Ayurveda (ayur – life, veda – science) is the ancient system of medicine, originated in the Vedic civilisation of India. This holistic science is the oldest living healing science in the world.
The laws of Ayurveda are based on the universal laws of nature that are timeless truths, a main reason why Ayurvedic rules and principles have changed little through time. They are as valid today as they were then.
Ayurveda defines ‘health’ as a dynamic state of wellbeing in contrast to our modern definition of health as absence of disease. Health is not just a state of the body; it is a state of being. To this effect, the science has a twofold aim –
To cure the diseases of sick people
To maintain the health of healthy people
The ideology of Ayurveda views man as a complex whole, encompassing his external and internal environments. We affect and are affected not just by every other living being on this earth but by the inanimate as well, the seasons, the planets, the moon, everything in existence. To be well is
to be in balance; and balance can only be achieved by living according to the laws of nature
Basic principles of Ayurveda
• The PanchaMahabhutas – 5 elements
Ayurveda is based on the premise that the every material creation in the universe is made up of five elements:
- 1. Air – Vayu
- 2. Fire – Agni
- 3. Water – Jal
- 4. Earth- Prithvi
- 5. Ether/space –Akasha
• The Tri Doshas – three body humours
While it is true that we are a composite of these five primary elements, certain elements combine to create various physiological functions. In humans these five elements are represented by three energies or the “doshas” –
- 1. Vata
- 2. Pitta
- 3. Kapha
The Tridoshas are the primary factors of our body that govern responsible for our physical structure and form and all the physiological and psychological processes. All our physical characteristics, mental types and emotional traits can therefore be explained in terms of the tridoshas.
Vata: The Vata dosha is a combination of air and ether elements. It relates to the energy of movement, also known as force. Vata directs one’s nerve impulses, blood circulation and respiration.
Pitta: The pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water elements. The pitta dosha is known to govern the metabolism in the organ and the tissues and also the transformation of foods into nutrients.
Kapha: The Kapha dosha is a combination of water and earth elements. It is responsible for one’s growth and protection.
When there is an imbalance of any of these doshas in the body, physical ailments can occur.
Every human body needs to have a distinct balance of these three doshas (tri doshas) to maintain the health and well-being of oneself.
• The Tri Gunas -three universal energies There are three fundamental mental energies–
- 1. Satva
- 2. Rajas
- 3. Tamas
While all individuals of us have mixed amounts of all three, our predominant guna determines our individual mansaprakriti or mental nature.
Satva – is defined by spiritualty, lightness, consciousness, clarity and purity. It is pure and healthy. Free from disability and disease. It is responsible for knowledge and creation.
Rajas – is characterized by passion, ambition, luxury and action. It is royal, strong and brave. It is responsible for movement and maintainance.
Tamas- is heavy, sluggish, slow and resistant. Ignorance, delusion, indifference and laziness are its traits. It is lethargic and dull. It is responsible for destruction.In equilibrium, the three gunas preserve the mind (and indirectly the body), maintaining it in a healthy state. Any disturbance in this equilibrium results in various types of mental disorders.
• The SaptaDhatus – Seven types of body tissues
The body according to Ayurveda is made up of 7 pillars; tissues that grow, sustain and support the body. Digested food nourishes these tissues in a sequential manner starting from –
- 1. Rasa Dhatu – plasma
- 2. RaktaDhatu – blood cells
- 3. MamsaDhatu – muscle tissue
- 4. MedaDhatu – fat
- 5. AsthiDhatu – bones including cartilages
- 6. MajjaDhatu – yellow and red bone marrow
- 7. SukraDhatu – reproductive tissue
Since the dhatus are interdependent and derive energy from each other, affecting one can influence others.
• The TriMalas – Three types of Body Wastes
Our digestive and metabolic processes create three primary types of wastes –
- 1. Purisa (faeces)
- 2. Mutra (urine)
- 3. Sveda (sweat)
Elimination of these wastes is crucial according to Ayurveda to avoid toxic build up. Ayurveda clearly states that only a balanced condition of dosas, dhatus and malas is arogya (good health or disease free condition) and their imbalance is the cause of ill health or disease.
• The Trayodosa Agni – Thirteen types of digestive fires
There are thirteen types of biological fire (agnis) that are responsible for the entire range of digestion, metabolism and assimilation activities in the body. They influence the enzymatic, hormonal and chemical functions at different levels and encompass all the changes in the body and mind from the dense to the more subtle.
Grouped into three main categories –
- 1. Jatharagni: gastric fire – for digestion of food.
- 2. SaptaDhatvagni: seven types for specific tissue metabolism.
- 3. PanchaBhutagni: five types for finer molecular metabolism.
A balanced agni is vital for health. The body’s immunity and strength are directly related to its heat energy. Disturbances of Agni are usually the chief causes of disease.
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