ABC of Ayurveda
A is for All of life. Ayurveda is the holistic science of life. Ayurveda considers everything to be connected. In treating physical disorders and disease, Ayurveda considers a person as a whole. It looks at what is going on for a person physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to see what imbalances there are in all of these areas.
One of these areas necessarily affects the other. Just as we cannot separate our emotions when we are experiencing them, we cannot separate our emotions from how we think and act. One leads to the other. When we are emotionally sad or worried this sends signals to the brain which in turn will fire off neurological signals and hormones to the physical body. The body will then demonstrate physical signs of the emotion such as lethargy, coughs and colds due to low immunity, cold sores etc.
B is for balance of the 5 Elements and imbalances leading to disease ~ the fundamental principle behind the treatment of any physical, mental or emotional disease or imbalance is having regard to the 5 elements and determining which of these have grown excessive or is lacking in the human system. By addressing this imbalance, the body is supported to use its inherent intelligence and begin the healing process.
C is for the cure of all disease by the treatment of the root cause of imbalances ~ the most amazing aspect of Ayurveda for me is the fact that it considers every person on a case by case basis on their own merit. In other words, there are no set formulas, no general rules of application depending on your age and category of sex. Ayurveda recognises that we are all individual and unique. Ayurveda considers the factors in the life of the individual that are causing an imbalance of the elements.
Ayurveda looks at what a person is eating, their environment at home and at work, what (if any) exercise they are engaged in, their emotional state, and many many other factors. Taking all this into account allows the Ayurvedic therapist to get a clear insight into which of the elements are out of balance that are causing the disease. The cause is then dealt with as opposed to the symptoms.
An example would be a person suffering from acute arthritis. Modern medicine will treat the symptoms of arthritis with anti inflammatory drugs. Ayurveda will treat the root cause of the arthritis will commonly will be due to poor digestion and a weak digestive fire (agni).
What is Ayurveda? In terms of how you might translate the term and practice of Ayurveda into a science for life, the description I have found the most useful to date is this one: “Ayurveda is the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature ~ Dr Vasant Lad.
Ayurveda is a system of self healing and self realisation. Once we understand the basic principles of Ayurveda, we can incorporate them into our daily lives and master our own health and wellbeing. The ability to monitor and balance our own health is empowering when we realise that we can take responsibility for our own health. This is a key factor in the healing process as it improves our self worth and personal development.
Ayurveda incorporates all 6 systems of Indian philosophy ~ Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. Buddhism was also later adapted into Ayurveda.
It is popularly believed that Ayurveda is the foundation for all other healing sciences in existence to date including Buddhism, Taoism and Tibetan. For all intents and purposes Ayurveda is a clinical and medical science. Indeed, modern day surgical procedures are based on Ayurvedic surgery procedures established 5000 years ago!
What is the purpose of Ayurveda? These are broadly twofold. First, to maintain absolute health and vitality by prevention of imbalance. Second, to cure disease in all forms with the use of appropriate food, lifestyle, exercise, panchakarma (5 karmas or) and rejuvenation treatments.
How does Ayurveda work today in practical terms? Ayurvedic practitioners principally use 8 methods of clinical assessment to establish the imbalances of an individual. These 8 methods involve assessment of the: tongue, speech, skin, urine, faeces, eyes, pulse and physical form. Note that examination of the waste products is usually carried out by asking the patient a series of questions.
From this, the Ayurvedic practitioner can recommend a health programme to be followed based on what imbalances are manifest. This can include guidelines for the types of food to eat, the type of exercise to undertake, what types of career would best enable the patient to be in their element at work, how to improve relationships, body work therapies such as Abhyanga massage, Shirodhara, yoga postures, counselling, pranayama (breath work), mantras, meditations, Yoga Nidra, detoxification, medicines, herbs, purification and so on and so forth. The list is endless.
Ayurveda recognises that good health needs a healthy functioning of 4 key areas of life being: physical & mental health, life purpose/career, relationships and spirituality. These are in order of attainment in life. In other words, we have to master the basics of good physical and mental health and wellbeing before we will be ready to work with our life purpose and so on.
Where it all began
When was Ayurveda established? Ayurveda was founded some 6000 to 5000 years ago. There is some debate as to the precise time. The literal translation of Ayurveda is Ayus ~ meaning life and Veda ~ meaning science.
Ayurveda originated from Rishis (enlightened beings) in India who experienced the knowledge of Ayurveda whilst in deep states of meditation. Thus, Ayurveda was born not of the mind of man but rather, of universal laws or wisdoms instilled into the heart of these ancient seers. The unconscious un-manifest was brought into the conscious manifest by these rishis founded from their understanding of all creation.
This knowledge was originally taught orally and was not transcribed into text. This was considered by the rishis as the most effective way to enable a student to not just learn information but to actually embody the teachings.
When it was eventually transcribed into text it was done so in Sanskrit in the form of poetry known as sutras in the Vedic times of India.
Thus Ayurveda is not only a science of life but also a spiritual science for those who seek this aspect of universal truth. Being a universal truth, Ayurveda is timeless in its application and effect.