What is Ayurveda?

What is Ayurveda?

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Ayurveda – Ancient health science coming from the East

The mystical and exotic Indian system for healthy, happy and long life – Ayurveda, becomes more and more popular in the Western countries. Many people pay their attention to it, in order to keep their good health conditions, and others – to treat their health disorders. The unfamiliar and distant for most of us, Ayurveda is able to cause confusion in the people willing to use it.

We will give you an opportunity to dive into the depths of the East health science and we will try to make it more understandable and familiar.

The reason Ayurveda was created is the desire of the human beings for long life. Its knowledge has been passed through many generations, coming from the universal consciousness that created the visible world. The Hindu mythology calls this superior intellect “Brahma”. Ayurveda is a complete science that exists to help everyone to live healthy and happy long life. The reason for the prolongation of life is believed to be to achieve all the goals the human beings has set.

There are four types of natural tendencies in our society that influence the human behaviour during the whole life. Relying on them we can divide the people in four groups.  Following this natural tendencies the people can enjoy life in the best way according to their personal perception. The definition for happiness is individual for everyone and differs according to the point of view of each person. From our experience we know that the people are different, they have different goals and rejoice at different achievements.

In Ayurveda the classification of this four groups is described as Puruṣārthas.

They are defined as:

  • Dharma – people, who follow the path of rightness and duty. In India this is the caste of  kshatriya or the military units, who must protect the society in time of war or the government in peace times.
  • Artha – people, who work with finances and prosperity. They form the caste of Vaishya or businessmen, merchants, landowners, who develop commercial and financial activities.
  • Kama – people, who are longing for pleasure, love thrills and emotional experiences. They form the caste of employees who do all kinds of services, or general workers.
  • Moksha – people, seeking the spiritual aspects of life, working with science. They form the caste of Brahmin.

No matter in which group you are, the main purpose of Ayurveda is to provide you with healthy and happy life for at least 120 years.

Ayurveda History

In historical and mythological plan the information about Ayurveda begins from god Brahma. The Sages were overtaken by diseases and premature death, despite that they lived in Himalayas. They found out that it is a serious issue to maintain good health, because of numerous restrictions, which interfered with their practice that had to fulfill their aims in life described as Puruṣārthas. This made them seek help from god Indra, who is described as the king of the gods. When they found and asked him, he asked for assistance from god Brahma. He gave the knowledge about Ayurveda to  Prajapathi, who was responsible for the defence of people.  God Prajapathi gave the knowledge to the twins Ashwini Kumaras, who were the healers of the gods. From them the knowledge came to god Indra. He gave the knowledge about Ayurveda to the Sage Atreya Punarvasu, who was the main representative of the wise men from India, who lived in the Himalayas. In turn, he gave the knowledge to Agnivesa. From him Ayurveda was given to the rest of the wise men and gradually it began its spreading in India.

In Ayurvedic literature there is information about sutras.

They are texts that are united between themselves and create the main idea about the East science. Sutra is a term for short law written with few words. There are many Sages who wrote their own theories in sutras with interpretation of the original texts during the different centuries Ayurveda existed. The most famous are Charaka Saṃhitā, Suśruta-saṃhitā, Aṣṭāṅga-hṛdayam, wrote by Vagbhata. These works are written by Sages who are pioneers in everything related to the Ayurvedic ideology.

The main deity, worshiped by the Indian ayurvedic doctors, especially during the holiday Diwali, is Lord Divodas Dhanavantari. He received the knowledge from god Indra and handed it to the Sage.

