What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, which literally translated means the science or knowledge of life, is the traditional holistic medical system of India. Although Ayurveda is practiced in India as a comprehensive health care system with eight branches, including pediatrics and gynecology, it has only recently become known in the United States. Ayurveda’s premise that mind, body, and spirit are intimately connected is revolutionizing the way Westerners understand their body and their health. Ayurveda teaches that separating mind and spirit from the body creates physical imbalance, which is the first step in the disease process. It naturally follows that re-integration is the first step toward healing.
Based on the principle that disease is the natural end result of living out of harmony with our environment, Ayurveda views symptoms of disease as the body’s normal way of communicating disharmony. With this understanding of disease, Ayurveda’s approach to healing becomes obvious: to reestablish harmony between self and environment and create an optimal environment for health.
According to Ayurveda, each person has a constitution created at conception that determines basic physiology and personality. This constitution is the inherent balance of three doshas, or subtle biological forces, which govern the functions of the body, known as Vata (motion), Pitta (metabolism), and Kapha (cohesiveness). There are infinite combinations and permutations of these three basic energies, and each person’s constitution is a unique expression. Constitution determines what a person is naturally attracted to and what is experienced as repulsive, what is in harmony with his or her nature, and what will cause imbalance and susceptibility to illness. Because no two people are alike and no two presentations of a disease are alike, Ayurveda does not approach the cure of a disease as much as it approaches the cure of the person who has the disease.
To help individuals create an optimal environment for health, Ayurveda offers a group of treatments often referred to as “five sense therapies.” Through its detailed science of diet and herbalism, aroma therapy, color therapy, sound therapy, and touch therapy (massage and marma therapy), Ayurveda recommends how to use the senses to interact with the environment to create balance. These recommendations are based on a person’s constitution, current health imbalances, and the time of the year.
What is the history of Ayurveda?
Ayurveda dates back an estimated 5,000-10,000 years and is widely considered to be the oldest form of health care in the world. It is understood by many scholars that knowledge of Ayurveda spread out from India and influenced the ancient Chinese system of medicine, Unani medicine, and the humoral medicine practiced by Hippocrates in Greece. For this reason, Ayurveda is often referred to as the “Mother of all healing.”
The knowledge of Ayurveda is believed to be of Divine origin and was communicated to the saints and sages of India who received its wisdom through deep meditation. Ayurvedic knowledge was passed down orally through the generations and then written down in the Vedas, the sacred texts of India believed to be the oldest writings in the world.
Written in Sanskrit, the Vedas cover a vast number of subjects from grammar to health care. The Vedas were written approximately 2500 BC or earlier. Current knowledge about Ayurveda is mostly drawn from relatively later writings, primarily the Caraka Samhita (approximately 1500 BC), the Ashtang Hrdyam (approximately 500 AD), and the Sushrut Samhita (300-400 AD). These three classics describe the basic principles and theories from which Ayurveda has evolved. They also contain vast clinical information on the management of a multitude of diseases expanded upon by later writings and research.
Before Ayurveda began its recent renewal in the West, it went through a period of decline in India when Western medical education became dominant during the era of British rule. Ayurveda became a second-class option used primarily by traditional spiritual practitioners and the poor. After India gained its independence in 1947, Ayurveda gained ground and new schools began to be established. Today more than five hundred Ayurvedic companies and hospitals have opened in the last ten years, and several hundred schools have been established. Although Ayurveda remains a secondary system of health care in India, the trend toward complementary care is emerging, and Western and Ayurvedic physicians often work side by side.
Interest in Ayurveda in the West began in the mid 1970’s as Ayurvedic teachers from India began visiting the United States and Europe. By sharing their knowledge they have inspired a vast movement toward body-mind-spirit medicine. Today Ayurvedic colleges are opening throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States.
Relation between Ayurveda and yoga
Ayurveda is the healing side of yoga, and yoga is the spiritual tradition from which Ayurveda emerged. Through yoga one prepares the body and mind for self-realization or union with the Divine. Through Ayurveda one supports the spiritual journey by maintaining body and mind in a state of balance and well-being. The paths of yoga and Ayurveda are so closely intertwined that it is hard to imagine traveling down one without knowledge of the other. Using the wisdom of Ayurveda, a yoga practitioner can choose asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing practices) and mantra (sacred sounds) specific to his or her unique constitution in order to maintain health. The Ayurvedic practitioner prescribes specific practices to prevent illness and assist the healing process.
Kalmathada Pujya Shri Virupaksha Sivacharya Ayurved
Medical College and Hospital
Course(s) Offered: Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) (Ayurvedacharya)
Manvi, Dist. Raichur – 584123 Website: www.ayurvediccollegemanvi.org