Thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, the sages of India developed Ayurveda, which continues to be one of the worlds most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. Ayurveda is an ancient medical tradition from India. The term is derived from the Sanskrit Ayur, meaning “life” or “longevity,” and Veda, meaning “knowledge” or “science.”
So the word “Ayurveda” is Sanskrit: आयुर्वेद, Ayurveda, meaning knowledge of life and longevity.
The concept of Ayurveda is based on two major principles. The first principle is that the body and mind are interconnected, and the second principle is that the mind is powerful enough to heal the body. The body is cured of illnesses only when one’s awareness of the self-expands.
Ayurvedic medicine and yoga are closely associated. They both find their roots in the Vedas. Renowned Vedic scholar, David Frawley, teaches that yoga is the practical side of Vedic teachings and Ayurveda is the healing side. Ayurveda aims to keep the body and mind balanced so that the individual remains healthy, and yoga is an art of body-mind coordination that ensures physical and mental fitness as well as enhances one’s spirituality.
According to modern Ayurvedic sources, the origins of Ayurveda have been traced to around 6,000 BCE when they originated as an oral tradition. Some of the concepts of Ayurveda have existed since the times of Indus Valley Civilization. The first recorded forms of Ayurveda as medical texts evolved from the Vedas. Ayurveda is a discipline of the upaveda or “auxiliary knowledge” in Vedic tradition. The origins of Ayurveda are also found in Atharvaveda, which contains 114 hymns and incantations described as magical cures for disease. There are various legendary accounts of the origin of Ayurveda, e.g. that it was received by Dhanvantari (or Divodasa) from Brahma. Ayurveda therapies have varied and evolved over more than two millennia. Therapies are typically based on complex herbal compounds, minerals and metal substances (perhaps under the influence of early Indian alchemy or rasa shastra). Ancient Ayurveda texts also taught surgical techniques, including rhinoplasty, kidney stone extractions, sutures, and the extraction of foreign objects.
In Sushruta Samhita (Sushruta’s Compendium), Sushruta wrote that Dhanvantari, Hindu god of Ayurveda, incarnated himself as a king of Varanasi and taught medicine to a group of physicians, including Sushruta.
According to Ayurvedic science, the body is a combination of three doshas, or “energies.” These doshas are Vata and kapha. Every individual has one dosha that is more dominant than the others, depending on the Prakriti, or “natural constitution,” of the person. Factors that influence the doshas include age, diet, and climate.
The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily bio-elements or doshas called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
1) Vata or Vata is characterized by the properties of dry, cold, light, minute, and movement. All movement in the body is due to properties of vata. Pain is the characteristic feature of deranged vata. Some of the diseases connected to unbalanced vata are flatulence, gout, rheumatism, etc. Vata is not to be interpreted as air.
2) Pitta represents metabolism; It is characterized by hotness, moist, liquid, sharp and sour, its chief quality is heat. It is the energy principle which uses bile to direct digestion and enhance metabolism. It is primarily characterized by body heat or burning sensation and redness.
3) Kapha is the watery element it is character by heaviness, cold, tenderness, softness, slowness, lubrication and the carrier of nutrients. It is the nourishing element of the body. All soft organs are made by Kapha and it plays an important role in the perception of taste together with nourishment and lubrication.
Yoga practice can influence the balance of the three doshas. Choosing the right poses based on personal constitution can help practitioners maximize the health benefits of yoga. The vata dosha governs the nervous system, so those with vata constitution should practice yoga poses that promote calm. The pitta dosha governs digestion and organ function, so those with pitta constitution should practice yoga poses that are cooling. Kapha dosha governs body fluids and the movement of nutrients, so those with kapha constitution should practice stimulating yoga poses.
Prana, Tejas, and Ojas
Yoga is an alchemical process of balancing and transforming energies of the psyche. At the root of vata, pitta and kapha are its subtle counterparts called Prana, Tejas and Ojas. Unlike the doshas, which in excess create diseases, these promote health, creativity, and well-being.
1) Prana is our life force and is the healing energy of vata (air)
2) Tejas is our inner radiance and is the healing energy of pitta (fire)
3) Ojas is the ultimate energy reserve of the body derived from kapha (water)
“Charaka Samhita,” “Ashtanga Hrudaya” and “Sushruta Samhita” are the three most prominent ancient texts on Ayurveda. They elaborate on the five-element system and the importance of balance in a healthy life viz. earth, water, fire, air, and ether
Principles and terminology
The central theoretical ideas of Ayurveda developed in the mid-first millennium BCE, and show parallels with Sankhya and Vaisesika philosophies, as well as with Buddhism and Jainism. Balance is emphasized, and suppressing natural urges is considered unhealthy and claimed to lead to illness. For example, to suppress sneezing is said to potentially give rise to shoulder pain. However, people are also cautioned to stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure when following nature’s urges. For example, an emphasis is placed on moderation of food intake, sleep, and sexual intercourse.
Ayurveda names seven basic tissues (dhatu), which are plasma (rasa), blood (rakta), muscles (mamsa), fat (meda), bone (asthi), marrow (majja), and semen (Shukra). There are also twenty gunas (qualities or characteristics) which are considered to be inherent in all substances. These are organized in ten pairs: heavy/light, cold/hot, unctuous/dry, dull/sharp, stable/mobile, soft/hard, non-slimy/slimy, smooth/coarse, minute/gross, and viscous/liquid.
In medieval taxonomies of the Sanskrit knowledge systems, Ayurveda is assigned a place as a subsidiary Veda (upaveda). Some medicinal plant names from the Atharvaveda and other Vedas can be found in subsequent Ayurveda literature. The earliest recorded theoretical statements about the canonical models of disease in Ayurveda occur in the earliest Buddhist Canon.
Ayurveda: India’s traditional, natural system of medicine that has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. Ayurveda provides an integrated approach to preventing and treating illness through lifestyle interventions and natural therapies. Ayurvedic theory states that all disease begins with an imbalance or stress in the individual’s consciousness. Lifestyle interventions are a major ayurvedic preventive and therapeutic approach.
In India, Ayurvedic practitioners receive state-recognized, institutionalized training in parallel to their physician counterparts in India’s state-supported systems for conventional Western biomedicine and homeopathic medicine. The research base is growing concerning the physiological effects of meditative techniques and yoga postures in Indian medical literature and Western psychological literature. Published studies have documented reductions in cardiovascular disease risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and reaction to stress, in individuals who practice Ayurvedic methods.
Laboratory and clinical studies on Ayurvedic herbal preparations and other therapies have shown them to have a range of potentially beneficial effects for preventing and treating certain cancers, treating infectious disease, and promoting health. Mechanisms underlying these effects may include free-radical scavenging effects, immune system modulation, brain neurotransmitter modulation, and hormonal effects.
So Ayurveda is one of the best ways to treat a human body in a way where nature helps us through its natural remedies.