The Science of Ayurveda: A Brief Introduction Guide

what is ayurveda

In Ayurveda, perfect health is an equilibrium between body, mind, spirit and social well being. The distortion of balance results in the diseases.

The word Ayurveda is originated from the Sanskrit language where ‘Ayuh‘ means longevity or life and ‘Veda‘ means science or sacred knowledge. Therefore, Ayurveda means the science of longevity or the sacred knowledge of life that helps you to understand the uniqueness of your body.

Philosophy Of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a practical amalgamation of Vedic philosophical systems; Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, and Vaisheshika integrated with exceptional measures of holistic health care.

According to Ayurveda, the body and mind each one of has, uniquely differs from every being. We all are different from each other in every respect, even the identical twins are uniquely different from each other.

The philosophy of Ayurveda in the first place helps us in understanding why we all are different and to accept it. The well being of an individual is related to the wellbeing of the society, of the living space and the entire universe.

The Ayurveda philosophy is based on the theory of macrocosm and microcosm. Every matter in the universe is composed of 5 elements and the existence of a matter is attributed to Kala (time), Dik (space) and Atma (mind).

When we make harmony with nature, it creates an equilibrium between the five elements of our body and nature, that eventually maintains the harmony of our holistic health.

History Of Ayurveda

Originating in the Indian subcontinent, approximately 6000 years ago, Ayurveda is the oldest among all the holistic health systems. The Ayurveda has its traces in Rig Veda and Atharvaveda.

To understand the basics of Ayurvedic learning and practices, you can read Caraka Samhita, Susruta Samhita and AstangaHrdayaStrotra of Vaghbhata. All three Samhitas are the most popular and important, which are compiled roughly around 1500 BC and 500 AD.

During the 3rd century, the origin of Rasashastra brings a huge revolution in the field of Ayurveda. To enhance the effectiveness of treatment, mercury and several other minerals have been added to the medicines after certain processing. The medicines were fast and safe, shown phenomenal results in difficult health conditions. The establishment of British rule and the influence of western culture, medicine and science faded the charm of Ayurveda to a huge extent. In the latter days of Britisher’s rule, Ayurveda had gained the attention of many scholars from all around the globe.

Owing to its influence on the origin of Homeopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda is also known as the ‘Mother of all healings’.

Ayurvedic Principle: Structural & Functional Body

panch tatva or 5 elements of body

All the material including the body is composed of Pancamahabhutas or five essential elements i.e. Prithvi or Bhumi (earth), Jal or Ap (water), Agni or Tejas (fire), Vayu or Pawan ( Air) and Akash or Byom (ether). when these subtle elements are in balance, we to our highest human level. All 5 elements constitute different functional and structural constituents of the body.

Structural Constituents of the body

The functional constituents of the human body are as follows:

  • Dhatus: The basic essential structural components or seven tissue system of the body.
  1. Rasa (plasma, leukocytes, and thrombocytes)
  2. Rakta (Red blood cells)
  3. Mamsa (muscle tissue)
  4. Medas (fat tissue)
  5. Asthi (bones)
  6. Majja (marrow and brain)
  7. Shukra (male semen) or Arthva (female egg)
  • Upadhatus: The secondary essential structural components or sub tissues of the body. Upadhatus are the end products of the dhatus.
  1. Stanya (lactation)
  2. Rajas (menstrual blood)
  3. Sira (blood Vessels)
  4. Kandara (tendons)
  5. Twak (skin)
  6. Vasa (muscle fat)
  7. Snayu (ligaments and nerves)
  • Malas: It denotes the impurities, waste or non-essential substance produced after the digestion and metabolism in the body. The 3 main malas are:
  1. Purisha (faeces)
  2. Mutra (urine)
  3. Sveda (sweat)
  • Srotas: The channels in the form of tracs, veins, arteries are known as Srotas. These help in the transportation and exchange of substances. Out of 13 types of Srotas, 7 transports 7 dhatus, 3 transport 3 malas and the remaining are for respiration, food and water.

Functional Constituents of the body

  • Agni: It is a vital principle for digestion of food and transformation of dhatu. This principle acts at 3 levels, therefore described as 3 types;
  1. Jatharagni acts for initial digestion
  2. Bhutagni acts after food is absorbed.
  3. Dhatvagni divides the transformed food into further.
  • Doshas: The word Doshas means fault, defect or disturbance.  Vata. Pitta and Kapha are the most popular phenomena in Ayurveda. The normal and abnormal state of dosha creates good and ill effects on the entire body.
  1. Vata: Vata is a kinetic principle responsible for all the movements.
  2. Pitta: Pitta is a thermal principle that promotes digestion and metabolism.
  3. Kapha: Kapha is a hydraulic principle responsible for lubrication and structure.

