Ayurveda, the Science of Life

Ayurveda, the Science of Life.  Ayurveda is the traditional health care system of India, originating in the ancient Vedic civilization of 3,000 B.C.E.  Ayur-Veda means Science of Life. It is a natural, preventive approach to health care, that emphasizes

  1. a diet appropriate to one’s mind-body type and basic principles of nutrition.
  2. proper digestion, elimination, rest, relaxation, and mental attitude.
  3. the use of herbal medicines, pranayam, and meditation to balance the doshas.
  4. the use of fasting, oil massage, and panchakarma treatments for eliminating buildup of ama, or toxins.

The basis of Ayurveda is prevention–strengthening the body’s defense system and self-repair mechanisms so the individual has the ability to naturally resist disease.

Like Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic medicine is especially valuable to people who perceive spiritual health and physical health as inextricably intertwined.

Origins of Disease in Ayurveda: Unbalanced Dosha

The name for Qi, or life-force in Ayurveda is Prana. From the center of the being Prana controls the functioning of the bodies organs and physiological processes. Channels, called srotas, similar to the channels of Acupuncture, facilitate the circulation of prana. Disease is caused by blockage of these channels, and by pranic insufficiency.

Ayurveda describes individuals according to their constitutional or body-mind types, called doshas.

The three basic doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata governs bodily and mental functions concerned with movement and metabolism. Pitta governs bodily and mental functions concerned with heat, catabolic break-down of things taken into the body-mind, and energy production. Kapha governs bodily and mental functions concerned with the building up and maintenance of structure and fluids.

Vata is derived from the air element, Pitta from the fire element, and Kapha from a combination of water and earth.

Each individual has aspects of each dosha as well as a specific doshic proclivity, which is apparent in one’s physical features, lifestyle tendencies, and psycho emotional or spiritual temperament. The doshic proclivity helps determine the illnesses you are prone to, and so can be used to prescribe methods to avoid disease.

In the natural course of living, the doshas may become imbalanced, and when they do, this leads to the blockage of the channels by Ama, the accumulation of toxic substances within the bodymind. Ama increases if physical and mental digestive fire (agni) is weak, if foods contraindicated for your dosha are eaten, especially to excess,  if spiritual consciousness is not cultivated, if sensible lifestyle practices are not followed, or if fecal waste is not properly eliminated.

Ayurvedic Treatment

Ayurvedic treatment focuses on rebalancing the doshas.

It’s  important to remember that you are never just one dosha. We are  made up of all 3 doshas–inside each of us is Space, Air, Fire, Earth, and Water –these elements manifest in our bodymind in predictable ways governing specific functions and corresponding to specific tissues.

What we want to know is what our proportions are–are we fire dominant, water dominant, air dominant?  Are Pitta, Vatta, or Kapha dominant. And then we want to know what our secondary dosha is–are we Pitta Vatta, Vatta Pitta, Pitta Kapha, etc. Knowing your dosha type/combination is so important because your dosha predicts how your health is likely to fail, and therefore guides your choices for healthy living, wellness, and longevity.

But we also want to know where the current imbalance is. It can even be in your third or tertiary dosha, though it is typically in your first or second. In any event, the starting point is always to know where the current imbalance is.

First one’s natural dosha is determined through intake and exam. Then one’s doshic imbalance is determined by a combination of pulse and tongue diagnosis, questioning, and observation. Ayurvedic therapy focuses first and foremost on eradicating the lifestyle and dietary errors that are creating doshic imbalances. This is root treatment. Secondly, the Ayurvedic physician may prescribe breathing and meditation exercises to eradicate mental ama, specific foods and dietary regimens to correct your particular doshic imbalance, herbs to treat the doshic imbalance and its specific disease symptoms in the tissues.

Panchakarma treatment is often recommended, both for serious illness and periodic cleansing. This involves staying for at least 5 days at a retreat center and undergoing therapeutic fasting, oil massage, sweating, purging, and warm oil enema. The goal of Panchakarma therapy is to mobilize the Ama out of the tissues and channels into the center of the body where it can then be more easily discharged through the digestive tract.

I have used Ayurvedic medicine for the past 28 years in my own life, including three years in India and Sri Lanka during which I took tutorials with Drs. Ramachandran in Tamil Nadu and Wickermasinghe in Sri Lanka . Since 1991 I have used Ayurvedic herbs, dietary and lifestyle counseling techniques to help many people resolve their illnesses and progress towards radiant health.

I have found Ayurvedic methods particularly valuable for all the disorders of inflammation, whether physical or emotional, ranging from chronic urinary tract infection through tendinitis and excessive anger or irritability;  for all the disorders of water, mucus and phlegm, from obesity and edema through  allergies and chronic sinus disorders; for the various disorders of wind, from insomnia and fear through anxiety and headaches.

For further information about how Ayurvedic medicine can help you, or to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive Ayurvedic consultation, please call Eyton Shalom, M.S., L.Ac., at 619.296.7591 or email eyton@bodymindwellnesscenter.com

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