Ayurveda translates to Knowledge of Life. ‘Ayur’, meaning Life and ‘Veda’ meaning Science or Knowledge. It is based on a collection of texts about understanding human physiology, anatomy, and biochemistry. It regards the body as a self-regulating mechanism, which can accomplish all it's functions well, if it is in balance. Ayurveda works to harmonise our internal and external worlds, thus promoting total wellness.
Originated in Vedic times in India, this approach to health and well-being is more than 6,000 years ago. It includes knowledge and guidance on all aspects of wellbeing—how to live, move, eat, work, rest, and play so that you can live a long and healthy life in harmony with nature. Originally passed on orally through generations of masters, some of this knowledge was written in Sanskrit a few thousand years ago and can thus be accessed even today.
Ayurveda is a collection of natural therapies, including herbal supplements, diet, yoga, meditation, massage, and aromatherapy. This holistic approach gives the body the nutrients it needs and allows it to heal itself.
Ayurveda groups the five elements i.e. air, fire, water, earth and ether into three basic energy types that are present in everything and everybody, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are known as the three ‘Doshas’ i.e. biological energies that flow through our body and affect our lifestyle, mood, skin and mental health. Each Dosha influences our internal organs as well as external attributes such as physique and emotions. It is believed that each individual has their own unique footprint or pattern of energy and understanding this energy pattern can help identify imbalances and disease.
Vata is the energy associated with movement, Pitta is the energy of digestion or metabolism, and Kapha is the energy that forms the body’s structure. Everyone has a combination of one or two or all three doshas, however the composition differs from person to person. An excess or deficiency of Vata, Pitta or Kapha is what causes disorder and thus disease.
Everything that we experience, be it physical or an emotion, has certain qualities. Ancient texts classify these qualities into 10 pairs of opposites (eg: dark vs light). These are called ‘Gunas’ in Sanskrit. Ayurvedic treatment relies upon recognising which Gunas are in excess or deficient and applying the opposite quality to return balance.
Since every individual has an unique Dosha composition, the treatment of any imbalance is also customised to the individual. Ancient Ayurvedic physicians (or Vaidyas), have outlined detailed descriptions of acute and chronic conditions, their causes, signs and symptoms, and developed holistic treatment programs. This care and treatment of disease falls under Ayurveda’s eight branches, which include:
- Kaayachikitsa – Internal Medicine
- Baalachikitsa – Pediatrics
- Bhuta Vidya – Psychiatry
- Shalakya Tantra – Ear, Nose and Throat Treatment
- Shalya Tantra – Surgery
- Vishagara Vairodh Tantra – Toxicology
- Jarachikitsa/Rasayana – Geriatrics and Rejuvenation
- Vajikarana — Aphrodisiac Therapy, Fertility, and Conception
In addition, Panchakarma, a cleansing program, is recommended to release and eliminate accumulated toxins from deep within the tissues. This enables the body to harness greater benefits from the suggested treatment measures.
Ayurvedic concepts such as Dinacharya and Ritucharya can yield a host of health benefits. In Sanskrit, ‘Dinacharya’ means ‘to follow the knowledge of the day’. This concept looks at cycles of nature and bases daily activities such as when you wake up, personal hygiene, exercise, meals, meditation, work, sleeping etc, into a routine around these cycles. In simple words, Dinacharya is establishing a daily routine. Creating a supportive dinacharya is the key to great health and making the changes you want to see in your life. Through a simple schedule, you become in control of your day instead of it controlling you.
Ritucharya is a set of guidelines that change with the seasons. These guidelines serve as prescriptions for diet and lifestyle changes throughout the year, and help us keep clear in our minds, fulfilled in our spirits, and vibrant in our bodies.
A major tenet of Ayurveda is that all disease originates in the mind. This means that Doshic imbalances usually begin with imbalances in our emotions and mental state. Thus Routine, which helps establish balance for the mind and body, becomes supremely crucial, especially in trying times like these.