Concepts Of Prakriti, Viktiti, and Doshas

The concept of Prakriti or Prakruti explains why we act differently to the same stimulus. Based on the predominance of the doshas, the Prakriti is divided into 7 types.

Prakriti is determined by various factors such as inherent traits from parents and food, the behavior of a mother during pregnancy. Throughout life, our Prakriti or specific constitution remains the same. However, our Prakriti is influenced by the internal, external and environmental factors like diet, lifestyle choices, seasonal changes, day and night and more.

Vikriti or Vikruti is simply an abnormal or diseased state. When our Vrakruti differs from our Prakruti this leads to imbalanced doshas.

Theory of Doshas

The word Dosha means fault, disturbance and corruption. Each dosha is consist of two of the five essential elements possessing special qualities.

  • Space (represents the quality of expansion)
  • Air (represents the quality of gaseousness, mobility, and lack of form)
  • Fire (represents the quality of transformation, heat, and fire)
  • Water (represents the quality of liquidity and instability)
  • Earth (represents the quality of solidity and stability)

Apart from the three main doshas, there are some mixed types too such as;

1. Four Classic Doshas: Vata, Pitta, Kapha & Sama (Tri dosha or all 3 doshas)

2. Three Classic Dual Doshas: Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha & Pitta-Vata

3. Three Additional Dual Doshas: Pitta-Kapha, Kapha-Pitta & Kapha-Vatta

Characteristics Of Three Doshas

  • Vata: The term Vata is derived from the Sanskrit word Va denoting ‘movement’. It is considered the most influential dosha as it is a mobile force behind Pitta and Kapha. Vata’s main seat is at the colon and it is related to our vital life essence Prana.
    When balanced, it encourages a sound balance between thought and emotion, and invokes the creativity, activity, and clear comprehension. Imbalanced Vata causes fear, anxiety, nervousness even spasms and tremors.
  • Pitta: The term Pitta stems from the Sanskrit word Pinj denoting ‘shine’ or ‘that which digests’. Pitta’s main seat is at the small intestine and it is related to Tejas.
    Balanced Pitta promotes intelligence and understanding while the aggravated Pitta causes anger, frustration, jealousy, and criticism.
  • Kapha: Kapha is the term originating from the Sanskrit word Shlish meaning ‘that holds things together’. The stomach is its main seat and the Ojas is associated with it.
    When Kapha is balanced it shows love, calmness and forgiveness and the imbalanced Kapha represents attachment and insecurities.

2 Approaches to Ayurveda

All the Ayurvedic practitioners take two both preventive as well as curative approach.

  • Preventive Medicine

Ayurveda emphasises on an individual’s Prakriti, and creating daily or creating several preventive to keep it in harmony. These preventive practices or we can say health routines focus on diet, exercise, meditation, massage, herbal therapies and social and positive relationships. Following are preventive measures or practices to maintain and promote health;

1. Dinacharya (Daily routines)
2. Ritucharya(Seasonal regimen)
3.Rasayana (Anti-aging measures)
4.Vajikarana (Measures to improve the quality of reproductive functions).

  • Curative Medicine

These treatments restore and maintain health by seeking or treating a person after he falls ill. There are various approaches followed by curative medicine such as;

  1. Internal measures comprise Shodhana (detoxification) and Shamana (methods used to enhance the quality of life via palliative care).
  2. External measures include Snehana (oil treatments), Svedana (steam therapy using herbal steam), and use of herbal pastes.
  3. Surgical methods comprise removal of tissues, organs, and harmful growths.
  4. Mental and spiritual therapies termed as Daivya Chikitsa.
  5. Herbal measures include Rasa Shashtra (the use of several herbal and trace metal formulations)

Specialties of Ayurveda

The classic text of Ayurveda describes the eight speciality branches of Ayurvedic Medicine:

  1. Kaya-Chikitsa or General Medicine; focuses on dosha balance and imbalance, metabolic function, and digestion
  2. Shalya Chikitsa or Surgery
  3. Salakya Chikitsa or Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat
  4. Prasuti and Stri-Rog or Obstetrics/ Gynaecology and Bala Chikitsa/ Kaumarbhritya or Pediatrics
  5. Bhuta-vidya or Graha-Chikitsa) or Psychology and Psychiatry; includes spirituality
  6. Agadha-tantra or Toxicology; focuses on poisons ranging from insect bites to heavy metals and plants, and includes a medical jurisprudence role in which practitioners address cause of injury, death, and other medical ethics
  7. Rasayana or Rejuvenation/Geriatrics
  8. Vajikaran or Virilification/ Sexology

 

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