From the first time I wrote an article in L Style G Style I have used the word “holistic” to describe the posture I take when discussing health and nutrition. I want to share with you what I have been learning about what many scholars consider to be the oldest healing science. Ayurveda is one of the most ancient and holistic approaches to preventing and treating illness.
Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit, meaning “the science of life.” Knowledge of Ayurveda originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and the practice is often referred to as the “mother of all healing.” Ayurvedic medicine strives to integrate and balance body, mind and spirit. Through this balance, contentment and good health are achieved, thus preventing illness. Ayurvedic medicine also treats specific health problems through cleansing the body and the prescription of herbs, food and massage, all with the goal of restoring balance.
Ayurvedic medicine focuses on the balance between a person’s body, mind and spirit according to that person’s specific constitution. A person’s unique constitution (prakriti), which is determined at conception, is a pattern of energy made up of physical, mental and emotional characteristics. Many external and internal situations act upon people to disrupt their balance and cause illness. The balancing of our unique systems is where Ayurveda is so profoundly holistic. Most of the time, we do not give enough importance to stress or our spirituality and their effects on our health and well-being. Ayurveda takes in to account the intricate and complex relationship between people, their health, the universe and the impact that each one has on the other.
Ayurvedic philosophy speaks about the universe and the interaction between the energies of the five great elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. According to Ayurveda, every human being is a creation of the cosmos/universe. Therefore, every human being is also space, air, fire, water and earth. Ayurveda recognizes three primary types of energy as being present in everybody and everything. These are referred to as doshas.
Doshas form characteristics of the constitution, or prakriti, and control the activities of the body. Each dosha is comprised of one or two of the five basic elements, and each individual has his or her own balance of the three doshas. However, one dosha is typically more pronounced. Briefly described, Vata is the energy of movement, Pitta is the energy of digestion or metabolism, and Kapha is the energy of lubrication and structure. Believe me, as a person involved daily and for many years in an allopathic Western medicine model, the Ayurvedic medicine model is stretching me to think of my nutrition and pharmacy clients in a whole new light. I am beginning to view my clients more holis- tically than I have in the past, recognizing the profound impact that each aspect of body, mind and spirit has on the physical manifestation of illness and wellness.
If you plan to take advantage of “the science of life,” do your homework before seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner to make sure his or her credentials are from a respected institution. A good source for straightforward info is the National Institute of Health (www.nih.org). There is a section on this website called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Check it out.
Please always inform all of your health care practitioners about ALL the therapies you are enlisting to treat whatever ailment you are experiencing. Always check with a health care professional before taking any vitamin, mineral, herb or nutritional supplement to determine if it might interact with any medications you are taking.
Know that this is a simplified introduction to Ayurveda, which is much more complex and involved. I encourage you to research it and learn at least some aspect of Ayurveda that would benefit you in your journey to strong health.
The primary goals of treatment for practitioners of Ayurveda are to:
- Eliminate impurities. Cleansing may be achieved through special diets, fasting or enemas.
- Reduce symptoms. Some suggestions might be exercise, yoga, breathing, meditation, herbs and food.
- Reduce worry and increase harmony in the patient’s life.
- Help eliminate both physical and psychological problems. Massage and vital-points therapy are used to reduce pain and improve circulation.