Ayureveda in brief. By Emma Hicks 2010 www.ashtangayogauk.co.uk
Ayureveda is a Sanskrit word meaning Knowledge of Life. Its roots are buried deep in ancient Indian culture and have remained buried deep in Mother India for over 5000 years. Due to its authenticity all original texts are in the holy Indian language of Sanskrit. Ayurevedic medicine is considered to be the oldest existing natural healing system known to man pre-dating even the ancient Chinese healing system. It is more than just a healing system however as it is intricately woven into the fabric of Nature and Universal energy and movement. Over five thousand years ago ancient Indian spiritually enlightened persons known as Rishis or ‘Seers’ observed man through a supernatural state of meditation and imparted that truth from Guru to disciple, similar to Yoga. Today we gain most information on Yoga and Ayureveda through texts and books but it was ultimately born from sacred Sanskrit texts known as The Vedas of which the process and practice of Yoga was also later born. Roots of Ayureveda were born out of the realm of ‘Spirit’ only with spiritual orientation can one believe and understand this knowledge in the depth it was once explained and experienced.
It is bringing us back to nature, the universe. Back to how we all once were; Sensitive, Intuitive, Spiritual, Healthy human species. People must therefore learn to cooperate with nature to insure their complete well being. It’s a trust and initiative and a pure love for this world and its rhythms that gives one balance and helps you ‘sit’ better into your environment and re-gain balance in your life, the world and universe in general. It is the first real holistic, naturopathic approach to wellness and fighting dis-ease and dis-harmony known to man. Ayureveda embraces the ‘whole person’ in body, mind and spirit in relationship to the mysterious workings of the Cosmos. Seasons, time, physical structure, walking, talking, sitting ,eating, thinking, all stand in direct contact to man’s individual life and the universe. Ayureveda therefore is an ancient science that combines scientific fact, observation of Man and connection to the Cosmos through elements that are found in all life-substances.
These natural substances found in nature are considered to have healing qualities and are used to treat disordered life principles that lead to disharmony and disease. Change in the consciousness of human beings can lead to a change for the universe and unless we change our relationship to the earth we will continue to destroy it and ourselves. As we approach The Aquarian age East and West have been slowly brought closer together and each is giving the other more of its richness. This is as it should be at the dawn of this Aquarian Age and is the proper time the Sanskrit words of Ayureveda are uncovered to save the world, the universe and human life.
Ayureveda: The knowledge of Longevity.
The word Ayureveda means ‘’Knowledge of Life’, a more accurate translation is ‘’ the knowledge of longevity’’. The goal of all ages has always been to conquer death, and Indian holy men known as Rishis thousands of years ago addressed the problem of eternal life writing their conundrum in the four Vedas. These collections of Hymns written in Sanskrit are the oldest existing literary compositions of the human race. The word Veda is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘root’, meaning knowledge. Ayureveda’s purpose is to transform a mortal human into an immortal being. It’s similarities with Yoga are obvious, although the knowledge of Yoga came after Ayureveda. Ayureveda is older than the science of Yoga and came before, it was known to cure all ills of the common man and was developed for him, but a true dedicated practicing Yogi was known to be immune from all disease because of his strict austerities, and therefore was ultimately immune to disease.
Disease and Remedy.
Ayureveda existed long before Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, long ago when humans were primitive and had to live off the land. Ill health is the dis-harmony of of an individual with regard to his or her individual environment. Humans long ago looked to nature to heal their disease, it was all they could do, and all that they knew. This made man intuitive and because he used to live so close to nature he instinctively knew what could heal buy looking at an animal eating a plant or herb and making note of it for future reference. Such observations were collected over the years and finally developed into Ayureveda as we know it.
How It Works.
Ayureveda teaches that we as humans are all part of the governing Three Principles of the body described as Vata, Kapha and Pitta tendencies. We all usually dominate one principle so if we are out of balance or sick we need to balance out these three within ourselves to bring back harmony. If we dominate Vata but were actually born a Pitta we would need to stimulate or calm the other two to harmonize depending on our dominant principle. The three principles of the mind and known as the Three Universal Tendencies are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Sattva – calm / Rajas – excite/ Tamas – inertia. These also need to be in balance and all three must be present and in rhythm in order for our well being.
The body does not react well to constant change. Harmony is possible only because of rhythm. Just as there is rhythm in the universe and nature there must be rhythm in ones own life to constitute health. Sticking to a routine is of benefit and has always been recommended by classical doctrines of Ayurevedic science and Yoga therapy. The routines usually recommended are to rise before dawn to eliminate predominance of Kapha by excreting bodily wastes cleaning teeth, tongue, mouth, throat, eyes, and nose. A massage and bath before lunch helps to regulate Pitta into stimulating digestion. Heaviest meal is to be eaten at noon as Pitta is strongest at that time. A light meal is eaten at night.
