Ayurveda: Complete Science of Life — The principles of Ayurveda are an invaluable link to understanding, in detail, naturally healthy living. People everywhere are realizing the importance and benefits of taking personal responsibility for one’s own well being, making Ayurveda the perfect system of health knowledge for today’s world.
Ayurveda is a science of life so to know more about it, we must know what is life? Life according to Ayurveda is a combination of senses, mind, body and soul. So it is clear from this definition of life that Ayurveda is not only limited to body or physical symptoms but also gives a comprehensive knowledge about spiritual, mental and social health.
The words like soul and spirituality might sound outdated or create a negative thinking in some of you as they have no place in modern science. As soon as we hear about these topics, we become uncomfortable. Actually, I don’t feel that it is our fault. No one has ever spoken about these things to us. We are always trapped in the attractions of outer material world to become happy and peaceful.
The modern society, education, culture and the television- everything speaks about materialism. If this was everything why is it so that most us are unhappy. There is unrest, anxiety, mental tension, fighting and terror every where despite best efforts being made to stop them. This is because some part of our body is not being nourished properly. Be open minded and try to understand.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda literally means “Science of Life and Longevity.” and is considered to be the traditional system of medicine of India.
Ayurveda is a science in the sense that it is a complete system. It is a qualitative, holistic science of health and longevity, a philosophy and system of healing the whole person, body and mind.
The origin of this system goes back to a far past, in which philosophy and medicine were not separated. Therefore, philosophical views have strongly influenced the Ayurvedic way of thinking.
Origin of Ayurveda
Historians have not pin-pointed the exact time Ayurveda came into being. Most agree that Ayurvedic classical texts were written in India between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago, though some suggest an even longer history.
The origins of this system of course are lost in time. In legend it is said to have been taught by the creator, Brahma, to the Prajapati Daksha. (One of the lords of the animals) who taught it in turn to the divine twins called the Ashwinikumars.
Ashwinikumars are the heavenly healers. They taught Indra, the chief of the shining ones. The personages mentioned were deities of early Vedic times. When mankind started suffering from various diseases the wise men like Bharadvaja learnt from Indra the knowledge of medicine. Gradually the huge amount of knowledge accumulated was divided systematically into different branches.
All matter is thought to he composed of five basic elements ( panchamahabhutas ) which exhibit the properties of earth (prithvi), water (jala), fire (tejas), wind (vayu) and space (akasha). These elements do not exist in isolated forms, but always in a combination, in which one or more elements dominate. According to Ayurveda, the human body is composed of derivatives of the five basic elements, in the form of doshas, tissues (dhatus) and waste products (malas).
Doshas: The most fundamental and characteristic principle of Ayurveda is called “tridosha” or the Three Humours. Doshas are the physiological factors of the body. They are to be seen as all pervasive, subtle entities, and are categorized into vata, pitta and kapha. Vata regulates movement and is represented by the nervous system. Pitta is the principle of biotransformation and is the cause of all metabolic processes in the body. Kapha is the principle of cohesion and functions through the body fluids. Together, these three doshas determine the physiologic constitution of an individual.
Dhatus: the tissues are classified into seven categories: plasma, blood cells, muscular tissue, adipose tissue, bony tissue, bone marrow and the reproductive tissue.
Malas: three main waste products are urine, faeces and sweat.
For the metabolic processes in the body, there are three main groups of biological factors, probably exhibiting enzymatic functions (agnis). Jatharagni is responsible for the digestion and the absorption of nutritious substances During this process, digestion takes place in three stages: first the digestion of sweet (madhura) and salty (lavana) nutrients, then the digestion of sour (amla) nutrients, and finally the digestion of sharp (tikta), bitter (katu) and astringent (kasaya) nutrients. The respective products of these three stages are sweet, sour and sharp.
Panchabhutagnis: containing five types of biological factors, is responsible for the processing of the five basic elements into a composition useful to the body.
