Ayurveda is the world’s oldest holistic healing system based on the equilibrium between the mind, body and spirit. It incorporates comprehensive facets such as herbal remedies, dietary and yogic practices. ‘Ayush’ means life while ‘Veda’ means knowledge or science; quite literally the word means the ‘The Knowledge of Life’.
The History of Ayurveda
This powerful Hindu health care system can be traced back to Lord Brahma himself. The sacred text Ayurveda Avatarana states that the Supreme Creator, even before the existence of mankind, made the divine revelation. He could foretell the maladies that could fall upon his greatest creation man and thus designed an intricate medicinal system. Although unscripted, Lord Brahma passed on a special shloka or hymn of over a hundred thousand verses with nature’s secrets to Daksh Prajapati, the Himalayan King and the father of Goddess Parvati. Daksh Prajapati further enlightened Lord Indra, the King of the Heavens about this sophisticated healing process. The first mortal to learn the craft from Lord Indra was Rishi Bharadvaja, who spread the divine knowledge among sages of the time.
The first text form of the teachings was Agnivesh Tantra, a manuscript by Rishi Agnivesha but it was lost in the annals of time. The redacted version of this significant book called Charaka Samhita by Charaka became popular. Another near-parallel compendium was the Sushruta Samhita, complied by Sushruta on the healing and surgical techniques of Rishi Dhanvatri. Rooted in Vedic practices, these two manuals of the Common Era became the original Ayurveda texts that were used in ancient Universities like Taxila and Nalanda. Over time Ayurveda fragmented into specialist branches such as Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine), Grahachikitsa (Psychology and Psychiatry), Urdhwanga (ENT & Ophthalmology), Balachikitsa (Paediatrics), Damstra (Toxicology), Shalya (Surgery), Jara (Science of Rejuvenation) and Vrisha (Science of Aphrodisiacs).
How the concept works by knowing doshas and with diets?
According to Ayurveda the human body is of three distinct types of bio-energy or Tridosha, namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha. This governs the internal environment. Exterior forces such as lifestyle choices, disagreeable diets, incompatible foods, suppressed emotions, stress or change in seasons can affect this delicate balance. Each dosha based body type has a defined set of characteristics and is prone to specific ailments. Hence, the curative or preventive methods differ. Aromatherapy is one such subset of Ayurveda that is centered on body types. It has a unique way of identifying scents that are best suited to revive and rejuvenate the body. Depending on the malady of the body type, the appropriate fragrant oils are used for activating chakras through massaging.
Again, diets composed of dosha-specific requirements. So meal plans must be formulated in accordance. Vegetarianism is one of the options for a healthy internal and external physical system. Food intake forms are also of much importance. In most food, due to cooking over 130 degrees vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytonutrients are destroyed. This destruction of nutrients is like consuming empty calories that only fill up a person temporarily. So food must be balanced with raw vegetables and fruits. This helps in fighting a range of diseases, some as grave as cancers. Ayurveda also stresses on the significance of drinking water for flushing toxins from the body. In fact, there is a range of hydrotherapies in the practice.
Benefits of Ayurveda
Ayurveda provides distinct basis of the body in terms of Manas (psychological) and Prakriti (natural constitution). Just like the doshas are three aspects of the body, the three energies of the mind Trigunas include Satwas, Rajas, or Tamas. Humans have a balance of the three. The Panchamahabhutas – Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space along with cosmic consciousness form the building blocks of physical being. The foundation of Ayurveda treatments is in harmonizing these mental and physical energies to fortify wellness.
Ayurveda protects health and prolongs life by removing illnesses and dysfunctions. Yoga is an inseparable entity. While the Rig Veda and Artharva Veda mention Ayurveda several times, the Yajur Veda has many passages about Yoga. Yoga is a spiritual and ascetic disciple that includes simple exercises, body postures along with meditation and breath control. It brings forth both fitness and relaxation.
Panchkarma Therapy Benefits
A beneficial therapy of Ayurveda is Panchakarma or complete body detox. It is a set of five procedures for purification and rejuvenation by eliminating toxins and debris. This improves physical and mental health and has curative powers for combatting deep-rooted diseases. It includes processes like massages and fermentation (Snehana), medicated enemas (Basti), emesis through herb consumption (Vamana), purgation through herbs or irrigation (Virechana), nasal administration of oils (Nasya) and other sub types. Every day the body encounters toxins via air, water and food. The body’s metabolic system rejects most of these substances. But some circulate back though tissues and bloodstream, getting stored as residue or fats. This causes low energy, tiredness, low immunity, inflammation, allergies, food sensitivities, yeast infections and lack of concentration among others. Thus Ayurveda stresses on the importance of detoxification.
Importance of sleep
Timely sleep or nidra is important for nourishing the body and rejuvenating the mind, senses and emotions. Sleep is vital especially in today’s over stimulated and stressful urban life. Ayurveda has guidelines on proper sleep cycles. Similarly seasons also play a role in physical and mental health. Seasons bring in gunas or qualities with doshic implications, which affect the body, moods and emotions. Specific season-based herbal formulations and detox activities are encouraged to help tide over such challenges.
The body’s shape and form depends on seven dhatus, namely Rasa (tissue fluid), Rakta (RBC), Mansa (skeletal muscle), Meda (fat and connective tissue), Majja (bone marrow), Asthi (bones) and Shukra (male sperms and female reproduction fluids). They are interconnected and nurture one another. A problem in one creates a domino effect. Ojas is the fine essence of all dhatus and the superfine essence of Shukra dhatu. It manifests our bodily presence as the sap of life energy, powering all systems of the body. The ancient practice of Ayurveda helps in strengthening this life force.
Thus, for thousands of years the wise words of Lord Brahma are a potent protective force for mankind even today.