Most westerners consider massage as a luxury but in Ayureveda it is as essential as bathing as oil controls Vata, and Vata mediates the digestive Pitta.
Food is very important in Ayurevedic science. Foods are full of Prana (life force) and are classified in accordance of their ability to increase or decrease one or more of the three principles – Kapha/ Vata/ Pitta. Food plays a very important part in control of these three. Eating foods that are fresh and in season help to purify their essence and maximize their Pranic Value and is therefore least likely to disturb the Three Principles Vata Kapha Pitta. The first thing foods do is stimulate the tongue so taste is vital. Ayureveda recognizes the six tastes as: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent.
Sweet Sour Salty – Kapha increases / Vata decreases
Bitter Pungent Astringent – Vata Increases / Kapha decreases
Sour salty pungent – increase Pitta
Sweet, bitter, astringent – decrease Pitta
For example: Kapha dominant people who suffer from a condition brought on by excess Kapha must decrease sweet, sour and salty food until their balance is restored. Remember, taste is not actually present in the food but present in the eater. Someone for instance with Hepatitis will refuse to eat as he has no taste not because the food tastes bad but because of his condition. Balance of the three principles depends on taste in mind and body. Ayureveda recognizes someone who has lost taste in food as a serious disease.
Ayureveda recognizes that every substance in the world can be used as medicine, as Ayureveda was the very first ‘holistic’ ‘natural’ recognized system of medicine.
Digestive power is very important as most disease is known to start in the gut and an individual’s digestive power depends on their individual digestion and is influenced by constitution, type of work and lifestyle. Overeating or under eating is said to create a destructive imbalance and must be regulated to reform balance in an individual depending on his or her activity level and lifestyle. Food must therefore be moderated if life is sedentary and increased appropriately if active. Although a vegetarian diet is best for calming all types of dosha meat is however sometimes prescribed in Ayurededa. Meat must be well prepared and eaten in season if used at all, venison is said to be easily digested and beef the worst for digestion as it excites the senses and over stimulates and is hard to digest. But Ayureveda also mentions excess protein is very bad for the body and a vegetarian diet is best for balance. Toxins produced during digestion of meat are detrimental to the mind while vegetarian diet promotes a calmer countenance.
Since ‘you are what you eat’ diet helps to determine your mental state. The brain is a collection of chemicals and the mind and consciousness are chemical phenomena. Every substance you take into your body reflects on your mind. The effect food has on the mind depends upon the amount of the three Universal Tendencies it has within it.
Three Universal Tendencies are –Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
Milk, rice, wheat, beans, fruits – examples of sattvic causing food / calm balanced mind
Salt, spices, sour, meat, fish, garlic, onions – examples of Rajistic causing food / excite the mind
Heavy, stale, intoxicating substances, indigestible food – examples of Tamastic causing food / promote mental inertia and cloud consciousness
Ayurevedic Treatment (in brief).
Ayurevedic treatment has three main aspects…. Removal of the cause, purification, and palliation of The Three Principles (Vata Pitta Kapha) and rejuvenation. Although treatment and the administration of Ayurevedic pills and potions is a very large part of the Ayurevedic healing process only a qualified Ayurevedic physician is best to help you here. Although your physician can not affect a cure for you they exist to hasten the healing process to help make conditions in the organism more favorable for the re-establishment of normal equilibrium. The use of Panchakarma is a well known process of complete elimination of bodily toxins and it is only used in extreme circumstances; the patient is required to excrete sometimes quite violently bodily waste from all orifices. This process includes emesis, purgation, enema, bloodletting, and nasal medication along with massage and dietary aids.
This is a brief look into Ayureveda and its essence but there is ‘no end to Ayureveda’ says an ancient text. Working on the concept ‘cause and effect’ Dr Robert Svoboda a well known Dr of Ayurevedic science quoted in one of his books ‘’Cause is effect concealed and effect is cause revealed’’. Cause and effect is expressed in the physical world by mutations of The Five Elements according to our personal axioms and where we are placed so it works on principles of:
. Law of Macrocosm and Microcosm with Vata Pitta Kapha as the governing principles
. Like increases like
. What effects the body effects the mind, and vice versa
Food is medicine, medicine food
Disease in body is the disruption of Vata Pitta and Kapha or of the mind are Sattva Rajas and Tamas. The skill in balancing all these tendencies is Ayureveda in a nutshell.