Sushruta dividing Ayurveda in eight branches Ashtanga Ayurveda

  1. Kaya Chikitsa – Kaya means physical body. All kinds of diseases connected with the physical part of the body or its processes. Analog in our allopathic medicine are internal diseases or general medicine. Kaya Chikitsa is described best in Charaka Samhita.
  2. Bala Chiktsa – pediatrics, this is the part of Ayurveda focused mainly on threating children. It is also known as Kaumarabhritya. The age up to 16 is covered as part of Bala Chiktsa. The children have different physical needs from those in adulthood. This difference requires different dosage of the ayurvedic herbal products and sometimes specially prepared herbal recipes for children.  Interpretations of the ancient texts related to Bala Chiktsa can be found in Kasyapa Samhita.
  3. Graha ChikitsaPsychiatry. The illnesses of the physical body are often caused from feeling of unhappiness. The brain plays an important part in healthy life. There are many uncertain factors in life that may cause changes in the way of thinking and the mental state, that may affect our health. Graha Chikitsa is related to studying and influencing changes in the mental state that can cause disease alterations in body functions.
  4. Urdhvanga Chikitsa – diseases that affect the zones over the neck. It is also famous as Shalakya Tantra. The tool used most for treatments in this area is called probe. This probe in sanskrit is known as Shalaka. Diseases of the eyes, nose, ears, throat are included in this area of the ayurvedic medicine.
  5. Shalya Chikitsa – Surgery. Details on the surgery methods, that are related to removing something that causes development or is in the root of a disease process are described.  Suśruta-saṃhitā is the best interpretation of the ayurvedic sutras related to surgery in Ayurveda.
  6. Damshrta ChikitsaToxicology. The poisoning is one of the main reasons for sudden and premature death of the human beings. The poison that is with different origin and form, can also cause many health disorders. It might come from the food, poison insects or bites from reptiles, animals etc. Damshrta Chikitsa is the leading study of Ayurveda about removing the poison toxin from the body.
  7. Jara ChikitsaGeriatrics. The desire for long life is normal for every person. Over time, degenerative changes occur, and can be observed in the body. To slow this process down, Ayurveda is famous with some treatments like kayakalpa and herbal products like chavanprasham or brahma rasayanam.
  8. Vrushya Chikitsareproductive medicine. This is branch of Ayurveda also known as Vajeekarana. Every human being has deep, genetically set desire for reproduction. In this part are described different methods for improving the quality of sperm or ovum, that are the reproductive cells of the body. The main goal of Vrushya Chikitsa is to create a generation with good physical and mental health.

The word Ayurveda is a collective term as you can see from the above written text. It carries its meaning in its name “Ayu” – life and “Veda”- knowledge, science, awareness.  According to the ancient Hindu studies, the existence of every human being has one main purpose – to reach the highest sense of existence – “Miksha“ – complete freedom from the limitations of the earthly life. Usually the life is with limited duration and not enough to achieve moksha if there is an disease.

That is why Ayurveda is the science that serves with its two aspects:

  1. Prophylactics and prevention of health, which always can be optimised.
  2. Treatment of the diseases in the physical body.

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Ayurveda Axioms

Like every serious science, Ayurveda has its main and timeless axioms. Without them it can’t be understand.

  1. The study about Panchamahabuta or the Five elements.
  2. The study about the three doshas – Vata- Pitta- Kapha

According to the eastern study of life, the Universe and everything visible around us is build from the eternally existing 5 principles or elements (Panchamahabuta).

They are described as:

  • Space (Akash) – qualities connected with free space without anything existing;
  • Air (Vayu) – connected with the characteristics of movement and activity;
  • Fire (Tejas) – the main quality is the transformation from one shape in another;
  • Water (Jala) – defined with qualities like connectivity, moisture, liquid nature, penetration and softness;
  • Earth (Prithvi) – main quality is the solidity and density, form formation.

These five elements can not be regarded as analogous to human perceptions of the specific words, but as certain characteristics of the visible world, made up from them.

As an example we will describe the idea for the creation of the human body according to Ayurveda, using the principle of the 5 elements.

  1. There must be enough free space in the uterus of the future mother and free from all kinds of obstacles paths for fertilization of the ovum.
  2. There must be movement (the element air) of the sperm to the ovum to make the fertilization possible.
  3. When the sperm connects with the ovum a transformation from 2 cells into 1 (element fire) is needed to start the division of new cells with united male and female information within itself.
  4. These cells that divide must be interconnected and not fall apart (element water).
  5. Thus interconnected, the cells start creating a shape that at some point we will call embryo and later human fetus (element earth).

When these elements unite in the human body, they are divided into three energies.

  • Vata – Space and air. Dry, cold, light, dynamic energy, responsible for all motor actions in the body.
  • Pitta – fire and a little bit water. Warm and passive energy responsible for the processes of transformation in the different organs and tissues.
  • Kapha – Water and Earth. Moist, cold, completely passive energy, related with the density and formation of the body and its tissues and organs.

Every human being has this three energies that represent the eternal five elements. They can be manifested in various degrees and some of the three energies or two of them to be more prominent during the fertilization of the ovum with the sperm. The two or the third energy is manifested in a smaller degree, but definitely exists.  This condition is encoded for the human‘s whole life and defines the differences in the body shape, skin type, specifics and colour of the eyes, hair, physiological processes, emotional state and even the premise for development of specific disease processes.

