Introduction to Ayurvedic Medicine

Introduction to Ayurvedic Medicine

What is it and Exactly How Does it Work?

© 2004 Waimarie Yolande Manson DipNat, AMD, MNMHNZ



THE WORD ‘AYURVEDA’

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning the science of life (ayur means life, veda means knowledge or science). It is pronounced “I-your-vay-da”. Some people mistakenly refer to this medical system as ‘Ayurvedic’. Actually this is incorrect, but be assured that you can say “Ayurvedic Medicine”, that you’re on an Ayurvedic diet, or even say “Ayurvedically-speaking…”if you want to sound really knowledgeable!

AYURVEDA IS…

An Ancient Healing System, The World's Oldest Health Science. It originated on the Indian sub-continent, and is closely linked with the system of Yoga. The texts we use (the Vedic texts or Vedas) were put into writing around 5,000 years ago, but it is well known that these texts existed in spoken form for many thousands of years previous to this. The ancient and holy knowledge of this medical system was meticulously passed down from Guru to student for many generations before it was committed to writing.

Many Believe It To Be The 'Original' Medicine, Which Gave Birth To All Others Throughout The World - Chinese, Tibetan, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Persian, and Ancient Greek (which is the ancestor of old European and modern Western Medicine) all have strongly proven links to Ayurveda. For example many Ancient Greek scholars traveled to India for training or to bring back a personal Guru (teacher) to teach them. Also travelers from Tibet, China and the Middle East on the Silk Road often stopped in India for training before moving on and spreading the knowledge wherever they went.

Said To Be A Medicine For All People And All Times - It has always been emphasised in our texts that Ayurveda is meant for all of humanity and is not just applicable to the natives of India. It is such a versatile system that it can be suited to any country, climate or era – and is still widely practiced in India today, being not at all out of date. On the contrary it is still highly relevant in modern times. Our texts reveal that many modern ailments were actually predicted in ancient times, and remedies prescribed for them 5,000 years before their advent!

Tried And Proven Successful Across The AgesAyurvedic Doctors are taught in universities in India alongside Western Medical Doctors, and there are a lot of modern studies and clinical trials proving that Ayurvedic Medicine works. It is widely recognised and utilized by the Government of India, and many Ayurvedic Hospitals treat patients for free or for a minimal charge.

Revolutionising Modern Healthcare Around The Globe, it is one of the most popular medicines in the USA (especially California) today and is quickly becoming the next 'big thing' in Europe and Australasia. Ayurveda is not a fad, it is a legitimate and complete medical system which has remained unchanged for thousands of years. True Ayurveda practitioners will not bow to the trends and pressures which are becoming prolific in the Natural healthcare field.

 

AYURVEDIC APPROACH TO HEALING

A Complete Philosophy of Life, Ayurveda is not only a modality for treatment. The principles of Diet, Herbs, Lifestyle and Body Therapies are only the physical part of the Ayurveda Spectrum. Treatments work even better when also implemented at mental, emotional and spiritual levels. Ayurveda provides a unique awareness at the core of one’s being for prevention, cure and rejuvenation.

Truly Holistic - As you can see, Ayurveda is one of the very few truly holistic medical systems in the world (the word ‘holistic’ means something which encompasses the entire person, not just their body). It is a very effective form of healing because it removes all of the complicated barriers to healing which are normally unresolved by most medical systems in use today.

Treatment of the Cause - Ayurveda practitioners believe that almost every disease or ailment has a tangible and removable cause which will fit into one of the categories: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. The only Ayurvedic way to treat an ailment is to go back to the cause and remove it, thereby preventing its recurrence and its progression. We can also use herbal and mineral products and body therapies in order to speed recovery, purification and palliation of symptoms.

The ‘Unique Individual’ The beauty of using Ayurveda to heal is that the knowledge is applied to all aspects of a person’s life in order to choose which herbs, foods, or lifestyle techniques suit them specifically, no two people will be treated in the exact same way. For example, it takes away the complicated decision of "Which herb/supplement would suit this person best?", a problem that faces many natural and orthodox medical practitioners. It also enables a person to make educated choices for themselves once they know which body type they have.

The Five Elements and You - We do this by categorising all herbs, foods, lifestyle types, jobs, countries, areas and even people into certain categories according to the elements or Air, Ether (space), Fire, Water and Earth. Once we've discovered the original birth constitution (the balance of elements in the body at birth) and the current levels of elements, it is simple to choose routines, herbs or foods in order to increase or decrease certain imbalanced elements.

 

IT WORKS LIKE THIS:

  • Your birth constitution (prakruti) and current imbalances (vikruti) are diagnosed (through pulse and consultation) based on a system of the 5 elements (space, air, fire, water, earth). Each person's body is made up of their own individual mix of these elements and this differentiates you from every other person in the world. The pulse also shows the condition of your bodily organs, digestive function, metabolism, and presence of toxins (ama).

  • Medical History, psychological, lifestyle, environment and dietary factors are taken into account.

  • Treatments are prescribed relating to diet, lifestyle, exercise, meditation, counselling, massage, purification therapies, and herbal formulations. These aim to return the elements to a healthy state of balance, thereby removing illness and preventing the return or inception of ailments.

  • The aim is to return the body to it's naturally balanced and healthy state which allows it to heal itself, and to function correctly.

  • Self-Moderated Ongoing Treatment means that you are now gifted with the priceless knowledge of how your body functions and what causes it to become imbalanced. You are able understand how to eat and live to prevent further imbalances in your body, and can follow simple guidelines on how to choose the foods best for you.

 

YOUR AYURVEDIC CONSTITUTION

What is Your Constitution? Anyone who has heard of Ayurveda will probably have read an article or book which describes the three main doshas (constitutional types) and have done a quiz which supposedly enlightens you as to your constitution. Unfortunately Ayurveda is really not that simple. It takes a competent practitioner to accurately diagnose your prakruti and vikruti, as there are so many factors to consider.

 

The good news is that doing a quiz can be helpful, but only to a certain extent. It can help you find out which doshas are imbalanced in your body and may give you some clues to your true birth constitution. Some people may be more confused than ever after doing a quiz, and this is not uncommon. I urge you to get the advice of a well-trained practitioner who can diagnose your pulse before embarking on Ayurvedic self-treatments, as you may do yourself more harm than good by focusing on the wrong dosha.

 

The Types - There are three main 'Doshas' or Constitutional Types, but most people are a mix of two of these types, and some are an even mix of all three. None is better than the other, as all people are unique, and according to Ayurveda all people have a fairly equal chance of becoming healthy and disease-free if they live according to the right principles.

 

Balanced or Imbalanced - Most people are born with a naturally balanced constitution (and this can be determined from the pulse). But as we grow, our environment, diet, lifestyle and upbringing affect the balance of elements in our body, and often creates a Vikruti or Imbalanced State. In this state of imbalance, our body can show signs of ill health, and if allowed to continue, more serious ailments or diseases can develop. Ayurveda aims to return you to your birth balance, and keep it that way.

 

Your Constitution Determines Your:

  • Body Shape, Size, and Build; Skin, Eye and Hair Texture and Colour.

  • Metabolism and Body Functions (eg. digestive strength, energy levels, sleep patterns, fertility...)

  • Personality, Temperament, and Mental patterns (eg. dreams, learning style, memory…)

  • Likes and dislikes (season, climate, food…)

  • Immune and organ strength/weakness

 

We will discuss the constitutions in depth in the next issue.

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