Ayurveda is one of the World’s oldest and complete system of Natural healing originated from Ancient Wisdom in India more than 6000 years ago. It is the oldest Scientific system in the World practised by more than 80,000 practitioners around the globe. It is widely practised in conjunction with western Medicine as Integrative Medicine.
Ayurveda is an indispensable part of the Vedas (Spiritual texts), the ancient treasure of supreme knowledge and experience of mankind. Ayurveda is well conversant with Sanskrit language, the language of ancient system of medicine used by the seers (Rishis) to reveal the deeper meanings of the science itself.
Ayurvedic healing is the essence to bring the harmony with nature and the oneness of individual with the entire Universe. Ayurveda be certain of that Human body is one of the share of Universe viz made up of five Universal elements (Air+ Space+ Fire+ Water+ Earth). They exist in the body in unique arrangement termed Dosha (Vata Pitta Kapha)
Ayurveda deals with “Good or Bad life”, “Pleasure or Gloom”, “Support or Destroy” and the measurement of life. Ayurvedic medicine works to heal the Sick with maintenance of health & well-being in Healthy and to reverse the mechanism of diseases to promote the eminence of life. In Ayurvedic system, Health is the equilibrium between Physical, Mental and Spiritual dimensions of the body.
Ayurveda address the root cause of imbalance not merely symptom management. Each person is treated individually, holistically with customized wellness plan. Ayurveda empowers us to take health into our own hands.
The Origins of Ayurveda
The term ‘Ayurveda’ was first mentioned in the Vedic texts, thought to have existed for more than 6000 years, whereby the gods are said to have transmitted this valuable life-preserving knowledge to rishis and seers. They shared this knowledge orally at first until it was written down many years later. Ayurveda is also a derivative of the Tantric lineage, both Tantra and Ayurveda deal with the energies of the universe. They consider that each being has elements of the universe within them and that just as the world around us is comprised of earth, fire, water, air and ether, so too, are we. By 400 AD it is said that Ayurvedic texts were translated into Chinese literature and the methods spread across the East.
Some of the oldest Ayurvedic texts include the Susrutha Samhita and the Charaka Samhita, describing ancient theories behind the human body, different energetic systems, as well as therapeutic guidance for many different ailments. One of the key ways to recognise that Ayurveda stems from Tantra is that it considers repression of natural urges, emotions and thoughts as one of the primary causes of illness and that expression, freedom and truth lead to health and vitality.
Many of the global complementary therapies we use today are derived from Ayurveda, including many types of massage and aromatherapy.
The Eight Branches of Ayurveda
Similarly to Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, there are eight different branches to Ayurveda:
1. Kaaya Chikitsa: Internal medicine
Via methods of purification, detoxification and rejuvenation, this branch looks at healing the body from the inside-out. It is said that the body knows how to heal itself if we are intuitive enough to give it what it needs. The Shat Kriyas (‘Five Actions’) are often used as treatments here, as a way to cleanse the body.
2. Baala Chikitsa: Pregnancy, birth and children’s medicine
There are many different transitions to be considered when it comes to bringing new life into the world. These therapies advise an expectant mother as to how to care for herself and her baby; treats infant illnesses like colic, teething problems, and gives dietary advice to both mothers and babies.
3. Graha Chikitsa or Bhoot Vidya: Psychology
Ayurvedic psychology is an interesting subject within itself, as Ayurveda reasons that all illness starts in the mind. Yoga, visualisation, breathing and mantra are often prescribed.
4. Shalakya or Urdhyaanga Chikitsa: Disease above the shoulders
Illnesses associated with the eyes, nose, ears and throat are dealt with in these therapies. ‘Udvha’ means ‘upward’ and ‘Anga’ means ‘limb’, so this branch is concerned with diseases that accumulate in the body’s most ‘upward limb’.
5. Shalyaroga Chikitsa: Surgery
This branch of Ayurveda deals with illnesses or trauma caused by things that are outside of the body, such as broken limbs, or an injury due to an accident.
6. Damstra Chikitsa: Toxicology
This division treats illnesses caused by ‘poisons’, this could include plants, insects, minerals and metals.
