What Does Ayurveda Offer Us That Modern Medicine Doesn’t?

The term “Ayurveda” combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic (whole body) healing systems in the world. There is debate about when it originated in India; it’s safe to say that it dates back between 3000 to 5000 years. It remains one of the central methods of health care in India. In Indian hospitals, patients receive both modern medical care and Ayurvedic care. Ayurveda uses herbal compounds and formulas to help heal the body and bring it back to a complete state of health. There has been much research done in India about the effectiveness of Ayurveda, but it is not something the West has given much money to research. It does not treat symptoms the way that modern medicine does. It sees symptoms as the body’s way of communicating that something is wrong. Treating a symptom takes away a nagging complaint, but it silences the body’s communication to the person inhabiting it. It is up to the person and Ayurvedic physicians to figure out what’s wrong and get to the root of the problem. Ayurvedic physicians prescribe individualized treatments, including compounds of herbs or proprietary ingredients, and diet, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations.

Ayurvedic medicine sees the Mind, Body and Spirit as three parts to a whole. They are interconnected, and you can’t separate them out and treat them individually. They all affect each other. A classic example would be how stress in the mind causes stress-related illnesses in the body like high blood pressure, adrenal exhaustion, heart attacks and the list goes on. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The body is naturally balanced through meditation and yoga because it calms the mind and nervous system.

At the core of Ayurveda is the notion that humans are interconnected with everything on this planet. Prana, the life force or energy, flows through everything. This is symbolized by the OM and the chant of OM is the vibration of this force. Interestingly, this corresponds with the vibration of strings at the core of all atoms, the premise of modern string theory.

The Chinese also acknowledge this force in Chinese medicine and call it Chi. At the core of all living things, People, Animals and Plants, is Prana. It is what animates us. It causes us to breathe, your cat or dog to run and play, and your plants to grow and look healthy. The absence of prana is death. Ayurvedic medicine is focused on building and maintaining optimal prana: both energy to be used and energy to be stored to help fight off illness. When energy become stuck or is not flowing properly through the body, the result is illness. Ayurvedic medicine will use massage, yoga and herbs to get this energy moving again. The Chinese use acupuncture and cupping.

Ayurveda promotes knowing your own body and understanding how to care for it.  Ayurvedic physicians educate people about their body types and how to eat right for their type so they have optimal health. (A typical visit to a western doctor lasts fifteen minutes and a visit to an ayurvedic doctor might last an hour or more.) The three body types or doshas postulated by Ayurvedic medicine are Vata (Space and Air), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Water and Earth). All of these elements are present in each living thing, however an individual may be predisposed to having more of one or two of these elements instead of a balance.  A person with a predominantly Vata constitution will have physical and mental qualities that reflect the elemental qualities of Space and Air. That is why Vata types are commonly quick thinking, thin, and fast moving. A Pitta type, on the other hand, will have qualities reflective of Fire and Water, such as a fiery personality and oily skin. A Kapha (Earth) type will typically have a solid body frame and calm temperament, reflecting the underlying elements of Earth and Water. While one dosha predominates in some individuals, a second or third dosha typically can have a strong influence. This is referred to as either a dual-doshic or tri-doshic constitution.

The doshas are dynamic energies that constantly change in response to our actions, thoughts, emotions, the foods we eat, the seasons, and any other sensory inputs that feed our mind and body. When we live consciously, acknowledging our individual natures, we naturally make lifestyle and dietary decisions that foster balance within our doshas. When we live against our intrinsic natures, we support unhealthy patterns that lead to physical and mental imbalances.

Interested in what your dosha/s might be? I like this quiz because it give you a percentage of each element according to how you answer the questions.

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