Kerala’s equable climate, natural abundance of forests (with a wealth of herbs and medicinal plants), and the cool monsoon season (June – November) are best suited for Ayurveda’s curative and restorative packages.
In fact, today, Kerala is the only State in India which practices this system of medicine with absolute dedication.
It recognizes the unique constitutional differences of all individuals and therefore recommends different regimens for different types of people. Although two people may appear to have the same outward symptoms, their energetic constitutions may be very different and therefore call for very different remedies.
Ayurveda is a complete medical system, which recognizes that ultimately all intelligence and wisdom, flows from one Absolute source (Paramatman). Health manifests by the grace of the Absolute acting through the laws of Nature (Prakriti). Ayurveda assists Nature by promoting harmony between the individual and Nature by living a life of balance according to her laws.
Ayurveda describes three fundamental universal energies, which regulate all natural processes on both the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels. That is, the same energies, which produce effects in the various galaxies and star systems, are operating at the level of the human physiology–in your own physiology. These three universal energies are known as the Tridosha.
The Literal Meaning of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a holistic healing science, which comprises of two words, Ayu and Veda. Ayu means life and Veda means knowledge or science. So the literal meaning of the word Ayurveda is the science of life. Ayurveda is a science dealing not only with treatment of some diseases but is a complete way of life.
What are the basic principles of Ayurveda ?
Since Ayurveda recognizes a common origin for the universe and for humanity, Ayurveda teaches that nature consists of three primary qualities called gunas . These three gunas — Sattva , Rajas and Tamas — are inner qualities that exist behind all material forms in nature. Another great theory is of the five gross elements ( Panchamahabhutas ) — space, air, fire, water, and earth — and that the entire universe is governed and composed of these five elements. The entire physiology is made up of seven tissues ( Dhatus ) – plasma, blood, muscle, adipose tissue (fat), bone, bone marrow, and reproductive tissue. From the sap of all tissues, Ojas , the ultimate refined product of digestion and metabolism, which connects one’s physiology with consciousness and is responsible for greater immunity, is formed.
Role of Ayurveda
Ayurveda teaches us to understand our body; our particular nature; and our individual mixture of elements at a deep physical, mental and emotional level. With that knowledge we are able to identify activities, conditions, herbs and foods that either keep us healthy and in balance, or make us ill and throw us out of balance.
Ayurveda, a Holistic Path
It looks at the whole of one’s life. Health and disease are byproducts of all aspects of one’s life: nutrition, career, mental frame, family and social activities and spiritual life. If one area is weakened, all areas begin to suffer. If a person is unhappy at work, it will affect all other areas of life. The five senses are the gateways that bring in these influences; what one sees, hears, smells, touches, tastes affects all areas of health and life. The mind also plays a major role in how we act and react to the information and experiences gathered from the senses. When the mind is calm and clear, one handles a situation much better. The same situation, the same people or stresses exist at all times. How one deals with these situations will differ depending upon one’s mental frame of mind.
Western medicine has made significant progress in treating many diseases; however it has trouble curing major diseases of an aging population such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Additionally, it emphasizes the treatment of symptoms and diseases through drug therapy. Therefore Ayurveda recommends persons take time to nurture all areas of life to maintain the whole (or holistic) balance. Life is like a web, if you shake one area of the web, the entire web shakes. Like that, what one does in one area of one’s life affects all areas.
Thus In this way healing becomes fun- not a punishment.
Laws of Nature and Spirituality
In essence, Ayurveda explains the laws of nature that cause health or disease. The first cause of illness is said to be the loss of faith in the Divine or experiencing a spiritual emptiness. From here illness develops due to internal conditions (e.g., foods and liquids) or external conditions (e.g., seasons, lifestyle). The main factors that cause poor health (also described as imbalance) are 1) Poor digestion and 2) Weak immune systems.
When food is not properly digested it sits in the body. Nutrients are not absorbed and the food decays and forms toxins. These toxins cause most diseases in the body. Therefore, it is important to have good digestion.
Poor nutrition, overwork, drugs and other excesses can deplete the immune system. The finest essence of nutrition develops a life sap that protects the immune system, much like the sap of a tree heals the bruises in its bark. In addition to promoting physical health, it is the life sap that becomes transformed through meditation to produce mental peace and spiritual development. With all the immune disorders that are prevalent these days, it is even more important that persons develop their immune sap.
What Makes Ayurveda So Unique ?
- This spiritual science offers numerous unique benefits:
- It looks at people as individuals, not as a generic group.
- It heals from the root-cause of an illness, not merely treating the symptoms.
- Only natural therapies are offered.
- No side effects develop from the therapies.
- Therapies are inexpensive and effective.
Ayurveda and Health
Ayurveda forms an integral part of the daily regimen of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Its principles are utilized not only to treat persons who are ill but also to prepare a balanced meal and to construct a harmonious environment to live in. Ayurveda brings to life the concepts of preventive health care and health promotion. The goal of Ayurveda is to help an individual discover the knowledge of living and health. Health is the state of harmonious chemical balance in a living organism. Our health depends on the chemical environments inside and outside our bodies. Food plays an important role in creating the internal chemical environment.
What is the definition of health according to Ayurveda ?
Ayurveda has Holistic concept of Health. Disease free status of the body does not mean health. Swastha (Health) means to be ‘established in the self’.
The Ayurvedic view of healthy person is :
Swastha iti abhidhiyate.
(Sushrut Samhita, Sutrasthan, Chapter 15, Shloka 10)
“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 (self) are cheerful or full of bliss, he is a healthy person.
