Ayurveda means the "science of life". It originated in India more than 5,000 years old and is believed to be the oldest healing science in existence, from which all other systems emerged. This ancient healing system has three main focuses:
1) Healing illness
2) Prevention of disease and
3) Longevity or age reversal.
Laws of Nature and Spirituality In short, Ayurveda simply 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 lacking. 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.The immune system can become depleted by poor nutrition, overwork, drugs and other excesses. 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:
1. It looks at people as individuals, not as a generic group.
2. It heals from the root-cause of an illness, not merely treating the symptoms.
3. Only natural therapies are offered.
4. No side effects develop from the therapies.
5. Therapies are inexpensive and effective.
How Does Ayurveda Work :
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 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 an air constitution person (Vayu dosha) 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 an air constitution (Vayu dosha) 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, eating cooked or steamed foods, and eating every 3 or 4 hours reduces excess air. Foods like carrots, rice and mung beans reduce excess air. Broccoli, baked beans and barley increase air (e.g., they cause gas). Excessive or non-moderate lifestyle also increases the air element.
Fire constitution people (Pitta dosha) 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, irritable. Physically they develop heat-related disorders such as acne, rashes, diarrhea, ulcers, toxic blood, liver, kidney, gall bladder, heart and spleen disorders.Water constitutions (Kapha doshas) tend towards excess water.
When healthy they are strong, muscular, calm and loyal. When water becomes excessed, 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 or excessed. By eating foods and living a lifestyle that reduces 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.
What Diagnostic Measures Does Ayurveda Use?
Perhaps the most well-known diagnostic tool these days is pulse analysis. The position and quality of the pulse felt under different fingers tells the Ayurvedic doctor the dosha (Vayu, Pitta, Kapha) that is imbalanced. Further the health of 12 organs are also learned by pulse diagnosis. Vaidyas who have trained in India more than 20 years ago also learned how to read subtler pulses as well.
Other forms of diagnosis include client health history forms, observation of the client's body, movements, voice, and other non-verbal behavior. Diagnosis is also conducted through touch, questioning, and inference/intuition.
What Therapies Does Ayurveda Offer?
Using a holistic approach, Ayurveda offers therapies for each of the five senses because different people learn better through different senses. Therapies include,
Taste: Herbs and nutrition.
Touch: Massage (abhyanga), Yoga, and exercise.
Sight: Color therapy.
Hearing: Music therapy, mantra meditation, chanting.
Spiritual: therapies include meditation, living ethically, and working in a career that one loves or is purposeful.
Environmental factors are also considered from this holistic outlook. These therapies include house, apartment and office structure and astrological effects. These are sciences unto themselves.
DISEASES IN AYURVEDA
Disease in Ayurveda ( known as Vyaadhi) is due to an imbalance of three fundamental elements(Vata / Pitta / Kapha) of the body. Disease in general is defined as state of discomfort, pain and/ or injury to the body and mind .
Fairly elaborate classification of diseases is done in Ayurveda. Three major classifications are done for all diseases :
Adhibhautika: Environmental : caused by the environment
Adhidaihika : Constitutional (physical and psychic )
Aadhidaivika: Para Physical (Given by gods or due to influence of evil spirits )
However a more detailed & practical classification for treatment is as follows:
Aadi- bala pravritta : Transmitted through genes , genetically predisposed
Janma- bala : From the birth , congenital
Dosha -bala : Caused by imbalances in Vaata, Pitta, Kapha.
Sanghata-bala : Caused by Trauma (Physical / mental)
Kaala - bala : Caused by a particular time / season
Daiva -bala : Caused by Gods or spirits
Svabhaava -bala : Natural changes ( age / withering of body etc)
Some common diseases are explained according to Ayurveda as follows :
The doshas, vaata, kapha, and pitta when disturbed either singly or in combination, cause fever. Due to over- eating of incompatible foods, the doshas reach the gastro intestinal tract and cause the internal gastric fire (responsible for digestion of foods)in moving upwards thereby causing fever. Treatment is so defined so as to set the fire element in its right place.
The gastric fire is imbalanced due to presence of excessive water element. Large quantities are expelled by body . Treatment is done by restoring balance of the watery element.
This is caused by increase of Pitta & treatment revolves around restoring the Pitta element.
Eating incompatible foods , lack of physical exercise & various other factors cause improper digestion. The half digested food associates itself with Vaata and moves around in the body. It impairs kapha function & therefore movement also gets disorderly. This results in weakness of the heart & loss of strength, feeling of heaviness, stiffness of the body .
The doshas having undergone morbid changes vitiate the blood and similar fluids (like plasma). These localise themselves in the heart and cause various problems with its functioning.
Besides the above there are many more diseases which Ayurveda treatment can help in recovering.