Ayurveda – A Holistic Healing Approach

1. Introduction to Ayurveda

Ayurveda essentially means "knowledge of life," and this dates back to the ancient days of the Sanskrit Texts, namely the Vedas and is believed to be as old as close to 5,000 years. Ayurveda is essentially a healing system which considers the physical structure, emotional nature, and spiritual attitude in the perspective of the whole universe. According to the notion of Ayurveda, the universal life force reveals as three diverse dynamisms, doshas or tridoshas according to the Sanskrit terminology. The three different dynamisms are specifically the vata, pitta, and kapha.

Origin of Ayurveda

Ayurveda, essentially well-known as the science of life, and its treatise has its origin in one of the oldest scriptures in the world of four Vedas - Atharva-veda. Ayurveda, popularly known as a system of holistic treatment is essentially a repository of the knowledge that has been descending from several generations from the ancient gurus to their disciples and being continued till date. This system of holistic treatment is regarded as eternal. This makes it clear that Ayurveda has a long legacy and profound roots in the ancient Indian culture.

Ayurveda has gone on record on treatment and specific approach to different medical conditions that are based on sound scientific principles which are relevant even in today’s contemporary world. The ancient practitioners of Ayurveda were not unfamiliar about surgical procedures and diagnostics. Ayurveda has historical evidence of surgeries being performed. Ayurveda also has an extensive system of diagnostics which have withstood the test of modern day science as well as logic in the contemporary modern society.

The power of Ayurvedic Medicine and treatment

Ayurveda has acceptance world over, however is predominantly considered an Indian system of medicine. The medications of Ayurveda are typically from substances abundantly available in the nature and are not processed much beyond manual grinding and mixing. The medicines are not normally subject to heat and hence are considered raw. One common argument against Ayurvedic medicine is that sometimes the medicines contain heavy metals like mercury and this does not augur well with modern scientific practices and approach to human body.

It needs to be understood that the lifestyles and food habits were definitely different and varied in the ancient Indian cultures where Ayurveda has its roots and origins. Taking on from here, it is a reasonable logical inference that certain lifestyle modifications are needed to be done while under Ayurvedic treatment for the Ayurvedic medicines to be more effective and relevant to the human body. Ayurveda is no mumbo-jumbo and has strong scientific roots and even today records have been maintained and Ayurvedic treatments are verifiable and repeatable and thus can be considered scientific.

Ayurveda unlike a common western notion is not mumbo-jumbo but creating an effective balance of the tridoshas in the human body. The ancient Ayurvedic scriptures explain medical conditions as relevant to the time when the scriptures were written and as scientific as the human knowledge went at that point of time. Ayurveda has stood the test of time over 5, 000 years and is scientifically relevant even in the contemporary world.

2. Ayurvedic Principles and terminology

Principles of the Ayurvedic Philosophy

The fundamental premise on which the philosophy of Ayurveda is based on is, it believes that the universe is an amalgamation of five different elements namely the fire, air, earth, water, and ether. These five different elements that constitute the universe are represented by the human body through three different energies or the tridoshas and the same are namely the vata, pitta, and kapha.

According to Ayurveda, if any of these three energies is accumulated beyond the desirable limit within the human body, then the body loses its balance. Every human being in this world has a discrete and unique balance, and the health and well-being of each individual are reliant on attainment of the appropriate balance of the tridoshas. The healing system of Ayurveda recommends specific lifestyles as well as guidelines for nutrition in order to help human beings minimize the excessive amount of tridoshas in their bodies.

According to Sushrut Samhita, which is believed to be one of the primary and most important works of Ayurveda, a healthy person is one who has the balanced amount of tridoshas in the body, has an excellent appetite, along with all the tissues and organs functioning properly within the body, and above all whose mind, body, and soul are joyful always.

The Tridoshas – An Overview

The unique principle on which the philosophy of Ayurveda relies is that every human being has their own individual body and the constitution of every individual human body is based on three different bio-energies or the tridoshas namely the Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are briefly explained below:

Vata - Vata basically refers to the elements of air and ether. This particular bio-energy or the dosha is normally regarded as the basic force that guides the nerve impulses, blood flow, respiration, and exclusion from the human body.

Kapha – This particular dosha essentially refers to the elements water and earth. Kapha is the bio-energy which is regarded to be responsible for development and protection. The mucosal lining of the abdominal area and the cerebral-spinal liquid substance that acts as a shield in protecting the human brain and spinal column are the instances of kapha within the human body.

