Ayurveda is a holistic Indian system of medicine that uses a constitutional model. It works to provide a flexible guidance to attain a state of positive health. Its treatment and techniques is also flexible for people with health challenges.
Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit root words: Ayu, which means Life, and Veda, which means the Knowledge. Thus it would be safe to call Ayurveda as the ‘Science of life’ more than a mere system of treating an illness.
History of Ayurveda
The ancient rishis or seers of truth, discovered truth by means of religious practices & disciplines. Through intensive meditation, they manifested truth in their daily lives. Ayurvedic system of health is conversance of practical, philosophical & religious experiences of the great sages. The historical evidence of Ayurveda can be found in ancient books of wisdom known as the Vedas. Atharva Veda, that is known to have been written over 10,000 years ago, describes Ayurveda as a system that helps maintain health in a person by using the inherent principles of nature to bring the individual back into equilibrium with their true self.
Ayurveda and Science
Ayurveda is a fine blend of Science, Religion & Philosophy as well. We use the word religion to denote philosophical perceptions and discipline in conduct through which, the doors of perception open to all aspects of life. In Ayurveda, whole of life’s journey is considered to be sacred. Through its scientific approach to human life, Ayurveda works to harness the intricate abilities of human body and mind. With its philosophical approach to human life, Ayurveda preaches us to recognize ourselves as miniscule component of this magnificent universe. The philosophy of Ayurveda also teaches a series of conceptual systems characterized by balance & disorder and health & disease. Disease/health results from the interconnectedness between the self, personality, and everything that occurs in the mental, emotional, and spiritual being. Therefore, to be healthy, harmony must exist between the purpose for healing, thoughts, feelings and physical action.
The physiological and pharmacological concepts of Ayurveda are structured in "whole- someness". Therefore, the Ayurvedic description of "human body" and the "drugs" are dealt from a holistic plane. Even their "interface" is identified from a holistic perspective.
Ayurvedic Body Types
Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas or the three basic energy types which are further classified as vata, pitta & kapha. According to Ayurveda, these doshas or energies can be found in everyone and everything thus making them the essential building blocks of the material world. All the three doshas combine to create different climates, different foods, different species, and even different individuals within the same species and perform different physiological functions in every individual body. In fact, the particular ratio of vata, pitta, and kapha within each of us has a significant influence on our individual physical, mental, and emotional character traits.
Here’s explaining you the three doshas and the different functions they perform within the body.
1) Vata Dosha (wind energy):Vata is predominantly composed of the space and air elements. It is the energy that is linked to creativity & flexibility and controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, tissue movement, cellular mobility, heartbeat and the communication between mind and the nervous system. When an imbalance of vata dosha occurs in the body, it can produce fear and anxiety.
2) Pitta Dosha (fire energy):Pitta is principally made up of the fire and water elements and is an amalgamation of the hot, sharp, light, liquid, oily, and subtle qualities. Pitta is neither mobile nor stable, but spreads. It controls the body's metabolic systems including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body's temperature. When in balance, it lends contentment & intelligence and its imbalance can cause ulcers and anger.
3) Kapha Dosha (water energy):Kapha is composed primarily of the earth and water elements. It is the energy that lends structure and solidity to all things and provides the cohesiveness needed to maintain a particular form. It controls growth in body and provides water to all parts of the body. As a result, it hydrates all cells and systems, lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin, maintains immunity and protects the tissues. When in balance, it is expressed as love and forgiveness; and when it goes out of balance it can lead to feelings of insecurity & envy.
Panchamahabhutas - Five Great Elements
Ayurveda believes that everything in this universe is made up of five the basic elements. These elements are classified as earth (prithvi), water (jal), fire (agni), wind (vayu) & space or ether (akash). Collectively these five basic elements are known as Panchamahabhutas.
Since, Ayurveda believes that the components and functioning of the nature is similar to the functioning of human body, the concept of Panchamahabhutas is considered to be the foundation of Ayurveda and also pivotal to the understanding of the functioning and movement of human body.
These Panchmahabutas are present in every being (living or non-living), substances, materials and objects that are present in the universe. These elements can also be called mahabhutas due to their large size in comparison to their precursor bhutas (minute forms of mahabhutas) or due to their extensive presence. But in a nutshell, the fact remains that everything in the creation is made up of these Panchamahabhutas and there is nothing present in this universe that can be called devoid of these 5 elements.
So, how does the physical body comes to function with regards to the Panchmahabuta? When these 5 basic elements making up the composition of the human body gets impregnated with atma or soul, the life gets manifested in the mass of 5 elements which we call as physical body. Imbalances occurring with respect to one or more elements in the body would lead to the diseases pertaining to that particular element or elements which have undergone imbalance. For example, the bone tissue is made up predominantly of the prithvi (earth) element and when this element undergoes any kind of imbalance, it leads to bone related diseases like osteoarthritis etc.
The Ayurveda treatment principles are also largely based on correcting the imbalances of Panchamahabhuta in the body. Thus it becomes very important for one to understand the concept of Panchamahabhuta, before anything else especially with regards to the treatment.
Ayurveda for Everyday Life
Ayurveda is best described as the art of living in harmony with the laws of nature. An ancient Indian system of natural and holistic medicine, it promotes living a balanced life by bringing about healthy and natural lifestyle changes. The age old wisdom contained in Ayurveda is as relevant today as it was back in the time. Ayurveda and its principles can easily be adapted in today’s fast paced life to maintain and lead a healthy, stress free and balanced life.
Ayurveda has three main focuses: healing, prevention & healthcare. Health care includes maintenance of good health as well as rejuvenation and methods to achieve longevity. Ayurvedic Home Remedies
can prove effective in treating various ailments. But the main focus is on prevention as it is easier to maintain health than to restore it once it has become a wreck.
Ayurveda places great amount of importance on one’s pathya (lifestyle), eating habits and daily routine. It also provides guidance on how one can adjust his/her lifestyle according to the surroundings and inclusion of ayurvedic products
and medicinal plants
to lead a healthy lifestyle. Including Ayurveda in your everyday life does not require you to undergo a major lifestyle change. Small and minor things like opting for natural or organic ingredients instead of chemically treated products and food items can do the trick.
Moving on from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one that would include routine exercises like walking can go a long way in keeping you healthy and fit. Drinking fresh juice instead of canned or preservative laden juices and including seasonal & fresh vegetables in your meal will block creation of ama or toxins in the body thus keeping you fresh and active whole day long. Apart from this, Ayurveda also recommends drinking plenty of water through the day as it will help flush out harmful toxins from the body and a glass of warm, before bedtime, to prevent indigestion and get a relaxing and good night’s sleep.
Benefits of Ayurveda Based Lifestyle
- It increases immunity
- It is natural
- It has no side-effects
- It recommends eating foods that are easily available, non-toxic & aids in healing
- Removes diseases from the root
- Improves bodily functions
- Helps maintain a healthy weight
- Increases one’s life span
- Relaxes, rejuvenates & revitalizes