WHAT IS AYURVEDA?
Also known as Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurveda is an Ancient Indian form of natural, holistic medicine that uses herbs, diet, yoga, exercise, mantras, aromas, meditation oil treatments and Ayurvedic Massage to promote good health and wellbeing.
Ayurveda claims that most people are born in a perfect state of balance but quickly lose it due to a variety of man-made factors, such as a poor diet and a stressful lifestyle. Ayurveda offers everyone the chance to rediscover for themselves what their optimal condition might be and thereby begin the Ayurveda journey towards achieving and maintaining good health. The driving force behind this balance lies with doshas (see below for
Now considered one of the leading forms of holistic medicine available in the west, Ayurveda addresses all
factors that influence our quality of life.
AYURVEDIC MEDICINE V CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE?
The major difference between Ayurvedic medicine and conventional medicine lies in the treatment method. Whilstmost modern medical treatments operate at the symptomatic level, Ayurvedic medicine dictates that treatments work at much deeper causative levels. By regaining an individual’s perfect birth composition, the root of the problem is solved.
1. Ayurvedic medicine considers human beings to be part of nature, and as such, employs all-natural treatment methods.
2. Whilst modern medicine is based on germ theory, Ayurvedic medicine is based on the theory of biological humors and body energies. This helps Ayurvedic medicine to get to the root of the problem rather than simply addressing the symptoms.
3. A fundamental aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to prevent illnesses by timely adherence to nature’s way. Conventional medicine usually plays no pre-emptive role except in certain specific situations.
4. Modern medicine uses synthetic and chemical drugs whereas Ayurvedic treatments are totally natural. As a result, Ayurvedic remedies do not have harmful side-effects.
5. Modern medicine has difficulty recognising disease which it can’t measure mechanically and it focuses on suppression of symptoms – usually by some form of treatment which destroys healthy tissue and organic functioning and poisons the body while it kills the ‘external invaders’. This makes it potentially very dangerous and in many cases its treatment may actually create new disease. In addition, the focus is often on treating the disease and not the person.
6. Unlike with Ayurvedic medicine, treatment using modern medicine is seldom applied with any changes to the lifestyle or awareness of the patient.
Modern medicine is, however, an extremely useful form of medicine for treating emergency situations such as accidents and heart attack victims. Advances such as antibiotics and immunisation have also saved many lives. But we need to be aware that allopathic medicine does not have a long history of success. Many of its medicines are very new and haven’t had time to prove themselves as safe or enduring. Antibiotics are widely overused and used inappropriately. This is damaging our level of health. In addition, the use by date of antibiotics is just around the corner. Bacteria are adapting to, and becoming resistant to, antibiotics faster than we can develop new ones.
Ayurvedic medicine should not, therefore, be thought of as a total replacement for allopathic medicine. Each form
of medicine has its own strengths. Ayurveda is about improving health and preventing illness through increased
self awareness; not about treating car accident victims, for example.
Ayurveda principles state that nothing exists in isolation, so everything you interact with on a daily basis; your diet, family, work or relationships, has an effect on your health and wellbeing.
One guiding principle of Ayurveda is that the mind and body are connected and that the mind has a profound influence over our health and wellbeing. Whilst conventional western medicine is still grounded in the paradigm of mind-body separation,Ayurveda holds that health is more than the absence of disease; it is a dynamic state of balance and integration of body, mind, and spirit.
Ayurveda therefore allows us to take control of our own destiny. We empower ourselves with consistent good health rather than relying on an over-worked doctor to provide temporary fixes to our bodies when we fall ill.
Ayurveda’s fundamental belief is that whatever we can do for ourselves to improve our health is far more
effective in the long run than what another person can do for us, and it’s never too late for us to start helping
AYURVEDA AND THE DOSHAS
Ayurveda is a science of self-understanding. By understanding our own unique nature or constitution through knowledge learned from Ayurveda we can begin to understand how we interact with our environment and thus make choices that will lead us towards better health.
