Ayurveda – harmonizing Body, Mind and Soul
Ayurveda, literally means the science of life (Ayur = Life, Veda = Science), an ancient medical science developed in India thousands of years ago, believed to have passed on to mortals from the immortals. Developed and evolved into what it is today from several ancient discourses, notably from Atharva Veda, it dates back to 5000 years.
The ancient Vedic literature clearly laid out instructions to maintain health and fight illness through therapies, massages, herbal medicines, diet control and exercise.
This knowledge was passed on orally through a lineage of sages in India until collated into text. The oldest known texts on Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and the Ashtanga Hrudaya detail the affect that the five elements – Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Space have on our individual system, and the importance of keeping these elements balanced for a healthy Body, Mind and Spirit.
While mainstream Allopathic tends to focus on the management of disease, Ayurveda provides knowledge of how to prevent and eliminate its root cause if it does occur.
Sprouted in the pristine land of India some 5000 years ago, Ayurveda, the science of life and longevity, the oldest holistic healthcare system worldwide, combines the profound thoughts of medicine and philosophy. Since time immemorial, Ayurveda has stood for the wholesome physical, mental and spiritual growth of humanity.
In modern times, it’s a unique, indispensable branch of medicine, a complete naturalistic system that depends on the diagnosis of human body’s humors, namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha – to attain the right balance.
According to Ayurveda, each individual is influenced by certain elements more than others because of their Prakriti / Natural constitution. Ayurveda categorizes the different constitutions into three different Doshas:
- Vata – where the air and space elements dominate
- Pitta – where the fire element dominates, and
- Kapha – where the earth and water elements dominate
Vata is the most powerful of all 3 Doshas as it controls very basic body functions, like how cells divide, your mind, breathing, blood flow, heart function, and ability to get rid of waste through your intestines. Things that can disrupt it include eating again too soon after a meal, fear, grief, and staying up too late.
- When imbalanced, you’re more likely to develop conditions like anxiety, asthma, heart disease, skin problems, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Pitta controls digestion, metabolism (how well you break down foods), and certain hormones that are linked to your appetite. Things that can disrupt it are eating sour or spicy foods and spending too much time in the sun.
- When imbalanced, you’re more likely to develop conditions like inflammation of intestines, heart disease, high blood pressure, and infections.
Kapha controls muscle growth, body strength and stability, weight, and your immune system. You can disrupt it by sleeping during the day, eating too many sweet foods, and eating or drinking things that contain too much salt or water.
- When imbalanced, you may develop asthma and other breathing disorders, cancer, diabetes, nausea after eating, and obesity.
The three Doshas affect not only the shape of one’s body but also bodily tendencies (like food preferences and digestion), and the temperament of one’s mind and emotions. Most people’s Prakriti / Natural constitution is made up of a combination of two Doshas. For instance, people who are “Pitta Kapha” will have the tendencies of both Pitta Dosha and Kapha Dosha, with Pitta dominating. By understanding the qualities of our natural constitution we can do what is needed to keep ourselves in balance.
Ayurveda places great importance on one’s Pathya / Lifestyle (eating habits and daily routine) and provides guidance on how to adjust our lifestyle based on the change of seasons.
Ayurveda Treatment is divided into Shodhana and Shamana i.e. purifactory and soothing therapy.
- Shodhana includes procedures to eradicate the vitiated humors from the body, e.g., Vamana (emesis / vomiting), Virechana (purgation / cleansing), Vasti (enema), Nasya (nasal errhines / discharges).
- Shaman comprises of techniques to pacify the Doshas or bring them back to normalcy e.g., Deepana (carminative), Pachana (digestive), Upavasa (fasting) etc.
Some of the Ayurveda therapies include Abhyanga, Marma, Meru Chikitsa, Nasya, Paada Abhyanga (Foot Massage), Pinda Sweda, Shirodhara, Shirovasti, Snehana / Snehapana, Swedana (Sweat Therapy), Shirolepa, and Virechana.