Ayurveda is the oldest surviving medical system in the world which has continued on today. Derived from the Sanskrit root words - ‘ayus’ (life) and ‘ved’ (knowledge) – this healing science offers a rich, comprehensive outlook to a healthy life. Its origins go back nearly 5,000 years. It was developed and practiced by the same sages or rishis, who laid the foundations of the Vedic civilization in India, by organizing the fundamentals of life into optimal systems.
The main source of knowledge in this field are the Vedas — a collection of four books.
The most prominent is the Atharvaveda, also known as Knowledge of the Magic Formulas, which dates back to 1,000 BCE.
Ayurveda as it is practiced today is mostly comprised of three texts:
- Charaka Samhita
- Sushruta Samhita
- Astanga Hridayam
Ayurveda is influenced by the philosophy of creation and manifestation. The Sankhya philosophy is one of the most influential of the (six) systems of the Indian perspectives of knowledge. The word Sankhya means ‘number’, relating to the number and nature of the ultimate constituents of the universe.
When used as a term, Sankhya means ‘perfect knowledge’. It is a dualistic realism as it advocates two ultimate realities: Prakriti (matter) and Purusha (self or spirit). Purusha is the unmanifested, passive, attribute-less pure Being. Prakriti is the creative force of Creation. Purusha is male, while Prakriti is female energy. These two aspects of Cosmic Consciousness work in harmony with each other and are the source of all existence.
In Ayurveda, health is defined as a state of balance between mind, body and environment. Doshas refer to one’s unique physical and mental constitution, which influence your personal well-being. Ayurveda offers personalized recommendations based on your dosha for the treatment of ‘dis-ease’ (an imbalance of our natural state of ‘ease’). Doshas are the life energies behind all our bodily functions. They are derived from combinations of the five primal elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.
There are three doshas:
Vata (Air + Ether): Energy that controls functions in the body associated with motion.
Pitta (Fire + Water): Energy that controls the body's metabolic systems.
Kapha (Earth + Water): Energy that controls growth in the body.
Ayurveda is not just a holistic health care system but a lifestyle adopted to maintain perfect internal and external harmony. It offers a blend of science and philosophy that balances the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components necessary for good health.
The use of Ayurveda in daily life does not necessarily need one to understand the philosophy behind it. However, doing so provides a deeper insight into how and why this ancient holistic medical system works towards the betterment of your health.
For example, Ayurveda stresses on establishing a routine or dincharya to reduce the effects of stress. This is definitely something we can benefit from in the chaotic modern world. Simple practices like drinking a glass of water upon waking can help flush out toxins. These toxins accumulate in our system from what we eat, inhale and rub on ourselves. These Ayurvedic principles are easy to follow and essential for good health.
To understand your personal rhythms, take the dosha quiz and discover Ayurveda as a uniquely personal experience.