What is unique about Ayurveda ?
There are several aspects to Ayurveda that are quite unique: Ayurveda offers reference points for managing treatment decisions specific to each case. Ayurvedic theory is profoundly useful in analysing individual patient constitution and understanding variations in disease manifestation. The Ayurvedic framework can be used to structure working models of the unique state of each patient, and to project a vision or goal for a whole state of health, again unique to each case.Ayurveda offers specific recommendations to each individual on lifestyle, diet, exercise and yoga, herbal therapy, and even spiritual practices to restore and maintain balance in body and mind. Ayurveda sees a strong connection between the mind and the body, a huge amount of information is available regarding this relationship.
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.
Ayurveda is the most ancient and venerated of all medical systems. It is one of the most important health systems in India and it has attracted increasing attention form the West. While it is commonly accepted that Western medicine had it roots in Greek thought and practice, it has been shown that Greek medicine relied heavily on knowledge from the East ands India. There are those who suggest that Hippocrates, considered to be the father of Western medicine, based his medical knowledge on Ayurveda.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda comes from the two Sanskrit words, ayur meaning life, and veda meaning knowledge. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought it to the West in the 1070's, and authors like Deepak Chopra have popularized it in recent years. Ayurveda is a complete and highly integrated science of life. It is a holistic and complex spiritual and philosophical system. This system has been developed over thousands of years and is a subtle body of knowledge. The following if a brief outline of the central concepts of this system. This medical system is based on the system of prevention. This means that people are often treated before the symptoms of the illness become evident. A wide variety of healing techniques are used within the ambit of this system. These include, massage, mineral supplements, dietary change and medicated enemas. Ayurveda is centered on the five basic elements of creation. The philosophical foundation of this system is based on the following belief system in the beginning the universe was completely unified. This unity was differentiated into the five elements called panchamahabhutas. The first element to emerge was ether, which in turn gave birth to air, then to heat and water and earth. These elements are foundations of the Ayurveda system and the basis for further understanding of the body and health. One has to be careful about the interpretation of these various elements, as they are complex and symbolic. The elements do not act in isolation but in combination with the other elements to influence the human body. These combinations are known as doshas. These doshas must be in balance with the human being for health to be maintained. The idea of balance and equilibrium is a central concept in Eastern health knowledge. The relationship and predominance of one of the doshas over another is determined by the type of human personality and therefore determines the type the treatment to be given.
The Doshas and Personality Types
The three Doshas, based on the five essential elements, make up the essential configuration of any person. The first is known as Vata. This Doshais formed through the combination of Akasha, or space and Vayu, or air. Vata is the force that motivates and drives the body; for example, in the circulation of the blood and breathing. Without Vata, the other two Doshascould not exist. The second Doshais called pitta. This is formed by the combination of Tejas, or fire and water, or Jala. This force creates heat that drives the digestion and assimilative processes. This Doshais responsible for all metabolic activity in the body and for the functions of the intellect. The third Doshais Kapha. This is formed by the combination of water, or Jala and Prthvi,or earth. This is the force of stability and cohesion that is responsible for form and structure in the body, from the cells to the bones and muscles. To understand the functioning of these Doshas, we have to understand that, in Ayurveda, the individual is understood to be composed of different proportions of these Doshas. Our makeup, in terms of body and mind, are a result of a predominance of one of these Doshasover another. This also includes genetic inheritance from our parents. The most important aspect of Ayurveda is the balance of the various Doshas. This is the foundation of the diagnosis and healing process. The various aspects of this balancing process involve a vast range of different elements, including the tissues of the body, the various channels of elimination and energy and the normal functioning of the five senses.
Consulting a practitioner
When visiting a qualified Ayurveda practitioner, the first session will be concerned with diagnosis. Practitioners vary in their techniques but will essentially make a thorough examination of physical as well as psychological and spiritual aspects. The system of Ayurveda is completely holistic and comprehensive. The practitioner will also inquire into lifestyle, relationships, family history and astrological influences. There are different methods of diagnosis that are used. The three-point diagnosis consists of a evaluation through questioning, observation and appearance. Some practitioners use amore complex eight-point diagnosis, which involves an examination of the tongue, voice, skin, eyes, urine and stools. There is also a pulse diagnose which is a very exact science. The three pulse points on the wrist are diagnosed in relation to the three Doshas. By the end of the diagnostic session, the practitioner will know the Prakritof the patient, which is the basic overall condition of the individual, and will have diagnosed any health problems. Ayurveda is a science based on detailed theories and principles. These theories explain evolution and define the environment, human beings, and how they relate to each other. The main principles are:
Three primordial forces (Triguna)
The three forces (gunas) represent the phases of creation, as well as the qualities of the mind. Everything in the universe is influenced by the triguna (Sattva, rajas and Tamas). In the theory of evolution, Sattvabrings into creation and is pure consciousness, Rajas is a maintaining and moving force and Tamasrepresents the cohesive unity or destructive force. In the human mind, Sattvais purity or goodness, rajas is action and passion, and Tamasis ignorance or darkness.
Five Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta)
The universe is composed of five elements. Everything in the universe, including human beings, are made up of different combinations of the same five elements. These elements are earth (Prithvi), water (Apaor Jala), fire (Tejasor Agni), air (Vayu) and space (Akash).
Three biological forces (Tridosa)
In humans, the five elements combine to produce three primary life forces, or three "biological humors". The Ayurvedic term for this is Dosha. As there are three, they are referred to as the Tridosa(tri meaning three). The three Doshasare Vata, pitta and Kapha. Each Doshais made of the five elements, however each has a predominance of one or more elements. Vata has a predominance of the elements of air and space and is responsible for movement, Pitta has fire as the dominant element and controls transformation, and Kapha has predominance of water and earth and represents cohesion. All humans have the three Doshapresent in different proportions. This unique combination of Tridosais responsible for our unique natures. Knowing your constitution assists both in preventing as well as curing the diseases. (see fact sheet on constitution for more information).
Ayurveda has a distinctive concept of how the human body is structured and functions. Very important aspects of health include digestion and accumulation of wastes. The digestive system is considered the key to good health. It is called Jatharagni, meaning digestive fire. The state of Agni determines how well food is assimilated into the body. If Agni is weak, if too much food is consumed, or if food is eaten at an inappropriate time, it cannot be digested adequately. Rather than nourish the body, the food is transformed instead into a toxic residue known as Ama. The waste (Ama) circulates around the body and ultimately creates disease (imbalance).
The basic tissues which maintain the body are known as Dhatus. There are seven Dhatus- plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow and reproductive fluid. The quality and quantity of each Dhatu, and its balanced functioning, is another important factor for good health. Mala are the waste materials produced as a result of various metabolic activities in the body. The main mala are urine, feces and sweat. Proper elimination of mala is equally important for good health. Accumulation of mala causes blockages in the body which result in manifestation of various diseases. There are also invisible aspects to the human body, such as Marmas(sensitive points), Cakras(energy centers), Nadis(energy channels) and Prana(life air). This is more advanced theory relating to the subtle body.
According to Ayurveda when women's health refers to the well being of any female besides being healthy physically. In fact the Ayurvedic definition of health i.e. physical, mental and spiritual well being holds true for females. It is a thought- provoking subject that most of the ailments of women are psychological in nature. An unstable mind leads to hormonal imbalance in a female body thus leading to further complications. Apart from the acquired ailments there are natural physical changes in women's body form puberty to menopause. Few women related disorders are mentioned below:
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