"A gateway to Indian Medical Heritage."
Ayurveda in Sanskrit means
"the science of Life". It is an ancient, unfailing system of treatment
based on medicines prepared from herbal plants found in abundance in
India. Ayurveda is an integral part of the people of India. In the
recent years this ancient knowledge system of medicine has gained
global acceptance especially for alternative ways of preventive,
curative and rejuvenative processes making life a more pleasurable
We can find historical
evidence of Ayurveda in the ancient books of wisdom known as the
Vedas. In the Rig Veda, over 60 preparation were mentioned that could
be used to assist an individual in overcoming various ailments. The
Rig Veda was written over 6,000 years ago, but really Ayurveda has
been around even longer than that.
We are all part and parcel
of nature. Just as the animals and plants live in harmony with nature
and utilize the Laws of Nature to create health and balance within
their beings, we, too, adhere to these very same principles. In
essence Ayurveda has been in existence since the beginning of time
because we have always been governed by nature's laws.
Ayurveda is made up of two
Sanskrit words: Ayu which means life and Veda which means the
To know about life is
Ayurveda. However, to fully comprehend the vast scope of Ayurveda let
us first define "Ayu" or life. According to the ancient Ayurvedic
scholar Charaka, "ayu" is comprised of four essential parts. The
combination of mind, body, senses and the soul.
Mind, Body and Senses
We tend to identify most
with our physical bodies; yet, in actuality, there is more to us then
what meets the eye. We can see that underlying our physical structure
is the mind, which not only controls our thought processes but helps
assist us in carrying out day-to-day activities such as respiration,
circulation, digestion and elimination. The mind and the body work in
conjunction with one another to regulate our physiology. In order for
the mind to act appropriately to assist the physical body, we must use
our senses as information gatherers.
We can think of the mind
as a computer and the senses as the data which gets entered into the
computer. Smell and taste are two important senses that aid in the
digestive process. When the mind registers that a particular food is
entering the gastrointestinal tract, it directs the body to act
accordingly by releasing various digestive enzymes. However, if we
overindulge the taste buds with too much of a certain taste, such as
sweet, we may find that the ability of the mind to perceive the sweet
taste is impaired; and thereby the body becomes challenged in its
ability to process sweet foods. Maintaining the clarity of our senses
is an essential part in allowing the mind and body to integrate their
functions and help in keeping us healthy and happy individuals.
Ayurveda also sees that
before we exist in physical form with the help of the mind and senses
that we exist in a more subtle form known as the soul. The ancient
seers of India believed that we were comprised of a certain energetic
essence that precluded the inhabitance of our physical entity. In
fact, they hypothesized that we may indeed occupy many physical bodies
throughout the course of time but that our underlying self or soul
What we see to help
illustrate this concept is what transpires at the time of death. When
the individual nears the time to leave the physical body, many of
his/her desires will cease to be present. As the soul no longer
identifies with the body, the desire to eat food or indulge in a
particular activity that used to be a great source of satisfaction for
that person drops by the wayside. In fact, many individuals have been
documented to experience the sensation of being "out of their bodies."
There are several aspects
to Ayurveda that are quite unique :
Its recommendations are
often different for each person regarding which foods and which
lifestyle they should follow in order to be completely healthy. This
is due to it's use of a constitutional model.
Everything in Ayurveda
is validated by observation, inquiry, direct examination and
knowledge derived from the ancient texts.
It understands that
there are energetic forces that influence nature and human beings.
These forces are called the Tridoshas.
Because Ayurveda sees a
strong connection between the mind and the body, a huge amount of
information is available regarding this relationship.
In Ayurveda we view a
person as a unique individual made up of five primary elements. The
elements are ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. Just as in
nature, we too have these five elements in us. When any of these
elements are present in the environment, they will in turn have an
influence on us. The foods we eat and the weather are just two
examples of the presence of these elements. While we are a composite
of these five primary elements, certain elements are seen to have an
ability to combine to create various physiological functions.
Ether and air combine to
form what is known in Ayurveda as the Vata dosha. Vata governs the
principle of movement and therefore can be seen as the force which
directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination.
Fire and water are the
elements that combine to form the Pitta dosha. The Pitta dosha is the
process of transformation or metabolism. The transformation of foods
into nutrients that our bodies can assimilate is an example of a pitta
function. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and
tissue systems as well as cellular metabolism.
Finally, it is
predominantly the water and earth elements which combine to form the
Kapha dosha. Kapha is what is responsible for growth, adding structure
unit by unit. Another function of the Kapha dosha is to offer
protection. Cerebral-spinal fluid protects the brain and spinal column
and is a type of Kapha found in the body. Also, the mucousal lining of
the stomach is another example of the Kapha dosha protecting the
We are all made up of
unique proportions of Vata, Pitta and Ka pha. These ratios of the
doshas vary in each individual; and because of this, Ayurveda sees
each person as a special mixture that accounts for our diversity.
Ayurveda gives us a model
to look at each individual as a unique makeup of the three doshas and
to thereby design treatment protocols that specifically address a
persons health challenges. When any of the doshas ( Vata, Pitta or
Kapha ) become accumulated, Ayurveda will suggest specific lifestyle
and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing the
dosha that has become excessive. We may also suggest certain herbal
supplemen ts to hasten the healing process. If toxins in the body are
abundant, then a cleansing process known as Pancha Karma is
recommended to eliminate these unwanted toxins.
What is Pancha Karma? And
what is the rational behind the therapy?
The therapeutic management
involved with Pancha Karma covers many aspects and is designed to
achieve increased efficiency of medicines, foods and rasayanas
(tonics). Before medicine, food or rejuvenative tonics are taken, it
is essential that the body become receptive so that it is capable of
absorbing and assimilating what is being taken and that the
accumulated wastes and toxins are eliminated. An analogy of this would
be if one tries to dye cloth that is heavily soiled and dirty the dye
will not take very well; however, if the same cloth was properly
cleaned then dyed the dye would work beautifully. In addition this
therapy greatly enhances one's natural immunity thereby providing
additional protection from many diseases and disorders.
This understanding that we
are all unique individuals enables Ayurveda to address not only
specific health concerns but also offers explanation as to why one
person responds differently than another. We hope that you will
continue to explore Ayurveda to enhance your health and to gain
further insights into this miracle we call life.
Ayurveda where and How ?
Hospitals, Health farms & Resorts and Nature cure Federations provide
Ayurvedic treatments and recreational holidays all over India.
In addition Beauty
parlours, at all major hotels, once catered exclusively to women, now
have men’s section offering hair cuts and shaves. Today, there is a
comprehensive range of skin and hair treatments for both men and women
– hair massages with herbal oil, herbal face packs, manicures and
Herbal cosmetic products,
tonics and oils are widely used in India and a massage with herbal
oils after a hectic day of activity is marvellously relaxing. Many of
these are now available in department stores in the West.