Introduction to Ayurveda
Ayurveda is the world’s most ancient health care system. It derives from ancient India and is commonly referred to as the “mother of all healing systems.” It’s purpose being to re-align our physiologies with the rhythms of the universe. The literal meaning of the word, however is “the science of life” (ayur = life, veda = science or knowledge). Ayurvedic practices are meant to heal – and more importantly prevent disease, increase the overall health and vitality of the body, and increase longevity. This is accomplished by rebalancing pranic life forces acting within the body mainly through dosha specific diet, meditation, and daily activity harmonized with the cycles of nature. Also utilized are rejuvenative herbal remedies, mineral and gem elixirs, and bodywork such as Ayurvedic massage, detoxification methods, herbal steam treatments, calming practices, yoga, and marma point therapy (balances our “vibrational” circulatory channels, the nadis). Ayurveda’s herbal-based medical tradition uses plants with special potencies for pacifying doshic imbalances and re-establishing natal prakriti – the state of peace.
The exact origin of Ayurveda cannot be traced, but archeological evidence has indicated a complex working medical knowledge in ancient India such as dentistry, plastic surgery, and even brain surgery as far back as 9,000 years ago (7,000 BC). The original texts of Ayurveda are a part of the Vedas – the world’s oldest texts of knowledge – specifically the Atharva Veda. Within the Vedas, it is described that the knowledge was first handed down by Sri Dhanvantari, who is usually pictured carrying the vessel of immortality. Thus the essential knowledge of Ayurveda is eternal, and the evidence of this can be seen in its continuing usefulness even as the world situation changes.
Ayurveda has two main goals:
- To maintain the health of the healthy.
- To heal the sick: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The ultimate aim of Ayurveda is to always maintain good health and well-being. And health, according to Ayurveda, is not merely eliminating the physical symptoms of a disease, but also restoring the happiness of the person’s mind and soul. Often people may not be suffering from physical problems but they may be very unhappy and disturbed mentally. According to Ayurveda, such a person would be in a state of ill health (dis-ease or dis-order).
Problems like depression, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia, originate mainly from our disconnection with our essential natures. Unfortunately, most of our actions and activities today are related to materialism and our physical body. We rarely pay attention to our other half, which is equally important—the soul. Ayurveda gives the example of a parrot in a cage. If the cage is taken care of very nicely, but the parrot is neglected then its life is ruined. Similarly if we take care of the body but neglect the soul, our life is ruined.
The diets and lifestyles we follow for achieving peace and happiness may also not be healthy for our inner selves. Since we are no longer taught the importance of mental and spiritual health—we remain unhappy, depressed, anxious and insecure, despite our best efforts. This is clearly indicative of something being wrong in our approach towards self-actualization and our relationship with matter and spirit.
Ayurveda helps us in our endeavor to find happiness in life by recommending lifestyle adjustments. It teaches us how to live in natural balance by following a path that flows with nature rather than against it.
Ayurveda is the perfect solution for all our health issues. Not only does it help people understand themselves and their needs, but it also provides guidelines on diet, lifestyle, exercise regimens and much more. But above all, Ayurveda teaches us to live in harmony within our society, with nature and with the universe at large, without disturbing the delicate natural balance. Above and beyond this, Ayurveda points one towards an understanding of the soul – which is our true self and above any physical or mental influence. While Ayurveda can bring one to physical and mental well-being, knowledge of the soul will bring one to ever-increasing happiness regardless of material condition.
According to Ayurveda, the five basic elements in physical nature are, space or ether (akash), air (vayu), fire (agni), water (jala), and earth (prithvi). In our bodies, health is a state where these elements remain completely balanced. Conversely, imbalances lead to disharmony, which ultimately leads to disease. Ayurveda teaches that the three main causes of imbalance in our biological functions are over-eating or eating the wrong foods for one’s constitution, uncleanliness both externally and internally, and stress caused by not understanding man’s relationship to natural law. These are the seeds that appear on the gross level, which gradually manifest into what we name specific disease conditions.
Over and above the elements, Ayurveda gives mention of the modes of nature: sattva (goodness), raja (passion), and tamas (ignorance). All aspects of nature can be explained in terms of these modes, including seasons, times of the day, and even more subtle aspects like emotions. For instance, in the Bhagavad-Gita (considered the essence of Vedic knowledge), it states, “Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are wholesome, and pleasing to the heart. (Bhagavad-Gita, Ch27 Verse8)” Similarly, such things as faith, sacrifices, charity, austerity, religion, etc are all explained according to these modes of nature.
Ayurvedic Constitutions (Doshas)
According to Ayurveda, the elements are represented in a human being as vata, pitta and kapha, known as the three doshas or biological forces.
Vata is comprised of the elements air and space and is responsible for all movement related functions in the body, such as respiration, circulation and thought. On an emotional level it is responsible for such positive emotions as creativity and flexibility and its’ negative aspects are fear and anxiety.
Pitta is composed of fire and water and is responsible for metabolism, including digestion of food and life’s experiences and for hunger and thirst. Emotionally it is connected with courage, ambition, anger and pride.
Kapha is comprised of water and earth and is responsible for cohesion; it provides the body’s structure. It governs emotions such as love and devotion, greed and jealousy.
Everybody is born with a unique combination of these three doshas and this is termed as their prakriti or constitution. Apart from these Ayurvedic body energies, there are also other elements:
These are the basic tissues which maintain and nourish the body. There are seven dhatus—plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow and reproductive fluid. The quality and quantity of each dhatu and its balanced functioning is very important for good health.
