Although Ayurveda practice hinges on preventing disease, taking elements from it could certainly help you to be as well as you can be and may even help to prevent those times when extra bugs and infections escalate ongoing chronic illness symptoms. Let’s investigate Ayurveda basic principles and it’s origins.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a form of traditional medicine which is common in South Asia and practised as a complement and an alternative to modern medicine in other parts of the world. Several of the natural and holistic healing systems known in the West, such as homeopathy, are thought to have their roots in Ayurveda.
Origins of Ayurveda
In Sanskrit, the primary language of Buddhism and Hinduism, the word Ayurveda translates roughly to ‘the science of life’, or ‘the science of longevity’. It is one of the oldest organised systems of medicine, and is thought to have originated in India more than five thousand years ago. It was originally passed on through the ages from masters to disciples through oral teachings.
Although part of ayurvedic knowledge was committed to writing by experts including the surgeon Shushruta in a work called ‘Shushruta Samhita’ sometime in the first millennium BC, a large part of the teachings remain a mystery and are widely inaccessible to this day.
Prevention and balance
Ayurvedic traditions place great emphases on the importance of maintaining personal balance to avoid illness. Each person should be able to achieve a balance according to their own individual constitution, and should learn how to adapt their lifestyle, mindset and diet to create and preserve it. Any change from the balanced state would result in illness, whether the imbalance is triggered by internal factors such as stress or trauma, or external factors such as diet, habits, weather, seasons, work or personal relationships.
According to Vasant Lad’s ‘Ayurveda, A Brief Introduction and Guide’, each individual is thought to be conceived with a unique mix of physical, mental and emotional features that constitute their individual constitution or energy pattern. Therefore, before going any further, it’s important to remember that the objective is for each person to find and maintain their own personal balance rather than to aim for any one ideal situation that fits everyone.
Three subtle energies or “Doshas” are important to consider in order to achieve the balance described above and are referred to by their Sanskrit names: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
- ‘Vata’, which translates loosely to ‘wind’ and is related to the concepts of air and space, is the energy of movement.
- ‘Pitta’, which translates loosely to ‘bile’ and is related to elements of fire and water, is the energy of metabolism (or digestion).
- ‘Kapha’, which translates loosely to ‘phlegm’ and is related to the elements of water and earth, is the energy of structure and lubrication.
Every person has different levels of all three energies working together, but one of the three is usually more prominent and is known as their dominant Dosha. Each Dosha requires specific dietary considerations and lifestyle habits to remain in balance. Inversely, imbalances of a particular Dosha can be recognised through specific changes in health and mood. Disease is thought to occur due to a Dosha imbalance or due to toxins in the body.