Ayurveda explains all aspects of the health using the study about the five elements and the three doshas as well as the reason for diseases.

What is health and disease according to Ayurveda?

When the energies Vata, Pitta and Kapha are in balance, the person enjoys feeling of light, happiness and energy, and this is defined as health. When one, two or the three energies are in disbalance, Ayurveda considers this state as disease.

When symptoms or disease disorders exist, it is recommended to visit ayurvedic doctor, who will define the disbalance in the energies.

The following methods are used:

Rogi Pariksha, that runs in three aspects:

  • Darshana – the doctor observes the patient and writes down his age, body type, appearance.
  • Sparshana – the doctor palpate, examines and checks the patient with a touch.
  • Prashna – the doctor asks specific questions, in order to find out about all the symptoms that the patient has.

Dasavidha Pariksha – ten factors about the human health are tracked:

  • Dooshyam – structural and physiological disorders of the body;
  • Desham – climate influence of the place where the patient lives;
  • Balam – physical strength;
  • Kalam – season and climate changes;
  • Analam – condition of the patient’s digestive system;
  • Prakriti – the leading energy from the three doshas that is definitive for the person’s whole life;
  • Vayas – age of the patient;
  • Satvam – the mental endurance of the person;
  • Sathmyam – the patient’s way of life – habits and rules he follows;
  • Aharam – the look and the quality of the food he eats.

Ashtavidha Pariksa – eight factors that the doctor tracks:

  • Nadi – pulse diagnostics;
  • Moothram – urine test;
  • Malam – type of faeces;
  • Jihwa – check of the tongue – shape, colour,coatings;
  • Sabdam – power of the voice and speech of the patient;
  • Sparsham – skin and tactile sensitivity;
  • Drik – eyes and sight;
  • Akrithi – body shape.

After the doctor runs his check up, he directs the patient to changes in his way of life, connected with:

  • Water and liquid intake
  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Specific recommendations according to the individual particularity of the patient.

The ayurvedic doctor also recommends a prescription with ayurvedic herbal products from different types:

  • Arishta and Asava – fermented extracts with spirit ingredient and water extracts;
  • Bhasma – calcined powder of minerals or metals;
  • Churnam – different kinds of herbal powders;
  • Ghritham – clarified cow butter Ghee with herbs;
  • Kashayam – herbal decoction;
  • Kashayam tablets – herbal decoction in tablet form;
  • Leham – mixture of herbs and spices with basis of honey or unrefined sugar;
  • Tailam – herbal oils;
  • Gulika – herbal tablets.

Ayurveda also has a wide range of therapeutic effects, applied under the doctor’s prescription. The most famous are the two systems Purvakarma and Panchakarma.

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  1. Purvakarma – a set of preparatory therapies, applied to gather the toxins from the periphery to the central part of the body – digestive system.

Consisted by two types:

  • Snehana – oiling of the body
  • Svedana – sweating of the body

Snehana has two types – Bahya – external body oiling with healing herbal oils  or Abhyantar, internal oiling of the body with herbal oil or Ghee by drinking, gargling or applying in the nose or ears.

  1. Panchakarma – five types of therapies that take the accumulated toxins in the body.

  • Vamana – induced vomiting, that aims to balance the Kapha energy and to take out the toxins from the upper part of the body.
  • Virecana – induced laxative action that aims to balance the Pitta energy and to take out the toxins from the digestive system.
  • Vasti – healing enema aiming to balance the Vata energy and to take out the accumulated toxins and to improve the function of the column.
  • Nasya or Sirovirecana – applying herbal oil in the nose to clear out the toxins from the head.
  • Raktamoksana – Blood release by different methods.

After applying these therapies in a specific sequence, the doctor prescribes a way of life after the influence with Panchakarma, known as  Pascatakarma, and a specific diet Samsarjana- Krama.

For our perception influenced by Western medical theory, it is difficult to fully understand the action and the influence from the roughest to the most finest level of the human existence.

Ayurveda is a thousand-years scientific system for the protection and treatment of human health. Thanks to its advices and prescriptions, it can slow down the aging a lot and ensure better life with physical and mental longevity. Emerged from the era of mysticism long before, she is still veiled in misunderstanding in our western territories. It is a full-blooded health system that can provide a complete analogy to our medicine, mainly in the field of the prevention or treatment of chronic disease.

Many people willing to get acquainted with it, and even using its means, sometimes think of Ayurveda as wellness or spa conception, but this is completely wrong and darkens the beauty of the deep knowledge which is in the foundation of its existence.

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