Approach to Life-style according to Ayurveda
Health is greatly influenced by Life-Style (Swastha-vritta). According to Ayurveda, Life-style (the rules and guidelines) is divided into three parts:
- Dincharya (Diet and regimen for the daytime)
- Ratricharya (Diet and regimen for the night)
- Ritucharya (Seasonal Dietary and regimen) – Sandhikal (diet instructions for the joint period of two seasons).
One more thing that is very helpful for the knowledge of proper life-style ‘Samsarjan kram’ means specific diet program after illness or after Panchkarma Treatments. For perfect health, long, diseases free body status – one must follow these instructions.
How does Ayurveda work ?
Ayurveda works by balancing the three Doshas – Vata,Pitta and Kapha which govern the internal health of the body.
Vata functions as a means to deconstruct body tissues and substances in order for the body to better use them. Evening hours, summer, and old age are linked to Vata Dosha. This Dosha also governs the nervous system. Dark skin, tall stature, anxiousness, and gregariousness characterize a Vata individual. Things that can be detrimental to Vata balance are excessive exercise, insomnia, over abundance of sexual activity.
- Metabolism, digestive issues, and energy conversions of all types are controlled by Pitta. Midday, autumn, and adulthood are also associated with this Dosha. The profile of a person with strong Pitta characteristics will be fair skinned, and of medium build. They are also likely to be highly emotional. Pitta can be adversely influenced by hot foods, tea, coffee, alcohol, over-exposure to the sun, and unexpressed emotions.
- The Kapha Dosha governs the body’s ability to repair and renew itself. It controls the fluid flow within the body. It is associated with morning hours, winter, and youth. A Kapha individual is typically heavy in build with a medium skin tone. Certain foods, particularly sweets and dairy products, are disruptive to the functions associated with Kapha.
Hat conditions respond well to Ayurvedic treatment ?
Such common ailments as the cold, acne, and obesity can be treated with Ayurvedic methods. Chronic diseases such as asthma, arthritis, and high blood pressure, which have been difficult to treat by other means, have responded well to this health care system. Ayurveda also addresses digestive and excretory disorders like ulcers, cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice and hepatitis. Emotional and mental challenges such as substance abuse, anxiety, and smoking can benefit from Ayurvedic treatment.
How are Ayurvedic treatments performed ?
Ayurveda uses a variety of techniques to bring about a cure. Ayurvedic practitioners often stress good nutrition, exercise, Yoga (meditation), and stress management. Pancha Karma, a purification process is used for cleansing the toxins or amas from the body. Herbal formulations are prescribed for some ailments while other conditions are treated with therapeutic massages.
Who can be helped with Ayurveda ?
Because of its deep and comprehensive insights, Ayurveda can help babies, children and teenagers, adults, seniors, and during pregnancy. Ayurveda offers therapies for all health concerns, from colds to cancer, emotional issues to epilepsy. Therapies cover hereditary, congenital, chronic or mild concerns.
The basic view of Ayurveda is that all of life (people, food, animals, nature, the universe, and diseases) are combinations of three energy-elements: air (called Vayu or Vata), fire (called Pitta), and water (called Kapha). When these elements are balanced, one is healthy. Illness is defined as an imbalance of these elements; all disorders are excesses of one or more element.
People and the Elements
A person’s constitution (dosha) is predominantly one or more of these elements. Each element relates to certain body types, foods and health concerns. By nature, whatever a person’s constitution is, they have a tendency for it to become excessed. For example:
- Vayu dosha constitution person (air) is thin and bony. Physical symptoms of excess air include dry skin, cracking bones, gas and constipation. Mental symptoms of excess air include fear, worry, anxiety and nervousness. When a Vayu dosha constitution (air) person is balanced they are creative, adaptable and have no physical health concerns. Ayurveda notes that certain foods increase air and other foods reduce air. In general, excess air is reduced by eating cooked or steamed foods, and eating every three or four hours. Foods like carrots, rice and mung beans reduce excess air. Broccoli, baked beans and barley increase air (e.g., they cause gas). Excessive lifestyles also increase the air element.
- Pitta dosha constitution people (Fire) tend towards excess heat. When healthy they are strong, make good leaders and are warm and goal oriented. When the Pitta dosha is imbalanced, mentally they become hot tempered, impatient, and irritable. Physically they develop heat-related disorders such as acne, rashes, diarrhea, ulcers, toxic blood, liver, kidney, gall bladder, heart and spleen disorders.
- Kapha dosha constitutions (water) tend towards excess water. When healthy they are strong, muscular, calm and loyal. When water becomes excess, they develop lethargy, and a hoarding or greedy nature. Physically they develop congestion, overweight, edema, heart and kidney problems, etc. Health means balance. Each constitution has a natural tendency to become imbalanced. By eating foods and living a lifestyle that reduces the the excesses, one remains balanced. Balancing produces healing, prevention, and reverses the aging process. Many people have two or even all three elements in their constitution. In these cases, both elements tend toward excess. Thus foods and lifestyles that reduce both elements need to be followed.
Ayurveda, Balance is the Key
Balance is a very key concept in Ayurveda. Proper digestion, assimilation, and elimination are impaired when basic forces inside us are driven out of balance by stress, repressed emotions, inappropriate diet or lifestyle, insufficient rest, environmental toxins, climate or seasonal changes. This causes accumulation of a toxic substance, ama, which leads to disease. The key to prevention or treatment of disease is to restore balance. Ayurveda provides a clear, concise, cohesive regimen to help people restore balance and health in their mind and body in a natural way.
It is important to remember that unlike allopathic (modern) medicines, Ayurvedic preparations are safe to use for all age groups, free from side effects, non-allergenic and non-habit forming.