These are the waste materials produced as a result of various metabolic activities in the body. The main mala are urine, feces and sweat. Proper elimination of mala is equally important for good health. Accumulation of mala causes blockages in the body, resulting in diseases.
These are channels, which are responsible for transportation of food, dhatus, malas and doshas. Proper functioning of srota is necessary for transporting different materials. Blockage of srota causes many disorders.
‘Agni’ means fire. According to Ayurveda, there are 13 types of agni in the body, which carry out different metabolic activities. This may be compared to different types of enzymes responsible for digestion and metabolic activity in our body.
Toxins fall into four categories: ama, amavish, garvish, and indravajrabijanyavish. Ama is the product of incomplete digestion. A sticky, malodorous substance, ama clogs the shrotas (channels) and cellular membranes, disrupting tissue nutrition and producing illness. Amavish is ama having reactive properties with the tissues and shrotas. Garvish is ama acquired from sources that never should have entered the body: chemicals, heavy metals, dyes, pesticides, fumes, etc. Indravajrabhijanyavish comes from electromagnetic sources, like computers and cell phones. The ongoing build-up of all these types of ama disturbs dosha, dhatus, and malas. Disease itself is called Amaya – born of ama. To re-establish prakriti, one must regularly purify the physiology.
Becoming older is inevitable; aging is optional. Ayurveda says that 100 years is a normal life span. Today people are living longer; but what good is longer life in infirmity and ill health? Insidiously, aging brings about a gradual loss of connection with our own prakriti. Decade by decade we lose growth, luster, complexion, intelligence, skin health, vision, virility, discrimination, and the use of the senses. Over time the body’s channels lose flexibility, becoming clogged and dry, as occurs in arteriosclerosis, for example. Staying young at heart means preventing psychological aging, which begins earlier in life than one would suspect. Ayurveda provides special substances called Rasayanas that promote mental and physical health, maintain youthfulness, and slow aging. Top
Sad-Ratna: Six Jewels of Ayurvedic Wisdom
Ayurveda is the oldest system of medicine in the world today. It is found at the root of Chinese Medicine, Tibetan Medicine and the Early Greek Medicine of Hippocrates. Here are six principles for understanding Ayurveda:
- Anadi: literally means ‘not created’. It refers to the fact that Ayurveda was not originated, but was discovered from the observation of nature, to which humans belong. It has remained unchanged for at least 5,000 years and is applicable to our time because it is based on universal principles.
- The Five Element Theory: Ayurveda observes in nature an intelligence that governs the functioning of the whole universe and explains that in the language of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth); the building blocks of all creation.
- The Three Doshas: When these elemental forces appear within the human physiology they are called doshas. The three doshas are vata, the principle that governs all movement, pitta, which governs all the processes of transformation and kapha which is responsible for cohesion, growth and lubrication.
- Prakruti and Vikruti: Each of us is born with a unique combination of the five elements (or the three doshas) – this is our prakruti. When this inborn constitution becomes imbalanced it is called vikruti. By various forms of evaluation, including pulse reading, we can understand our own inborn constitution and we can better know how to balance our life and achieve our ideal state of health with proper diet, lifestyle and herbal supplements.
- Agni: When our internal fire of digestion, or agni, is low, no matter what we eat, it will not be appropriately transformed. When food is not properly metabolized, it results in a toxic waste called ama. Ayurveda always seeks to awaken and support the internal fire or agni.
- Parinam: This refers to the negative and ever changing effect of the seasons on our health. Ayurveda considers health to be a state of balance of body, mind, emotion and external environment. It is not possible to merely address the problem or sickness only. Imagine a tree whose leaves are discolored. Ayurveda tends to the root of the tree, as well as the leaf and the environment around the tree (or individual) to bring it back into balance.
What is Pulse Diagnosis?
Pulse diagnosis is the ancient art and science of detecting the existing status of a person’s body, mind, and soul. Nadi or pulse is that vital flow of energy or life that courses through as a subtle channel all over the body, and enables the practicioner to feel the way the blood streams from the heart. This helps an experienced ayurvedic doctor to diagnose or treat various ailments, or to prevent their occurrence.
Pulse reading can be learnt through continuous practice, focus, awareness, and under the guidance of an experienced guru. It is like playing the vina, a musical instrument akin to the violin. On striking, each string produces a different musical note. Similarly, an expert pulse reader by touching, pressing, and ‘feeling’ the different combinations of the pulse, is able to diagnose the imbalances within a person’s body.
Ayurveda states three barometers of diagnosis: darshana (see and observe), sparshana (touch), and prashna (inquire by asking questions). Successful pulse reading involves touching, feeling, observing, and experiencing not only the rate, rhythm, and volume of the pulse; but also its movement, amplitude, temperature, force, and consistency in the body.
Ayurvedic Phone Consultation With Dr. Vinick
Dr. Vinick has been teaching and practicing Ayurveda since 1996 and is considered one of the most knowledgeable practitioners in the US. As a result of his extensive training with many different Ayurvedic authorities, and over 20 years of clinical practice, he has gained the experience necessary to offer an accurate diagnosis and treatment via phone consultations.
During the phone consultation, Dr Vinick takes a full history, and a detailed interview with each patient and determines the underlying imbalance. He then prescribes a treatment protocal to bring the mind and body back into its natural state of health and balance.