by Claire McFarland, blogger
(Courtesy of yourgreensite.net)
New Age Medicine is at an all-time high in its popularity. Everyone from celebrities, college students and even youth in America and Europe have adopted these new principles of natural health. One of the most recent crazes, which was first adopted in Europe and has spread recently to urban cities in the U.S., including New York and Los Angeles, is the Ayurveda approach to health and wellness.
According to the MayoClinic’s online Web site, Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, derived from two roots: ayur, which means life, and veda, knowledge. Knowledge arranged systematically with logic becomes science. During the due course of time, Ayurveda became the science of life. It has its root in ancient vedic literature and encompasses our entire life, the body, mind and spirit.
Concepts of Ayurveda
Ayurveda traces its roots to the Vedic period of ancient India, some 4,000 years old and is one of the best preserved systems of traditional medicine still practiced today. Ayurveda is based on the Sankya philosophy that health is defined as the harmony of the body (gross), mind and spirit (subtle) triad. This form of thinking supports the notion that disease occurs when there is an imbalance of the three. Each component of the triad has a different aspect and different requirements. The science of life therefore has three components: Ayurveda, Yoga and Tantra. Ayurveda concentrates and deals with the physical body, Tantra with the mind and Yoga with the spirit.
One of the key concepts in Ayurveda is that of the relationship between Man (or animals or plants) and Nature. It believes in using the principles of nature to bring an individual back into equilibrium with their true self.
Ayurveda looks at life from an energy perspective. Health is the harmony between the energy components of body, mind and spirit. Disease, which can be separated into two components: dis-ease, therefore, is the disruption of one or all of these components.
The Ayurvedic approach to disturbances in the mental and spiritual aspects of an individual, aims first to harmonize the physical body and then to expand that harmony to the mind and the spirit. The Yogic approach involves working with the spirit to induce the body and the mind to become harmonized. The Yogic diet aims to take predominantly Sattvic food, living in a Sattvic environment, associating with Sattvic people, and having a generally Sattvic life-style. Sattvic food is vegetarian, fresh, organic and prepared with love. A Sattvic environment is natural, pure, quiet and harmonious. Sattvic people are possessed of love, faith, devotion, honesty and truthfulness. Tantra works to maximize a being’s mental energy which then balances and harmonizes the body and spirit.
In order to harmonize the body, we have to realize that everything we perceive in the external world is composed of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. These elements make up the body, are present in every cell. These individual cells are not able to live independently of the whole body. Similarly we are all cells in the Universal Organism and are not able to live independently of the whole.
- Earth is a solid state of matter whose characteristics are stability, fixity and rigidity. It creates a feeling of security in the individual. It is a stable substance.
- Water is the liquid state of matter, which has a flowing, dissolving, carrying and cleansing quality. It is a substance without stability.
- Fire has the ability to transform solids to liquids to gas and vice versa. It is the power in the body. It is without substance.
- Air is the gaseous state of matter whose characteristic is mobility. It is responsible for all movements. It has no form.
- Ether is the field in which all the activities take place, from which everything is manifested and into which everything returns. Ether does not have a physical existence but is the space, which separates matter.
The five elements condense to give rise to the three primary life forces in the body or the three biological humors or Doshas: Va-ta, Pitta and Kapha.
- Vata is composed of ether and air. It is the most important of the three Doshas as it governs and provides the motivating force for the other two Doshas. It is the kinetic energy in the body and is the force, which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration and elimination. It governs all bodily movements.
- Pitta is biological fire. It is composed of the elements of fire and water (liquefied fire). It digests and cooks things in the body. It is responsible for all the metabolic and chemical transformations in the body. It is responsible for digestion of food, eyesight, body temperature, intellect and skin coloration.
- Kapha is a combination of water and fire. It holds things together, providing cohesiveness. It is responsible for growth, support, and lubrication and makes up the bulk of the body tissues. When the Doshas are out of balance, they are the causative force in the disease process.
Hygiene is an Indian cultural value and a central practice of Ayurvedic medicine. Hygienic living involves regular bathing, cleansing of teeth, skin care, and eye washing. Occasional anointing of the body with oil is also prescribed.
Practice Makes Perfect
The combination of these principles shows its followers that simple practices, including regular practices of meditation, a thorough and consistent self-cleansing schedule, including diet, exercise and hygiene, paired with an active sex life and regular intellectual stimulation will lead to a healthier and happier existence.
The next time you are feeling overwhelmed with the many new health trends hitting the market, look to the Ayurvedic approach, which advocates for delicious antioxidant-rich foods, an active love life and simple stretching and meditative poses to help not only lengthen your life, but improve the quality of life that you lead.