7. Jara Chikitsa or ‘Rasayana’ Therapy: Patients approaching old age
Revitalisation and rejuvenation of the body is the primary focus, preventing the body from succumbing to the signs of ageing. Natural herbs, medicated Ayurvedic oils and nourishing foods are suggested in order to maintain a natural resilience and youthful ‘glow’.
8. Vrishya Chikitsa or Vajji karana: Reproductive system and sex
Sex and sexual vigour are seen as an important aspect of a person’s health. In order for healthy children to be born a person’s sexual health must first be optimal. This is also known as ‘Aphrodisiac treatment’, most often using herbs.
Ayurveda works primarily to balance a person’s energies and starts by observing whether certain energies are dominant or depleted, potentially causing imbalance and illness.
The Gunas – the energies within the universe
The Gunas are considered the different energies within the universe and have an effect on us and the matter around us.
- Rajas: Movement, energy, enthusiasm and dynamism, but also agitation, anger, irritability and impatience; these are the things that represent ‘rajassic’ tendencies. We can recognise when Rajas is predominant when we feel unsettled or unable to be satiated, or when we find ourselves latching onto new projects, people or habits in order to change the way we feel.
- Tamas: This type of energy is responsible for lethargy, fatigue, low mood levels, laziness, ignorance, heaviness and dullness. To feel ‘tamassic’ is considered the lowest form of energy, there is often an inability to distinguish between what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and a person’s essence or prana (‘life force’) is at its lowest.
- Sattva: Purity, contentment, indifference, clarity and harmony. Sattva is neither ‘bad’ or ‘good’ as it is the embodiment of non-attachment and serenity. Although one may feel somewhat ‘enlightened’ when in a sattvic state, this is not to be confused with Samadhi (realisation or enlightenment) as this is still a state governed by the energies of the universe.
Read more about the interplay of the three Gunas
The Doshas – the energies within us
Each person will be under the influence of one or more of these energies at any one time, which can affect how we feel from day to day. More personally, however, each person has their own energetic system, known as their Dosha, which usually translates as ‘imperfection’ or ‘fault’.
A person’s dosha is what creates their physical body type and their personality type, and is also made up of the elements of the world around us (fie elements). The reason the word ‘fault’ or ‘imperfection’ is used as translation is that someone’s dosha is usually the very thing that makes them susceptible to the ways of the world. For example, someone who is predominantly of a Vata dosha comprises the energies of wind which makes their body type slim, cold and dry, with a mind that is often creative, yet prone to feelings of being ‘scattered’ and anxious. Thus, a Vata person is vulnerable to windy, cold, Wintery weather, and situations which are stressful, unpredictable or anxiety-inducing. If ‘out of balance’, an Ayurvedic physician would look to find ways of balancing a person’s dosha, so our Vata example would be encouraged to stay warm, eat warm, cooked food, use warming oils like sesame for self-massage and to practice relaxing, quiet, methodical exercise or yoga postures.
The three Doshas
- Vata: A person with a Vata constitution is usually physically slim, with bony joints and skin and hair prone to dryness. Emotionally, a Vata person is often creative, yet easily distracted and can easily become anxious and ‘un-grounded’.
- Pitta: A Pitta person often has a ‘fiery’ temperament and is usually driven and determined. This makes them good leaders when they’re in a balanced state but can make them argumentative and short tempered when out of balance. Physically, someone of a Pitta nature is often muscular or stocky, strong and with light coloured hair and skin that is sensitive to the sun. They will usually enjoy physical activity and have a strong appetite.
- Kapha: Kapha types are usually ‘grounded’, but can sometimes become so grounded that their habits lean towards laziness and lethargy. These people are usually physically well-built or ‘big boned’, making them strong, with good endurance, but a tendency towards weight gain if they become sedentary. Their strength translates physically as they are rarely injured, but also to their immune system, which if cared for can be strong too. A Kapha person’s personality is usually kind and loyal, but their ‘heaviness’ can cause them to become susceptible to low mood levels.
Find out which Dosha is most dominant in you by taking this quiz.
Back to balance
Life is about relationship, adaptation, experimentation and experience, and just like yoga, Ayurveda encourages us to take the journey inwards so we can return to a state of natural balance.