Introduction to Ayurvedic Medicine

By Michael Russell

If you’re familiar with the terms “pitta” and “vata”, then chances are you’ve been acquainted with one of the most ancient medical practices of Asia. Ayurveda (pronounced eye-your-VAY-da) has just began to break through mainstream Western medical consciousness as more and more people have began to look for drug-free and natural remedies to cure their ailments and spirits.

Ayurveda is the natural system of medicine that has been traditionally practiced in India for more than 5,000 years. It is a Sanskrit word that literally translated means “the science of life” and “science of longevity”. Ayurveda is the health care system that was slowly and steadily developed by traditional seers and natural scientists through centuries of meditation, observation, discussion and experiments. These Ayurvedic teachings were then orally passed on from teacher to student until the sixth century BC, where detailed Sanskrit texts were finally written. It is said that even the ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian,

Chinese and Tibetan medicine systems are said to be derived from Ayurveda. Because of its rich history and philosophy, this multifarious medical system is still the treatment method of choice even for most of modern India and Southeast Asia.

Ayurveda is a holistic approach that emphasizes prevention of disease rather than its treatment. It has systems that aim for the rejuvenation of our body and the extension of life span. The Ayruvedic tradition believes that five elements — space, air, fire, water and earth — make up the world we live in. Each element is found in the human body and called the “dosha”. The forces and principles that are found in all of nature are also seen in our human systems. In Ayurveda, our minds (or consciousness) and our bodies are not separate – they are united as one, called the “mind-body”. Ayurvedic philosophy and practices reconnect us to ourselves and reminds us that we are one with nature and with the entire cosmos. Mental and physical health are one and the same, so in Ayurveda, symptoms and diseases in the mind (like thoughts and feelings) are just as vital as symptoms and diseases of the body (like pain and physical difficulties). These produce imbalance and illness, so both mind and body are treated simultaneously by restoring their natural balance. In short, to be healed, your whole physical lifestyle must be in sync with what you feel inside.

The Ayurvedic objective is to live a long balanced life that achieves our fullest potentials and expresses our true inner nature by adhering to certain daily practices that prevent disease. However, Ayurvedic treatments do not simply dwell on herbal medications. The system emphasizes the inclusion of meditation, yoga, massage and proper diet. It believes in integrating the mind, body and spirit to maintain good health and long life.

In India, Ayurvedic practitioners undergo state-recognized and institutionalized training, much like Western doctors. Only recently has there been a slow acceptance of Ayurveda in the West with the positive research outcomes of meditative techniques and yoga in Western medical literature. Today, more prominent and published studies have documented the success of the Ayurvedic approach in healing cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels, certain cancers, infectious diseases and most stress-induced illnesses.

Michael Russell Your Independent Alternative guide.

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