Introduction to Ayurveda
The word 'Ayurveda' is derived from two words—'Ayus' meaning life and Veda meaning 'knowledge' or 'science'. So the literal meaning of the word Ayurveda is 'The science of life'.
Life or Ayus, according to Ayurveda, is a combination of senses, mind, body and soul. So Ayurveda does not just limit itself to the body or physical symptoms, but also provides comprehensive knowledge about spiritual, mental and emotional health.
The traditional healing system of Ayurveda is based on a theory of balance between the body (physical), the soul (spiritual) and the mind (psychological).
Ayurveda has two main goals:
• To maintain the health of the healthy.
• To heal the sick.
The ultimate aim of Ayurveda is to always maintain good health and well-being. And health, according to Ayurveda, is not merely eliminating the physical symptoms of a disease, but also restoring the happiness of the person's mind and soul. Often people may not be suffering from physical problems but they may very unhappy and disturbed mentally. According to Ayurveda, such a person would be in a state of ill health.
Problems like depression, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia, originate mainly from sickness of mind and soul. Unfortunately, most of our actions and activities today, are related to materialism and our physical body. We rarely pay attention to our other half, which is equally important—the mind and the soul. The diets and lifestyles we follow for achieving peace and happiness may not be healthy for our inner selves. Since we are no longer taught the importance of mental and spiritual health—we remain unhappy, depressed, anxious and insecure, despite our best efforts. This is clearly indicative of something being wrong in our approach.
Ayurveda helps us in our endeavor to find happiness in life by teaching us the appropriate lifestyles to adopt. It teaches us how to live in natural balance by following the right diet, daily regimen, lifestyle, actions and activities.
Ayurveda is the perfect solution for all our needs. Not only does it help people understand themselves and their needs, but it also provides guidelines on diet, lifestyle, exercise regimens and much more. But above all, Ayurveda teaches us to live in harmony within our society, with nature and with the universe at large, without disturbing the delicate natural balance.
According to Ayurveda, the five basic elements in nature are, space (akash), air (vayu), fire (agni), water (jala), and earth (prithvi). In our bodies, health is a state when these elements remain completely balanced. Conversely, imbalances lead to disharmony, which ultimately leads to disease.
All aspects of nature can be explained in terms of the elements, including seasons, times of the day, geographical and topographical location and even more subtle aspects like emotions.
According to Ayurveda, the elements are represented in a human being as vata, pitta and kapha, known as the three doshas or biological forces.
Vata is comprised of the elements air and space and is responsible for all movement related functions in the body, such as respiration, circulation and thought. On an emotional level it is responsible for such positive emotions as creativity and flexibility and its' negative aspects are fear and anxiety.
Pitta is composed of fire and water and is responsible for metabolism, including digestion of food and life's experiences and for hunger and thirst. Emotionally it is connected with courage, ambition, anger and pride.
Kapha is comprised of water and earth and is responsible for cohesion; it provides the body's structure. It governs emotions such as love and devotion, greed and jealousy.
Everybody is born with a unique combination of these three doshas and this is termed as their prakriti or constitution.
Apart from these Ayurvedic body energies, there are also other elements:
These are the basic tissues which maintain and nourish the body. There are seven dhatus—plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow and reproductive fluid. The quality and quantity of each dhatu and its balanced functioning is very important for good health.
These are the waste materials produced as a result of various metabolic activities in the body. The main mala are urine, feces and sweat.
Proper elimination of mala is equally important for good health. Accumulation of mala causes blockages in the body, resulting in diseases.
These are channels, which are responsible for transportation of food, dhatus, malas and doshas. Proper functioning of srota is necessary for transporting different materials. Blockage of srota causes many disorders.
'Agni' means fire. According to Ayurveda, there are 13 types of agni in the body, which carry out different metabolic activities. This may be compared to different types of enzymes responsible for digestion and metabolic activity in our body.
Ayurveda is as old as humanity itself. Before it was recorded down within ancient texts, the wisdom of Ayurveda was transmitted orally, from teacher to disciple, over thousands of centuries. These classical texts had been written anywhere between 4000 and 6000 BC. Although this knowledge developed in India, it does not belong to any particular country, religion or civilization.
Ayurveda is based on unchanging and universal principles which are inherent in the natural world. Ayurveda is eternal.