Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of health care—it is the tree of knowledge from which many popular medicines and therapeutic interventions have grown. Used for 5,000 years by many thousands of doctors on millions of patients, Ayurveda is the time-tested medical system of India. The term Ayurvedais Sanskrit and means the “Science of Life.” It encompasses a variety of natural therapies and philosophies that support and enhance individual balance, health, and wellness. It has made huge advances in surgery, herbal medicine, herbal extracts, medicinal uses of minerals and metals, human anatomy, physiology, psychology, nutrition, and exercise.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has deﬁned health as a state of complete, physical, mental, and social well-being—not merely the absence of disease. Ayurveda goes a step beyond this by offering a complete philosophy of life. It gives equal importance to all aspects of life, including those that are subjective and intangible, when addressing disease and imbalance. Ayurveda’s success and longevity stem from its capacity to teach us how to live vibrantly by creating good health at every step along the way.
Ayurveda is multifaceted, and practitioners often undergo years of training. It is an extremely sophisticated system of observation that categorizes clients by distinctive anatomic and metabolic “types” also known asprakruti. According to Ayurvedic teaching, each person exhibits a distinct pattern of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. The course of illness and remedies are determined in part by each client’s constitution and the environment in which he or she exists.
In Ayurvedic philosophy, our prakruti is made up of a combination of doshas. There are three doshas that govern our psychobiological functioning: vata, pitta and kapha. Each dosha comprises the ﬁve elements (panchamahabhutas) and are present in every cell, tissue, and organ of the body. All five elements are present in each dosha, but the two predominating elements determine the defining qualities of the dosha. The doshas are responsible for the huge variety of individual differences and preferences, and they inﬂuence all that we are and all that we do—from our choices of food to the ways we relate to others.
The doshas also govern the biological and psychological processes of our body, mind, and consciousness. They regulate the creation, maintenance, and destruction of bodily tissue as well as the elimination of waste products. They even govern our emotions and mental state. When in balance, the doshas generate understanding, compassion, love, and health. When their balance is upset by stress, improper diet, and environmental conditions, they give rise to disturbances such as anger, fear, anxiety, confusion, depression, and disease. Thus, when in balance, they create health and well-being; when out of balance, they cause disease and distress.
The goal of Ayurveda is to protect the health of a healthy person and restore health of a sick person by maintaining or bringing the body back into constitutional balance (doshic balance). Many factors can disturb the balance of the body such as stress, unhealthy diet, toxins, weather, work, strained relationships, and lifestyle choices. Such disturbances are expressed in the body as disease. Inherent in Ayurvedic principles is the concept that you are capable of taking charge of your own life and healing. When we becomes ill, the illness is not likely to completely resolve unless we change the behaviors that caused it. Understanding genetic makeup and getting to the bottom of these factors is an important process of the Ayurvedic medical science.
An Ayurvedic practitioner creates specific health programs according to each individual's doshic patterns, addressing each person’s illness as unique to him or her. Ayurvedic treatments may include internal and external medicinal remedies, diet plans, exercise, daily lifestyle programs, external body therapies, yoga, meditation, and detoxification and rejuvenation practices. Through a combination of these techniques and understanding of an individual’s unique constitution, Ayurveda can provide a complete system of healing with long-term solutions.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.