How To of Ayurveda

This article describes complete Ayurveda. Get to know the different aspects of Ayurveda, the origin of the system of Indian medicine and how it has evolved to its current state.

This article is an adaptation from the Wikipedia article on Ayurveda, but written in original words.

Ayurveda is derived from two words. Ayu and Veda. Ayu stands for Life and Veda is knowledge. Ayurveda found its birth in the Atharvaveda – one among the 4 Vedas written in between 1500 BCE to 1000 BCE. It is also a discipline of the Upaveda and also known as a auxiliary knowledge in the Vedic tradition. It has also been described that the knowledge of Ayurveda was gained by Dhanvantari from Lord Brahma. Dhanvantari then further passed on this knowledge to the human race.
Origin of concepts of Ayurveda have been dated back to times of Indus valley civilization and also even before that. While the development of Ayurveda happened during the era of Vedic period, development also happened in non vedic systems like Buddhism, Jainism as well.
Ayurveda focuses on three constitutional make up of a person and are termed as the doshas; or the Tridoshas. These Tridoshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When a balance of these three constitutional make up in the body is maintained, then the person can feel at peace, calmness and health. If any naturally occurring feeling, function or change is obstructed or restricted, can lead to suffering and thus illness. There are eight distinct components of Ayurveda.

Two old literary work in Ayurveda are the Susrutha Samhita and the Charaka Samhita. These were first written in Sanskrit and then translations were done to facilitate in easier learning of the texts by people of various speaking languages.

The Eight components of Ayurveda

Ayurveda has eight distinct components which are as follows:

  1. Kayachikitsa – General Medicine – It describes about the cure of diseases which affect the body.
  2. Kaumara-bhartya – Bala Roga – This describes about the various treatments for children.
  3. Shalya Tantra – Surgeries – This describes about the various surgical treatments that were developed in Ayurveda.
  4. Salakya Tantra – Ophthalmology – Describes not only about the diseases of the eye, but also about the ears, nose, teeth and related facial structures.
  5. Bhuta-vidya – Describes about the causes of diseases not related to the Tridoshas, but are not visible to the normal eye. These can be related to micro-organisms.
  6. Agada-tantra- This related to antidoting poisons and their effects.
  7. Rasayana-tantra – This area deals with anti-ageing and related medicines and techniques.
  8. Vajikarana tantra – This area describes about sexual functions, structures and diseases.

Principles of Ayurveda

As discussed above, Ayurveda focuses on the balance of the Tridoshas. When the doshas are balanced, the person can be said to be healthy and not suffering from deep and chronic issues or diseases. Ayurveda has also focused on following the natural urge and not to stop them. At the same time they have also mentioned certain habits to be in moderation. Food should be consumed in moderation. Over indulging in such habits can lead to imbalance of the Tridoshas. Such an imbalance can be corrected on correcting the wrong steps and allowing the body to get better on itself. If the disease condition has worsened to that extent that a person cannot get well on their own, then medicinal and therapeutic aid can be given.

Certain terminology in Ayurveda

Ayurveda describes the human being to be made up of the following seven different dhatus (meaning tissues):

  1. Rasa – meaning Plasma
  2. Rakta – meaning blood
  3. Mamsa – meaning muscles
  4. Meda – meaning fat
  5. Asthi – meaning bones
  6. Majja – meaning marrow
  7. semen – meaning shukra

Each of these dhatu are derived from Panchamahabhuta (five elements); they being:

  1. Pruthvi – Earth
  2. Jal – Water
  3. Agni – Fire
  4. Vayu – Air
  5. Akash – Ether / Space

Depending on the status of the tridoshas, the dhatus get formed in different manner of composition of the Panchamahabhutas. The manner of composition of the panchamahabhutas express themselves in twenty different gunas. These twenty gunas are arranged in 10 pairs of antonym behavior:

  1. heavy/light
  2. cold/hot
  3. unctuous/dry
  4. dull/sharp
  5. stable/mobile
  6. soft/hard
  7. non-slimy/slimy
  8. smooth/coarse
  9. minute/gross
  10. viscous/liquid

Such dhatus with the factors affecting their compositions, being affected by the different gunas; bring up the different temperaments, constitutions and unique characteristics seen in people. And it are these temperament, constitution and characteristics which change when the tridoshas get imbalanced.

How Ayurveda is practiced?

An Ayurvedic practitioner regards your physical being, spiritual being and your mental existence to be of one unit. Individual existence of the above cannot be possible. Thus to understand why one person is going through a diseased
state can be understood only upon clear consideration of the above mentioned factors. The combination of the sufferings at the mind, body and spiritual level with introspection on the grounds of Gunas, affecting the Dhatus and making changes in the Panchamahabhutas tells about the imbalance of particular Dosha.

The physical existence, mental existence and personality are understood through diagnosing the following:

  1. Nadi – Pulse
  2. Mootra – Urine
  3. Mala – Stool
  4. Jihva – Tongue
  5. Shabda – Speech
  6. Sparsha – Touch
  7. Druk – Vision
  8. Aakruti

On the basis of the diagnosis, the following Upakarma (treatment) can be worked upon:

  • Brimhana-Nourishing – The person is well and does not require any treatment
  • Langhana-Depleting – The person is losing health and thus is not able to stay in good condition. In such a case, treatment is required.

Langhana calls for either Shamana – Pacifying treatments which involve

  • Pachana – Using Digestives
  • Deepana – Increasing digestive fire
  • Kshut – Increasing hunger
  • Thirst – Increasing Thirst
  • Vyayama – Increasing exercises
  • Athapa – Increasing exposure to sunlight
  • Marutha – Increasing exposure to wind.

If the person will or may not feel better by Shamana treatments, then Shodhana treatments come in Hand. Shodhana means purification. Shodhana is carried out by:

  • Vamana – Emesis
  • Virechana – Purgation
  • Vasti – Enema
  • Nasya – Nasal Medication
  • Raktamokshan – Blood let

All of these treatments together with Shamana comprise of Panchakarma.

Ayurveda includes Dinacharya – following natural cycles of usual activities. These Dinacharyas focus on the importance of hygiene including cleaning of teeth, skin care, eye washing and other related practices. Further focus is given on exercises, Yoga and Meditation.

If the health issues are not cured or relieved by the above mentioned practices, then treatment can be done with Surgery. Surgeries are mentioned in Ayurveda texts mentioned in Salya Chikitsa and Salakya Tantra.

Main texts in Ayurveda

The main literatures for Ayurveda include the early texts of Charak Samhita, the Sushruta Samhita and the Bhela Samhita. Sushruta Samhita was further updated by Nagarjuna. Charaka Samhita was updated by Dridhabala and the Bhela Samhita and Charaka samhita as well, well updated by Atreya Punarvasu. Apart from these, the other texts of significance are Agnivesha Samhita, Kasyapa Samhita and the Harita Samhita. Astanga nighantu by Vagbhata, Paryaya ratnamala by Madhava, Siddhasara nighantu by Ravi Gupta, Dravyavali and Dravyaguna sangraha Cakrapanidattaare some of the later works by renounced authors.

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