let a stream flow or drain it. We can pollute the soil or nurture it. Similarly, we can support our internal ecosystem or damage it by our actions and inputs.

When we disrupt our innate balance, the body’s intelligence usually tries to restore it. But that capacity can be pushed beyond recovery or fail to recognize when it should act or not. We must also use the greater capacity we have as humans—that of conscious choice—to support and guide our body and mind back to wellbeing and not away towards ill-health!

Therefore, a key to wellbeing is to first recognize the best balance for us in our body and mind. This state of equilibrium is at the heart of what ayurveda teaches us, it is the state called svastha. Once we understand that, we will know when we are moving too far away from that equilibrium, and we can learn the skills to bring ourselves us back to it. That is where can experience wellbeing with pleasantness and ease. This wellbeing is profoundly rewarding, and it is also the ground for the deeper self-transformation practices of yoga.