Ayurveda originated in India during the, and is considered one of the oldest healthcare and disease prevention systems in existence in the world.
The word “Ayurveda” comes from the ancient Indian language called Sanskrit. It translates to life (meaning "ayu") and knowledge/science (meaning "veda") – knowledge of life. Preserved from ancient Sanskrit texts, Ayurveda is considered a branch of Indian philosophy which is also the science of healing based on man’s response to his environment.
Similar to Oriental medicine, Ayurveda has been heavily researched and documented throughout the centuries, continually evolving with use. It was founded on the principles of accepted western medicine, including and .
Ayurvedic colleges and universities teach 8 branches of medicine which originated from the:
- Internal Medicine
- Ears, Nose, and Throat
The basic principle of Ayurveda is to prevent illness by maintaining balance within the body, mind, and spirit. This is done by adjusting the general lifestyle, diet, activity level, stress level, and other lifestyle factors that may create an imbalance. If the imbalance is not addressed, disease results.
There are two types of Ayurveda: Traditional and Maharishi. Maharishi Ayurveda is based on translations from the classical texts by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was considered the founder of Transcendental Meditation (1917-2008). Although both forms of Ayurveda are very similar, Maharishi promotes the use ofto tune into the natural rhythms of the body, and as a method of experiencing an enlightened state of being.
Ayurveda as a system of healing is growing in popularity as more and more people are leaning towards a more natural and non-invasive form of healing, as opposed to the aggressive nature of modern healthcare and the many toxic pharmaceuticals it relies on and promotes.
Let's take a detailed look at principles of Ayurveda, including the 3 doshas, gunas, dhatus, srotas, and agni, and learn about the special type of "pulse diagnosis" that Ayurvedic practitioners use to diagnose an imbalance.
The 3 Doshas (Tridosha)
In Ayurveda, all living things (including human beings, animals, plants, etc.) are seen as being made up of the 5 primary elements:
Earth | Air | Fire | Water | Ether
These five elements are a materialized form of universal energy known as “prana." As we are all a composite of these 5 elements, any imbalance of these elements within the body or surrounding environment will, in turn, affect the health of the body. Each of these 5 elements has the ability to combine with another element to form 3 different combinations, called “the three doshas” (also known as “tridosha"). These three unique combinations of each of the five elements within the body determines our metabolic constitution, characteristics, and personality traits.
The main principle of Ayurveda states that physical health revolves around maintaining a balance of these doshas, and that all imbalances and diseases within the body occur due to the disturbance of their equilibrium. This balance can be restored using different Ayurvedic treatments.
One of the 4 ancient holy scriptures of the Hindu religion (known as the four Vedas) is called Atharva Veda, and focuses on the healing aspects of spirituality and living. Atharva Veda contains references to the digestive system, metabolism, anatomy, and descriptions of diseases, as well as the bacteria that cause them. It also describes the three doshas as being subtle elements within the human body that are responsible for its functions.
Ayurvedic therapies are tailored for each individual. An Ayurvedic doctor first gains a detailed understanding of the life of the individual, including their health history, any current medications, environmental surroundings, relationships, eating habits, exercise habits, nutrition, emotional, and psychological state. They will also conduct a "pulse diagnosis. This is not the same pulse listened to by western doctors:
Ayurvedic Pulse Diagnosis
A well-known diagnostic tool used in Ayurveda is pulse analysis. Considered a science in and of itself, it can take many hours of practice to master. Due to the difficulty in learning pulse analysis, some practitioners rely on other assessments for diagnosis.
Diagnosis will also include an observation of the patient's non-verbal behavior such as movement and voice. The appearance of the eyes, nails, skin, tone of voice, lips, and tongue are also observed.
After the assessment, the Ayurvedic doctor will then determine the unique balance of the doshas and whether one or more of the doshas is experiencing any imbalance. Based on the results of the assessment and balance of the doshas, an individualized treatment regimen is created.
The 5 Senses
Treatments are commonly organized to represent one of the 5 senses, especially as treatments are often required to stimulate one or more of these senses:
1. Taste (Nutrition, herbs)
2. Touch (Massage)
3. Smell (Aromatherapy)
4. Sight (Chromatherapy/color therapy)
5. Sound (Music therapy, mantras)
In addition to the 7 treatments listed above, meditation, yoga/exercise, and breathing techniques are often also incorporated into a treatment regimen.
A cleansing and detoxification therapy called pancha karma may be recommended which uses 5 different treatments to release toxins from the body, and to restore the doshas to their state of balance.
- Oriental medicine (Acupuncture, Chinese Herbalism, Tui Na, QiGong)
- Bach Flower Remedies