Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old system of medicine, rooted in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the oldest and most complete systems of medicine in existence. Ayurveda, means the science (or) knowledge of life in Sanskrit. It aims to preserve life and prevent disease. It looks at the entire picture of a person: the state they are in, where they have come from, and where they are going. Contemporary western medicine, on the other hand, treats symptoms, regardless of the Individual behind it.
Ayurveda is a means to achieving long life. This long life, according to the ancient texts, is sought in order to achieve the 4 principles of life, which are: dharma (virtue); artha (wealth, spiritual and material); kama (earthly desires so we don’t need to come back), and ultimately moksha (enlightenment and salvation). It is how we can remain well, in body and mind, in order to fulfil our highest potential. Our highest potential being to see beyond the veil of materiality and clinging.
Ayurveda Treats the Whole Person
Unlike contemporary western medicine, which treats symptoms, regardless of the constitution behind it, Ayurveda looks at the entire picture of a person: the state they are in, where they have come from, and where they are going. As a result, it takes into account a continuously evolving environment, and how one works within that environment – either creating a state of balance and health, or not.
It also works on a case by case basis: for each individual is different, with a unique set of conditions, and seeks to find the root cause of any imbalance. Ideally; however, Ayurveda is a preventive medicine that predicts where each of us are likely to go awry.
Ayurveda is Personalised
Ayurveda sees that the body and every material thing is made up of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth). Each of us has a different composition of these elements, and they have been split into three general humours (doshas), namely: vata, pitta and kapha.
- Vata is made up of ether and air, and is the nervous system and everything that moves and is ephemeral
- Pitta is made up of fire and water, and is digestion, fire, heat, and all that transforms
- Kapha is made up of water and earth, and is materiality, solidity, and unwavering structure
We are all made up of all three, to different degrees, but it is important we find out which doshas rule us. The root of the word dosha is dys and it comes into the English language in the form of: dysfuncton, dystrophy, dysentery, dyslexia, etc. In other words, it is all that disturbs. So, our particular dosha tells us where and how we are likely to be disturbed.
The material body is then made up of tissues (dhatus), of which there are seven types. The body is continuously recreating these tissues, from the simplest to the most complex, they are: serum (rasa), blood (rakta), muscle (mamsa), fat (medas), bone (asthi), nervous tissue and bone marrow (majja), and sperm / ovum (shukra/ artha). The doshas are the disruptors of these dhatus, and one of the ways in which they disrupt it is through the disturbance of the proper disposal of waste (malas), in the form of urine, sweat, and faeces.
The mind can then be split into three basic qualities: satva, rajas and tamas. Satva, being balanced lightness of mind and peace; rajas, heated, active passion, drive and mobility of mind; and tamas, inertia, depression, dullness and lethargy. Unlike people’s genetic doshic make-up, their quality of mind can change.
The key to of all this is to get back to our natural state of being, without the excess layers of toxicity, discontent and imbalance that otherwise govern us. Ayurveda is the means by which we can do this.
We have to remember why we are here, and this medicine is the greatest reminder for me. It was created in order that our mind and body would remain clear and bright enough to experience life and all its wonders, but ultimately liberate ourselves without getting bogged down by disease. So don’t get wearied by apathy or ignorance, just keep aiming high!
By Selina Van Orden