Pitta – This particular dosha essentially refers to the elements fire as well as water. This particular dosha basically manages the metabolism, like for instance, the conversion of foodstuffs into nutrients. Pitta is also considered to be responsible for metabolism of the organ systems as well as the tissue systems.

Ayurveda – Salient features

Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine that identifies that eventually all intellect and knowledge flows from one Absolute source i.e. the almighty. This absolute source, according to Sanskrit terminology, is called Paramatma. Health establishes by the grace of the Paramatma, and essentially acts through the laws of Nature, called as Prakriti in Sanskrit. Ayurveda primarily supports the Prakriti by promoting coherence between the human beings and the nature by living a balanced life based on the laws of the nature.

3. Ayurveda – the Ancient Indian Practice of Medicine

The Practice of Ayurveda

Ayurveda, renowned globally as the Indian system of medicine, was formerly practiced in the southern Himalayan region approximately 3, 000 to 5, 000 years back. An endeavor at an insightful study of Ayurveda obviously discloses high theoretical information. The notion of Universality of material and human beings regarded as a vital part of the Universe is inclined by and retorts towards the Universal rhythm, and this is extremely fascinating to know.

Ayurveda, as it is globally renowned, is an ancient Indian practice of medicine that follows a holistic approach. Off late, the prevalence of Ayurveda in the Western nations finds its footing, precisely since the last three decades or so. While there is a clear and understandable desirability to Ayurvedic medication in the Western countries, yet there still exist partial populations of skeptics who would not even want to at least know a little about this particular subject prior to arriving at their own conclusions that are mostly biased.

Ayurveda – Is it a medical practice?

Contrary to the prevalent Western notion, Ayurveda is actually not a medical practice and is similar to the practice of Herbalism. Herbalism is also an ancient practice of medicine that believes in discovering natural cures and treatments for health ailments. This practice of herbalism dates back close to 60, 000 years or so.

Ayurveda – Is it scientific?

It is a general fallacy in the western countries that as Ayurveda is regarded as an alternative medicine, it is not scientific in nature. Most often than not, Ayurveda is considered as an exotic exercise that is enjoyed and experienced in modern day health spas. The Sanskrit word Ayurveda is a blend of two different names, called Ayur, which means “life” and Veda which translates to “knowledge”. Alternatively stated, Ayurveda is a rational and methodical organization of herbal facts and wisdom. It is certainly the science of life that comprises of the human mind, body as well as the spirit.

Ayurvedic Practice in the Western Nations

As stated earlier, Ayurveda is continuing to gain immense popularity in the Western world since the past three decades or so. More and more westerners are becoming increasingly interested in this holistic treatment system fundamentally because of the nature of the treatment that it follows.

Moreover, several universities in the West are offering courses in Ayurveda in the stream of alternative medicine. There are numerous people who have started considering this field of medicine as a mainstream practice and are making the same as their career choice.

Ayurveda essentially transforms to holistic treatment and healing. Unlike the conventional system of medicine where treatment is initiated only when the human body suffers with an illness, the treatment in Ayurveda is initiated much before the advent of any illness within the human body. This stream of medicine is holistic, in the sense that, it treats the human body, mind as well as the spirit together, regarding the individual as a whole entity. The treatment of Ayurveda primarily works on the premise that the human body and mind impact each other and thus these two can together conquer any kind of ailment.

4. Panchakarma – a unique Ayurvedic cure

An overview

Panchakarma is a unique cure offered by Ayurveda, and it helps in eliminating the excessive amounts of the tridoshas from the human body. As already mentioned earlier, Ayurveda believes that the human body becomes sick due to the excessive amount of tridoshas in the body and the best way to get cured is to eradicate such excessive doshas out of the body and Panchakarma is the ideal treatment for the same. Panchakarma essentially translates to five (Pancha) procedures (Karmas). The Panchakarma procedures need not necessarily be performed only by people who are unwell but also by healthy individuals as this helps in maintaining a balanced health and body.

Panchakarma – The art of detoxification and purification

Panchakarma, which is one of the oldest Ayurvedic therapies essentially, serves as an art of purification and detoxification. This particular Ayurvedic cure supplements the preventive and therapeutic treatments of Ayurveda, ultimately aiding in rebuilding the soul, mind & body and inculcate the art of living properly in mankind. It basically describes the means to attain a life of permanence, and which is void of any kind of ailments.

