From Mother Nature, With Love: The Ancient Indian Sciene of Ayurveda

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Ayurveda is an ancient healthy lifestyle system with roots in Indian culture. It is said that Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of Ayurveda, was the physician to the Hindu gods in ancient mythology. Brahma bestowed Dhanvantari with the knowledge of Ayurveda, and Dhanvantari then passed on this knowledge and taught a group of physicians. It is believed then that Ayurveda originates from Dhanvantari himself and that his medical wisdom was passed on to the sages and then to the human physicians.

The term Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit word “ayur”, which means life, and “veda”, which refers to “science”. Ayurveda then quite literally means the science of life or knowledge of life. Also known as Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurveda has been followed by Indians for as long as three thousand to five thousand years. It is said that the earliest notions of Ayurveda were described in the Atharvaveda, which is a part of the Vedas ancient Hindu scripture. Ayurveda is considered to be one of the modern world’s oldest holistic or whole-body healing systems. This system puts emphasis on overall health and well-being, including both the prevention and treatment of illnesses. Lifestyle practices such as yoga, meditation, massages, oils and a healthy diet are all part of the healthy Ayurveda lifestyle, along with herbal remedies. Central to Ayurveda is the belief that one’s overall health and wellness are dependent on the fine balance of the mind, body, and spirit. Each aspect has to be cared for and nurtured in order to achieve holistic health and well-being.

Ayurvedic texts, which includes vast information on health maintenance, as well as curative and preventative practices and techniques, are divided into the following manuscripts: Sushruta Samhita, Charaka Samhita, Ashtanga Hridayam, and Ashtanga Sangraha. Of all the Ayurvedic texts, the most referenced is the Charaka Samhita, which dates all the way back to 400-200 BCE, and is attributed to Charaka, who was an ancient physician. It contains most of Ayurveda’s theoretical fabric and framework, and is therefore the most referenced. Ancient Sanskrit text on Ayurveda divides medicine into eight different components, ranging from general medicine, pediatric care, surgical studies, the body’s open cavities, mental faculties, epidemics, rejuvenation or improving overall health, and aphrodisiacs. Ayurveda is based on the understanding of the universe, and all that is in it, from the Vedic perspective. This Vedic perspective states that the entire universe, and all matter in it, originate from an ultimate divine consciousness and that the syllable “om” or aum is the original vibration of the universe. 

Ayurvedic medicine states that the human body is made up of tissues, called the dhatus, biomaterials referred to as doshas, and waste or malas. The body’s tissues or dhatus are then divided into the seven categories of blood (rakta), plasma (rasa), muscles (mamsa), fat (meda), bone (asthi), marrow (majja), and semen (shukra). In terms of bodily substances, Ayurveda classifies this into five elements, namely: earth, water, fire, air and ether. These five elements coalesce and convert, creating the three principle constitutions that dictate the functions and interactions among the body, mind and consciousness. These energies are otherwise referred to as the doshas.

According to Ayurveda, the doshas are divided into bodily doshas and mental doshas. All the doshas have specific functions and properties within both the mind and the body which then influence how one’s mental and physical faculties operate. Specifically, these doshas include the Vata Dosha, which dictates movement, the Pitta Dosha that governs the metabolic and digestive systems, and the Kapha Dosha, which is responsible for the body’s structure and lubrication. The dominance of one or more dosha and the weakness of other doshas then dictate and justify one’s physical constitution and psychological acumen or personality.

Another basic tenet of Ayurveda are the innate gunas or innate qualities and characteristics of all matter, of which there are twenty. These twenty gunas are classified into ten pairs: cold / hot, heavy / light, soft / hard, smooth / coarse, dull / sharp, unctuous / dry, stable / mobile, minute / gross, non-slimy / slimy, and finally, viscous / liquid. Ayurveda tradition believes that ailments and diseases are attributed to large imbalances of the gunas among the bodily and mental doshas. It is then vital that every person adapts a lifestyle and environment that is conducive to increasing or decreasing certain bodily and mental doshas in order to achieve overall balance and well-being.

Multiple millennia later and Ayurveda is still practiced by many individuals and not only in India. Many individuals from both eastern and western cultures have also turned to or adapted principles from this alternative medicine and well-being lifestyle. It is said that ancient Ayurvedic beliefs can be practiced alongside modern western medicine. Regardless of what specific medical studies and practices one believes and follows, the connection of mind, body and spirit is undeniable. Creating the optimum lifestyle and environment to achieve the ideal balance among these three aspects and maintaining overall health and well-being, is something that all aspire to.

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