Ayurveda literally means “the science of life” and is the world’s oldest and potentially most influential health science system on the planet. The same principles that were first written down 5000 years ago in India are still in practice today around the globe. With a focus on natural self-healing through balance and preventive treatments, Ayurveda promotes the use of herbs, foods, exercise, aromatherapy, massage and other natural methods to proactively maintain internal harmony. Ayurveda is respected to this day in South Asia as “traditional medicine” and is practiced in over 50 other countries as “alternative medicine”. Ayurveda is more than just the treatment of illness and ailments, it is a lifestyle and belief system that proves that maintaining health requires a dynamic balance of mind, body, spirit and environment.
The origin of Ayurveda comes from sacred texts from Ancient India known as the Vedas or the Vedic texts. These are thought to have originated some time during the Vedic period, or roughly around 2500 BC and passed on over the generations orally until finally written down around the 1st century BC. A long history of Ayurveda shows that the science of health and medicine was tightly intertwined with spirituality and religious beliefs yet even in its early days Ayurveda had a school for doctors and surgeons that studied the body and how to prevent and treat illness.
During the course of thousands of years, Ayurveda remained the primary system for preventing, diagnosing and treating disease and illness in India and South Asia, but was not widely understood in Europe until approximately 750 AD. By the 1700’s, British physicians were travelling to India to study Ayurveda medical techniques, including the first known rhinoplasty procedures. After all, reconstructive surgery was first practiced in India in 800 BC!
Over the last hundred years, Ayurveda has gained increasingly more respect and recognition as an effective and viable medical system in over 50 countries worldwide. Accreditations have been established and given to schools that have standardized the teachings and practices of Ayurvedic medicine and, in many South Asian countries, the number of Ayurvedic doctors clinics vastly outnumber any other modern medicine-based doctors clinics. In the West and the United States, the study and practice of Ayurveda is increasing at an alarming rate, most likely due to its focus on natural remedies and preventative treatments in a time when healthcare costs continue to soar.
The basic philosophy of Ayurveda is that everything in the entire universe (both animate and inanimate) is a commingling of the essences of 5 elemental energies: earth, water, fire, air and space, sometimes to referred to as “ether”. In the human body, these elements combine and manifest themselves as the tridosha, which can be considered the “foundation for the psychosomatic existence of man”. Vata, pitta and kapha are the three basic humors that make up the tridosha. Vata is formed from the elements of air and ether and within the body is responsible for movement. Pitta comes from the element of fire and governs metabolism and intelligence. Kapha is made up of the elements earth and water and is what forms and supports the physical structure of the body.
Every biological, psychological and physiological function in the body is governed by the tridosha. Every human on the planet can be (roughly) categorized within one of the follow 7 general constitutions or unique combinations of tridosha: 1) vata, 2) pitta, 3) kapha, 4) vata/pitta, 5) pitta/kapha, 6) vata/kapha, or 7) vata/pitta/kapha. When vata, pitta and kapha are in a state of imbalance, disease and illness arises.
Health is the body’s state of peace that occurs when there is order. When disorder occurs and the body falls out of balance, this peace dissipates and disease and illness can occur. In order to maintain a state of healthy order, it is important to continually monitor the body’s dosha’s (vata, pitta and kapha) as they are manifested through various physical symptoms. The pulse, eyes, tongue, nails, face, and even emotional responses are a few areas where signs of imbalances of dosha’s can be easily recognized.
Ayurveda methods and treatments differ from many other conventional practices in that Ayurveda treatments emphasize and focus on curing the individual rather than curing the disease specifically. It focuses on removing the root cause of disease rather than suppressing the symptoms. This approach is evidence that Ayurveda believes in the dynamic balance of all the functions of the body and returning the body to a balanced state will cure illness. There are many natural methods and treatments used in Ayurveda that can help restore the body’s healthy constitution. Among these are medication (herbs and minerals), acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, allopathy, aromatherapy, yoga, fasting, purging, enema and other natural body purification techniques.
Although the science of Ayurveda has been practiced for millennia, it is still a relatively unknown medical system here in the United States. Many people have visited chiropractors, masseuses and even acupuncturists, but most are not aware of the body of knowledge known as Ayurveda that uses such methods to keep the body in healthy working condition. Recently, however, there has been a surge of popularity and many well known people have begun using Ayurveda to treat illness that conventional Western medicine has been unable to cure.