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Basics of Ayurveda
‘Ayurveda’ means the science of life in Sanskrit. This knowledge of life is the path to the most optimal life for you, the life that is right for every single person individually through various health practices The health of mind, body and spirit alike.
“I need a new house, I want a new car, I need a new jacket, new places to go to, I want new work opportunities, I want new people in my life, I want a new me.” In some way or the other, we’re always engaged in the pursuit of the ‘new’.
We think of changing our financial habits, when we receive a bill which we forgot to account for, we go to the ‘Health Foods’ aisle in the supermarket when we’ve been told by our doctor to lose weight to get rid of that knee pain. And then, we seek change. We suddenly want to become this new person- this perfect person and we try to change.
But this is it, this is where the beauty of Ayurveda comes in. Like a mother, this is when it would stand with arms folded, leaning on the wall, smiling benevolently at you, with a dual expression that would say I-told-you-before-but-don’t worry-I’m-here.
So What is Ayurveda?
With ‘Ayus’ meaning life and ‘Veda’ meaning knowledge, ‘Ayurveda’ means the science of life in Sanskrit.
This knowledge of life is the path to the most optimal life for you, the life that is right for every single person individually through various health practices The health of mind, body and spirit alike.
This science is based on ancient scriptures which give an alternative interpretation to the human anatomy - physiology and, largely focuses on living the right way, on the preventive aspect of health. It was Ayurvedic ‘Vaidya’s (doctors)- Sushrut, known as the Father of Surgery, and Charaka, Known as the Father of Medicine, who contributed hugely to the Ayurvedic literature available today.
But it’s not so much of the history of Ayurveda that’s mind-boggling, it is it’s amazing universal applicability even today, which has a blow-your-socks-off-your-feet quality to it.
After more than 5000 years of continued existence, Ayurveda is actually an official medical science practiced in the country of its origin, India. Especially today, when we have abused our bodies with so many human experiments and an arrogant belief in the human ability to replace nature when it’s not really required, Ayurveda offers unique solutions- It shows the path of eliminating the causes rather than chopping off the symptoms at the surface.
The 5 elements- earth, water, fire, air, space and the 3 Doshas: Vata, Pitta, Kapha are central to Ayurveda. (‘Dosha’ literally means fault, and Ayurveda is all about reducing the faults and increasing the strengths.) Every individual has their own combination of Doshas, a unique ‘Prakruti’ or personality type , which defines how you look, how you behave, how your body responds to things. Like someone once said, “it explains myself to me”.
The properties of these ‘Doshas’ can get influenced by various factors including food, actions, season, mental state, state of the digestion and elimination etc. All these ‘causative factors’ come into play right from the time the child is conceived in the mother’s womb.
So every child is born with a set proportion of Dosha. This is called the ‘Dosha Prakriti’ of the person which influences the physical as well as the mental attributes of a person. This constitution which the child attained from the quality of sperm and ovum (?DNA) and over his stay in the womb would not change. This combination of Dosha if ideal will make the child healthy with potential to grow into a healthy adult .We can do little to alter the state of balance of Dosha that a person is born with as body will always try to go back to this ‘bench mark’ of relative proportion of Dosha.
This Ayurvedic concept of ‘Prakruti’ or your unique personality type which gives you a framework around which you should be making health and lifestyle choices. (You can find out about your own Prakruti or mind-body type by answering this questionnaire here, free of cost.)
The Ayurvedic concept of ‘Vikruti’ or ‘personal imbalance’ addresses what goes wrong with you and your current disease.
By nature, the properties of Doshas( which are actually properties of the five elements) are influenced by the, season, time of the day, and age of the person.. So ideal regimens as daily routine, seasonal routine as per the age of the person are explained in Ayurveda.(look for these in our next articles). Following these regimens as per our inherent ‘Dosha Prakriti” can be a good strategy for disease prevention and promotion of health.
The Doshas influence the mind also, and vice versa. The role of mind in health and disease is well conceived in Ayurveda and by influencing the Dosha, the mental status can also be altered as per the need.
Ayurveda follows the principle of similarities and dissimilarities and believes that in the universe, each living and non-living thing comprises of five elements, but they are present in different proportions, which is responsible for the diversity in nature. Each cell of the body has different proportion of these five elements as per the work assigned to it. For instance, as bone tissue is heavy, bone cell will have more of Earth element as heaviness is a property of earth.
How the principle of similarities and dissimilarities works
Someone who requires replenishing the bone tissue, he/she should have foods which are rich in earth element particularly its heavy property, So foods like cheese, and herbs like ‘Vidarikand’(Pueraria tuberosa) a underground tuber which have more of earth’s property of heaviness should be taken. On the other hand, to reduce weight a person will have to take food and herbs which have opposite properties to the heavy property of earth. i.e., they should be rich in air element and its light property.
As you’ll delve deeper, you’ll find the beauty of Ayurvedic transformation yourself- that it doesn’t change you into someone else- instead it brings out the best in you, it makes the natural best in you blossom, it removes the hurdles from the path of your becoming who you were meant to be.
You will find that Ayurveda doesn’t improve your life through ‘surface mutation’ or external chiselling but by energizing your true self to make it flourish in the best way in any given circumstance of your life.
You will find there is a certain time that is right to certain activities, you will find that there are certain foods you must avoid, while others may eat them, you will find that if you added certain things in your morning routine, you will feel better than you do right now.
Ayurveda is a unique science in itself which gives equal emphasis on disease prevention and promotion of health along with the treatment of disease conditions.