Ayurveda believes that an individual’s constitution (prakruti) is recorded at the time of conception as a genetic code that can be expressed physically and mentally as disease proneness and emotional response. This constitution is determined by three ‘doshas’, or psycho-physiological functional principles in Ayurveda; Vata, Pittaand Kapha. According to Ayurveda, we each have constitutions that include all three doshas, but the proportions and dominance of doshas varies from person to person.
Ayurveda defines disease as the natural end result of living out of harmony with our original constitution.Therefore, the Ayurveda approach is highly individualised since the path to optimal health is different for each person depending upon their unique constitution of dosha balance.
If we are predominantly Vata dosha, we tend to be thin, light and quick in our thoughts and actions. Change is a constant part of our lives. When Vata dosha is balanced we are creative, enthusiastic and lively. But if the Vata dosha becomes excessive, we may develop anxiety, insomnia or irregular digestion.
If Pitta dosha is most lively in our nature, we tend to be muscular, smart and determined. If balanced, we are warm, intelligent and a good leader. If out of balance, the Pitta dosha can make us critical, irritable and aggressive.
If we have mostly Kapha dosha in our nature, we tend to have a heavier frame, think and move more leisurely,and are stable. When balanced, it creates calmness, sweetness and loyalty. When excessive, Kapha dosha can cause weight gain, congestion and resistance to healthy change.
Dosha Balance Disturbance
Dosha balance can be disturbed by many factors, both internal and external, and bring about changes in one’s original constitution leading to ailments, disorders and disease. Some of these factors include emotional and physical stresses, improper food combinations and choices, physical trauma, or seasonal and weather changes.
Once we understand how these factors affect us on a constitutional level, we can take appropriate actions to nullify or minimise their effects and eliminate the causes of imbalance.
Understanding Doshas For A Healthier Life
From the time of birth until death, the body is engaged in maintaining life. Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas play an important role in the maintenance of cellular health and longevity.
The constitution of an individual is a dynamic force in Ayurveda, and Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas are dynamic energies that will change and be affected by the environment and other factors in various ways. An Ayurvedic lifestyle will enable the individual to gain more awareness and control over how those factors can be diminished or nullified, so as to improve and maintain optimal health and wellbeing.
Using the principles of Ayurveda we can identify our mind/body nature and use this understanding to make the most nourishing choices in our lives. It is common for people to have a blend of characteristics but usually one dosha tends to dominate. This is where Ayurvedic therapy comes in to its own.
THE AYURVEDA PERSPECTIVE ON ILLNESS
According to Ayurveda, illness is primarily caused by doshas that are too high or aggravated. Low doshas are notthought to possess the strength to cause illness, but they do have their symptoms. Disruption of your optimal balance of the three doshas is not the only cause of disease identified by Ayurveda, however; an accumulation of toxins can also impede good health. Ayurveda states that toxins may be produced through bad digestion, be absorbed into the body from the environment, or even be created by mental strain. Toxins gather in the cells and tissues, hindering their development, purification and proper nourishment.
Ayurveda also states that the doshas can damage one another by an excess dosha taking the illness site of another dosha. This often indicates a more severe condition, in which the dosha has already damaged its own sites. For example, high Kapha, after damaging the lungs, may then damage the nervous system, as in asthmaticwheezing or epilepsy due to phlegm blocking the channels, thus affecting Vata. The doshas affect each other, and in severe illnesses like cancer, all three doshas may be out of balance, making treatment very complicated.
AYURVEDIC MEDICINE’S KEY AIM.
With Ayurveda, it is not necessary to know the names or forms of illnesses; t is more important to know the attributes of the doshas and their states of imbalance behind different illnesses. From this standpoint, Ayurvedic therapy is simpler and more holistic. Once the aggravated dosha is ascertained along with its site of manifestation, an integral regime for reducing it can be implemented. It is the underlying energy of the illness which has to be countered, not merely its face that has to be identified. In Ayurveda, no new illnesses can be found; only variations in the same basic illness causing factors, which can always be attributed to the three doshas.