What Is Ayurveda ?
INTRODUCTION TO AYURVEDA: BASIC PRINCIPLES AND THEORY
Ayurveda can be defined as a system that uses the inherent principles of nature to help maintain health in a person by keeping the individual’s body, mind, and spirit in perfect equilibrium with nature.
In simpler form according to an ancient verse…..
“Hitahitam Sukham Dukham Aayustsya hitahitam Maanam Ch tachh yatroktam Ayurved S Ucchayate”
Ayurveda is defined as the science of life management, which explain’s about the principles, diet and lifestyles that are good or bad for life, what leads to a happy or unhappy life and what is the exact span of life, that is known as Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term, made up of the words “Ayus” and “Veda.” “Ayus” means life, and “Veda” means knowledge or science. The term “ayurveda” thus means “the knowledge of life” or “the science of life.” According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, “ayu” comprises the mind, body, senses and the soul.
Ayurveda is in existence since the existence of life and the universe, as the principles of healing are based on laws of nature which are ageless and eternal
Ayurveda is Widely regarded as the oldest form of healthcare in the world, Ayurveda is an intricate medical system that originated in India thousands of years ago. The fundamentals of Ayurveda can be found in Hindu scriptures called the Vedas–the ancient Indian books of wisdom. God has created this world and has given us a manual in the form of Vedas explaining how this world works. Rig Veda, which was written over 6,000 years ago, contains a series of prescriptions that can help humans overcome various ailments. This forms the basis of Ayurveda practice, passed down to the present day.
Ayurveda is a manual of life management given by God explaining how to lead a healthy and happy life in every aspect.
The aim of this system is to prevent illness, heal the sick and preserve life. This can be summed up as follows:
To protect health and prolong life (“Swasthyas swasthya rakshanam”)
To eliminate diseases and dysfunctions of the body (“Aturasya vikar prashamanamcha”)
According to Ayurveda all physical matter as well as our body is made up of five elements-Earth, Water, Ether, Air, Fire. The only difference is that our body has a sixth element called Soul and non-living things have only five elements in different ratio and proportion. The working components of these five elements are represented by the three basic physiological humors or the biological ‘Tri-energies’ doing all the movement, metabolic reactions , providing support and nutrition. These biological tri-energies are also called Tridosha – Vata ( Kinetic Energy) , Pitta ( Thermal Energy) and Kapha (Potential Energy).
When any of the doshas accumulate in the body beyond the desirable limit, the body loses its balance. Every individual has a distinct balance, and our health and well-being depend on getting a right balance of the three doshas (“tridoshas”). Ayurveda suggests specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to help individuals reduce the excess dosha.
A healthy person, as defined in Sushrut Samhita, one of the primary works on Ayurveda, is “he whose doshas are in balance, appetite is good, all tissues of the body and all natural urges are functioning properly, and whose mind, body and spirit are cheerful…”
PANCHMAHABHOOT AND THEIR REPRESENTATION IN BODY AS TRIDOSHA -THE THEORY OF BIO-ENERGIES
Space (Ether) – Present in hollow cavities within body and empty areas of cosmos, transmits sound, non-resistant to anything, frictionless or smooth, subtle, Soft, abundant. Any diet, food or herbs with similar properties will increase Space element within the body.
Air – Light, Dry, Subtle, Mobile, Transparent, Rough are the properties of Air. It is responsible for movement, dryness in the body. Any diet, exercise, medicine which has such properties will increase “Vata” or Air element in the body.
Fire – It is hot, sharp, intense, dry, light. It emits light and heat. Any food, diet, exercise, herbs which has similar properties will increase this element in our body. For example- Chillies, Ginger, Garlic, Peppers, will increase “Pitta” or Fire element ” in the body.
Water – Water is moist, cohesive or sticky, cool, soft and oily (unctuous). Water is present in many foods, milk and herbs as well as in our body. Excess of water increases the above mentioned characteristics in our body and decreases the opposite. Water intake is useful in diseases caused by fire or ‘pitta and air or ‘vata’. For example, acidity, skin problems, constipation, dryness, excessive breakdown or accumulation of metabolites/endotoxins. In other words it acts as detoxifying agent.
Earth – It is solid, dense, stable, heavy, hard, dull and slow. It constitutes the solid structures in the universe and our body. Any food, exercise, herbs which have similar properties will provide nutrition, support and cause heaviness in the body. It will also improve strength and stability.
|Tridosh||Energy counterpart||Elementary Composition|
|Vata||Kinetic energy||Air + Ether|
|Kapha||Potential energy||Earth + Water|
Ayurvedic techniques focus on achieving that balance of Vata, Pitta, Kapha – called the trienergies.
The balance of these ‘Tri-energies’ can be maintained by our diet, lifestyle, different Ayurvedic herbs, minerals and purification procedures.
Their balance is disturbed by irregular life style, prolonged physical and mental stress, wrong dietary habits, incompatible foods, misuse of senses.