Dhatvagnis: The third group contains seven types, each for the assimilation of the seven tissues This assimilation takes place successively. From the absorbed nutritious substance, plasma (rasa) is produced first; from plasma, blood (rakta) is formed, then muscular tissue (mamsa), adipose tissue (meda), bony tissue (asthi), bone marrow (majjan) and the reproductive cells (shukra).
Samprapti, the Disease Process (Pathology)
Under normal conditions, the doshas, dhatus and malas correspond to certain standards regarding their quantity, quality and function. However, this situation is not static, and due to several endogenous and erogenous factors, the doshas may become unbalanced, resulting in disease. Every disease is related to an imbalance of the doshas. Other coherent factors can be: the disturbance of the biological factors (agnis), the formation and accumulation of undigested nutrients (ama), obstruction of the body channels (shrotorodha), and a disturbed assimilation in the tissues.
Ayurveda gives us a model to look at each individual as a unique makeup of the three doshas (Prakruti) and thereby design treatment protocols that specifically address a persons health challenges. When any of the doshas (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) become imbalance, Ayurveda will suggest specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing or increasing the doshas that has become imbalance. If toxins in the body are abundant, then a cleansing process known as Pancha Karma is recommended to eliminate these unwanted toxins.
Obesity: mainly due to absence of physical activity. Other causes may be sleeping during the day, intake of Kapha – increasing foods, finally results in the accumulation of fat. These block the channels of nutrition. This blocking causes an increase in hunger because the body does not get nutrition.
Rheumatism: Eating foods which are incompatible, lack of physical exercise in general, doing exercise particularly after eating fatty foods , incorrect use of purgatives, causes improper digestion. The half digested food called Ama associates itself with Vata and moves about. It fills the seats of kapha, and blocks the transport channels of the body. This blocking of channels produces weakness of the heart, which is the seat of the disease. This results in loss of strength, feeling of heaviness, stiffness of the body , and small and big joints alike.
Indigestion / Dyspepsia: Taking excess of water, taking small / large quantities of food at odd times, suppression of the natural functions of the body, loss of sleep at night and sleeping during the daytime, causes gastric fire (Jatharagni) responsible for the digestion and the absorption of nutritious substances weak.
Skin problems: Are often due to imbalances in Pitta dosha & rakta dhatu. This is caused by excessive exposure to sunlight, taking foods which are pungent, hot and alkaline.
The materia medica of the Ayurveda, composed of the five basic elements, has been categorized according to the derivatives of these elements. They include: taste (rasa), potency (virya), taste of the digestion product (vipaka), properties (guna), specific properties (prabhava) and action (karman).
Taste (rasa) is six fold: sweet (madhura), sour (amla), salty (lavana), sharp (tikta), bitter (katu) and astringent (kasaya). Each taste is composed of two of the five elements. The condition of the food substances after digestion is also expressed in terms of taste (vipaka), however it can only be sweet, sour or sharp.
The properties (guna), are grouped in 10 pairs, each one complementary to the other: heavy and light, cold and hot, fat and dry, slow and sharp, stable and labile, soft and hard, clear and slimy, smooth and raw, fine and massive and viscous and liquid.
The potency (virya) of a drug is defined as its capability to express its property. Sometimes, potency is grouped in the same way as the property, but for practical reasons, it is usually expressed in terms of hot (ushna) and cold (shita).
The specific property (prabhava) distinguishes two drugs that have the same taste, taste after digestion and potency. This might be due to the composition of the drug or the location in the body where the drug acts.
Finally the action (karman) of a drug on the body is expressed in terms of the three doshas. A drug can increase or decrease the vata dosha, the pitta dosha and the kapha dosha.
The drugs used in Ayurveda are made by several processes from vegetable and mineral raw materials. Mostly plant alkaloids are the active ingredients. Obviously barring some chemical changes it is mostly natural deviates.
We hope that you will continue to explore Ayurveda to enhance your health and to gain further insights into this miracle we call life.