Today people are becoming more aware of Ayurveda, one of the oldest traditional healing systems in the world. It is a holistic system of medicine that is indigenous to – and widely practiced in India. The word Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term meaning “science of life”. Derived from the Vedas, ancient Hindu texts written by Rishis or holy men, it is a sophisticated and comprehensive health system.
Ayurveda teaches that there are five great elements; ether, air, fire, water, and earth, which underlie all living systems and are constantly changing and interacting. They manifest as three doshas or vital energies. The three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, govern all biological and psychological functions of the body, mind, and consciousness.
Each of the three doshas is a combination of two of the five elements. Vata combines air and ether, Pitta combines fire and water, and Kapha combines water and earth. The combination and qualities of the three doshas in turn make up our constitutional type.
Ayurveda stresses that we are all born with an individual constitution that is unique. This unique combination of doshas, known as Prakriti, is determined in part by the doshas of his or her parents at the time of conception.
When the current state of our doshas differs from our constitution, we are out of balance. As we are often attracted to those things which will imbalance us, it is not surprising that our primary dosha is the most likely to be out of balance.
This imbalance, if not addressed, will, in turn, lead to illness. Fortunately, Ayurveda provides us with a wide variety of therapies to bring our doshas back into balance. The most common therapies are medicinal herbs, diet, Yoga, meditation, marma therapy, and pranayama – a few of those will be touched on there.
Within the Ayurvedic system, herbal remedies play an instrumental role in bringing about health. Ayurveda sees food and diet as the foundation of all healing therapies. The foods we choose have an effect on the overall balance of our doshas – some help us stay in balance and others throw us out of balance. Herbs then are used as “special foods” serving to eliminate the excesses and strengthen deficiencies.
Ayurveda approaches herbs through a science of energetics. This energetic system classifies each herb according to their; elements, six tastes, and cooling or heating effects. Based on their individual profile, each herb imparts an action on a particular organ or system. With an understanding of both the energetics of an herb and the constitutional imbalance of the person, each individual constitution and condition can be addressed.
Another major therapy within Ayurveda is what is known as Yoga. In the Vedic tradition, the term Yoga refers to a much wider philosophy and set of practices than what most people in the west think of as Yoga. The major Yogic practice that you see in the world today is asana or Yoga postures. Asana is useful for promoting health and vitality and for overcoming diseases.
Asana not only is a good way to exercise, but it also relieves stress and tension and calms the nerves. It can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle and have therapeutic effects both psychologically and physically. Asana practice is a great way to start rebuilding and maintain your health. It is easy to do at home, or at your local yoga studio.
Within Ayurveda, marma therapy is one of the lesser-known therapies and of interest because it has similar parallels to acupuncture. Marmas are energy points that resemble the acupuncture points of Traditional Chinese Medicine but extend to larger areas of the body. Through manipulation of marmas, the practitioner can alter both the organic function and structural condition of the body, as well as remove energy blockages and improve energy flow, thus returning you to a state of energetic balance. This makes marma therapy a very important tool for healing on a truly holistic level.
Each of us, with our unique constitutional makeup, has a fixed point that is our personal baseline for health. If we are in a state of disease, with Ayurveda, we have tools to help us return the three doshas to balance and return us to health. Herbal remedies, diet, and yoga as well as other purifying techniques will bring you back into a feeling of balance, health, and happiness.