Ayurveda is a way of living in harmony with nature and guides us how to maintain a steady healthy state. It explains details about body care, daily routine, diet and various foods to promote health and maintain the balance of the ‘Tri-energies’
Vata pertains to air and ether elements. This energy is generally seen as the force that directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination.
If we do not sleep early in the night, the vata (Air element) increases leading to painful bones, cramps in the muscles, dark circles around eyes or sleep bags, constipation, dry mouth and hastens ageing process. Stale and kept overnight food also causes increased Vata. Excessive work, long traveling leads to fatigue, which is a symptom of increased Vata. This all leads to diseases like joint pains, cervical pain, backache, nervousness, confusion, insomnia, constipation etc.
Pitta pertains to fire and water elements. This dosha governs metabolism–e.g., the transformation of foods into nutrients. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems.
Pitta (Fire) is excessive heat. Consuming food, herbs and our behavior similar to properties of Pitta leads to increase in pitta. Excessive consumption of hot potency food, spices, alcohol, disturbs Pitta. The seat of Pitta is liver and stomach. Excessive aggression, anger, jealousy, hatred etc. leads to increased Pitta. This leads to diseases like peptic ulcers, liver diseases, blood pressure etc.
Kapha pertains to water and earth elements. Kapha is responsible for growth and protection. The mucus lining of the stomach and the cerebral-spinal fluid that protects the brain and spinal column are examples of kapha.
Excessive consumption of fat rich food, sedentary life style leads to vitiation of Kapha. Excessive Kapha blocks all the nutrition and elimination channels leading to obesity, diabetes. Diet and behaviour opposite to the nature of Kapha leads to cleaning up the system and balancing the kapha. (Earth + Water)
There are other concepts like Ojus, Aama, and Dhatus which need clarification here.
According to Ayurveda – The ‘Ojus’ is the vital energy present in our body that is responsible for our healthy physical and mental outlook. It gives glow to our skin, strength to our heart and body. The toxins or free radicals deplete the ‘Ojus’ within our body and there is a feeling of fatigue and depression. The toxins create imbalance of the tri-energies which also has a great negative impact on ‘Ojus’. In Ayurveda, a lot of emphasis is laid on improving the vital energy or the resistance of the person called ‘Ojus”.
Aama – It is a kind of sticky substance that forms within the body due to excessive consumption of heavy, greasy food on regular basis. Aama can be understood as disturbed form of ‘kapha’ which coats the tongue, the entire length of intestines, blocks entry and exit through micro channels of the cells, clogging of arteries. This leads to congestion within the system, leading to fermentation of the stale, undigested food lying in the intestines. This leads to formation of endotoxins, which disturb the immunological system leading to all auto-immune diseases.
Similarly there are great chances of females getting ovarian cysts, breast cancer or uterine fibroids due to abortion or a miscarriage. Abortion or miscarriage leads to accumulation of left over hormones/chemicals which are released from the hypothalamus and pituitary to help maintain a pregnancy. After abortion, those hormones which brought changes in female reproductive organs, within the breasts are no longer useful. The changes which they did are not completely undone. God decided for a woman to be pregnant and give life to someone and that woman decided to abort it. She suffers ultimately with problems caused by “Aama”. These leftover hormones can also be understood as “Aama”. Other things which can be correlated with “Aama” are Rheumatoid factor, HLA B 27 and other immunological factors responsible for autoimmune diseases. The digestive fire and individual tissues fire burns these factors and mediators, if treated properly.
Dhatus (TISSUES) – there are seven dhatus which support our body. They are
- Rasa (Plasma)
- Rakta (Blood)
- Mamsa (Muscles)
- Meda (Fatty tissue)
- Asthi (Bones)
- Majja (Bone Marrow)
- Shukra (Semen & Reproductive tissue)
The “Dhatus” described in Ayurveda are the various organs and parts of our body
AYURVEDA AND HEALTH
Health according to Ayurveda is balance of tri energies. Their imbalance is the cause of diseases or ill health.
“Samdosha samagnisch samdhatu malkriya Prassnatma indriya man swasth ityabhidhiyate”
The disease destroys health, well being and whole life
Perfect balance between physical and mental bio energies, digestive and physiological fires, balanced anabolism, proper excretory functions, blissful soul, senses and mind is health and their imbalance is disease.
Dharmartha- kama- moksanam arogyam uttamam rogastasyapahartarah sreyaso jivitasya ca
Goals of religion or Karma, material world, sensual pleasure or liberation can be achieved only if one is healthy.
(Charka Sutra Sthana 1- 15)
This ancient verse clearly indicates the importance of health to lead a happy, prosperous, and peaceful life.
Ayurveda is broad system of treatment with different therapies and herbal remedies for treating different ailments. In Ayurveda, human beings are treated on the basis of their physical and mental set up and same medicines are not recommended for different persons. Ayurveda follows a principle ‘One man’s food is another man’s poison’. Ayurveda develops different branches according to need of medical world. It mainly uses two ways- Curative and Preventive.
Preventive measures mainly focus on prevention of disease. It gives more importance to regular practice (Din Acharya) to prevent the disease rather than to treat health issues.
Curative methods deal with the treatment of diseased conditions.