There are number of Ayurvedic Treatment centers these days that are offering this Panchakarma treatment. The Panchakarma treatment that these Ayurvedic centers offer is essentially an active Ayurvedic practice which encompasses the techniques of pre-Panchakarma that offer a chronological methodology to the five karmas or actions which eventually eradicate the excessive mass of the doshas. The treatment of Panchakarma is aimed at serving as a means of revitalizing, not just the tissues but also the body as a whole. The post Panchakarma treatment is generally offered like a holistic package.

Rudiments of the Panchakarma Treatment

Ayurvedic Panchakarma treatment needs many years of experience in clinical training in order for the treatment to be effective. Although the massages that are termed to be Ayurvedic (offered in the contemporary spas and other non dedicated Panchakarma centers) are apparently similar to a little extent, they are assertively different from the traditional Ayurvedic Panchakarma treatment.

Panchakarma therapies that are short of appropriate training in Ayurvedic treatment and practice cannot be offered suitably and occasionally such non-dedicated and inappropriate treatments might even intensify or deteriorate the health condition of the person undergoing the treatment. Thus care is to be taken before going in for the treatment in terms of verifying the authenticity of the center offering this treatment, etc.

Benefits of Panchakarma Treatment

Panchakarma treatment, as mentioned earlier, helps in cleansing and revitalizing the human body, mind, as well as the spirit. This Ayurvedic treatment can refurbish the natural health condition while restoring the wellness. This restoration of wellness and natural state of health is achieved as the treatment cleanses the body, eliminates all sorts of toxins and eventually brings the appropriate balance to the human body and its functioning. This treatment is a very special treatment in Ayurveda which only highly skilled professionals and Ayurvedic practitioner can administer.

5. Herbal treatments through Ayurveda

Ayurveda – The most sought after alternative therapy

With the constantly changing contemporary lifestyle, a myriad range of health problems are evolving on virtually a daily basis, thus forcing human beings to seek alternative medications for cure. Despite the fact that medical science has advanced drastically, there are quite a few aspects pertaining to human ailments for which answers are still being sought. Eventually, people today are keener on seeking alternative therapies and treatments in place of the conventional medications. More importantly, the holistic system of treatment – the age old treatment of Ayurveda is the one that is gaining prominence not just in India but also world over.

The Ayurvedic system of medication and treatment is a very ancient and traditional method of treatment that was coined in ancient India. It is, even in the modern day world, extremely prevalent among many people as more and more people are seeking cures for a myriad range of health ailments through this holistic system of treatment.

The health problems for which people prefer Ayurvedic cures range from stomach problems, diabetes, heart problems, women related health issues, as well as nervous disorders, and urinary problems and a range of other ailments. There are several Ayurvedic health centers that offer treatment with the help of processing various natural components like herbs for curing these myriad health ailments. These health centers are not just famous in India alone but are extremely prevalent and sough after in quite a few Asian countries and various other parts of the globe. This prevalence and increased interest in Ayurveda has developed in the past three decades or so.

Ayurvedic Herbs and medications

There are a number of herbs and treatments of Ayurveda for virtually all kinds of illnesses that human beings suffer from. These Ayurvedic herbs and treatments help in getting cures for ailments ranging from regular cold to serious ailments like diabetes which is becoming increasingly common these days. Let us consider the case of diabetes. For this particular health disorder, herbs are a great source of medicine, particularly ones which can decrease blood sugar, in case of diabetes. If the herbal intake becomes excessive then the blood sugar levels can fall dramatically and the same can be catastrophic.

Ayurvedic medicines predominantly contain powdered herbs, tablets made of various herbs, herbal decoctions, and medicated oils which are even extracted from a number of herbs. Apart from natural herbs, these medications also use a few varieties of medicinal plants like tulsi, mint etc., as well as some minerals. The treatment of Panchakarma includes a wide range of Ayurvedic remedies that use a number of herbal oils in the process of treatment eventually offering the required reclamation, therapeutic cleansing of the body. Panchakarma is sought by many people as the most effective treatment for a number of chronic ailments.

A few popular Ayurvedic herbs are Triphala, Fenugreek, guggul, Boswellia, among others. Most of these herbs are available in some form in most chemist and druggist stores. However, consumption of these herbs are to be done under proper direction in order to avoid any abnormal outcomes.