Ayurveda dates back more than 5000 years originating in the Vedas,
the ancient Hindu texts that contain practical information related to almost all aspects of life.
It is that branch of the Vedas which delves into the essence of right living and healing. Literally meaning the ‘knowledge or Science (‘veda’) of life’ (‘ayur), Ayurveda is an amalgamation of different knowledge systems that combine to offer a right and healthy way of life that is disease free.What Ayurveda reveal is an amazing insight into the human body based on pure observation and deep reflections without the aid of any of the tools that are available today. The findings and suggested techniques also reveal penetrating foresight for they seem precursors to many modern medicinal principles in the area of surgery and human anatomy.
Healthy living is about living wholly, in harmony with nature, our environment and our own core self. It is about integrating our mind, body and soul. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of healing and living, is the only one of its kind in the world that addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our well being . With a therapeutic approach that gets to the core of our personality, behaviour and lifestyle, Ayurveda is more than a mere system for curing ailments; it in fact charts out a complete lifestyle for disease-free living.
Nature is the core of the Ayurvedic healing process. This means little or no dependence on chemicals and their toxic effects. Everything that Ayurveda prescribes is based on a scientific study of Nature: the herbs and their healing properties, the natural seasons and cycles and our own bio-rhythms tuned to them. The foods and medicines that Ayurveda prescribes are rooted in a knowledge base gathered from studying thousands and thousands of plants, medicinal herbs and our body’s response to them based on mutual chemistry.
Diet: Food is one of the most essential aspects of our living, vital to our physical and mental sustenance. And yet persuaded by a commercial environment and driven by the urgency of our lifestyle and also our lack of understanding, we very rarely pay close attention to what we feed into our body. Ayurveda categorizes and prescribes food based on the principle of five natural elements and the three Doshas or body constitution which are linked to the elements as also the ‘Gunas’ or natural forces which govern body and mind. A specific diet for a person is prescribed given his own body type. Ayurveda also strongly recommends the consumption of fresh and organic food. More importantly, Ayurveda encourages mindful or meditative eating by which the full essence of food can be assimilated by the body in an aware, fully engaged and respectful manner.
The crux of right eating and healing lies in knowing what suits our body, because every individual is unique physically and mentally depending on the body type he or she may have. This in turn depends on the bio-energies in our body called Doshas (Pitha, kapha and Vata) which in combination with the five elements in nature determine the mental, physical and emotional constitution of each person. Thus what Ayurveda prescribes as a lifestyle solution and as a cure for specific ailments is based on a close understanding of the body as against a one-size-fits-all approach.
The body is a wonderful mechanism that has its own self-healing processes at work to repair itself. It is when despite its own recovery processes, there is a malfunction that it starts sending us signals to sit up and take notice. And yet, even after this, we fail to listen to what our body is communicating to us. We also increasingly distance ourselves from our body’s inherent needs due to reasons based on lifestyle and social considerations. This results in suppressing of bodily urges that lead to accumulation of toxins and their manifestation in the form of diseases. We then rush to seek medical intervention. Ayurveda encourages us to be more mindful of our body and its messages so that living minus diseases is a natural process.
The 5 elements:
Ayurveda derives its healing philosophy from the fact that our body is composed of all the five elements (Panchamahabhoota) in Nature: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These elements and their combination or proportion determine the constitution of our body. They are accordingly clubbed into three ‘humours’ or body types or what Ayurveda calls the Doshas. There are three types of Doshas (Tridoshas) and when joined with the ‘Universal Force’ that resides in each living creature, these Doshas make up the bio-energy of each body.
The 3 types of Doshas:
Vata: This is composed of air and Ether and governs all bodily movements.
Pitta: Pitta is composed of fire and water and governs heat, metabolism, digestion and other transformation processes of the mind and body.
Kapha: Kapha is composed of earth and water and governs our immune system and growth.
A large part of our illnesses may be attributed to lack of adequate attention to our body signals caused by an imbalance in the Doshas resulting in accumulation of toxins and blocking of energy points in the body. The curative process in Ayurveda therefore includes removing these blockages and toxins by making us listen to our body signals and accordingly taking corrective steps based on our Dosha.
Ayurveda can be classified into Curative and Eliminative/Preventive procedures according to the body condition caused by the imbalance in the Doshas.
1. Curative or Samana :
This is to cure acute diseases and illnesses and includes all or any of these seven methods: Deepana (generating heat by increasing digestive fire) Panchana (using carminative medicinal herbs), Kshut (therapeutic fasting), Thrit (controlled fluid Intake), Vyayama (yoga asana), Athapa Seva (exposure to sun for specific duration of time) and Marutha Seva (Pranayama or breathing exercises).
2. Eliminative or Shodhana :
This involves a remedial system to cure chronic diseases and long-term ailments through cleansing the body. An important part of this is the Panchakarma, an elimination process. Panchakarma, which literally means five actions, is essentially about purification of the body by eliminating away accumulated toxins and undigested metabolic wastes that clog body channels leading to diseases. By eliminating these wastes, Panchakarma not only cures specific conditions, but also offers a preventive way of protecting the body from diseases. The five actions of Panchakarma are Vamana (therapeutic vomiting), Virechana (therapeutic purgation) , Kashaya Vasti and Sneha Vasti (two kinds of medicated enemas), Nasya (nasal medication) and Rakta moksha (blood letting) Out of which the type of purification can be decide by doctor according to the dosha and ailment. Not all five karmas are necessary for cleansing the body ,one of the purification which is most needed for the body type is enough to undergo complete purification.