Ayurvedic Philosophy - a brief introduction !
Ayurveda aims for the maintenance of health & if, in case, our health is disturbed, then it helps our basic resistance to combat this imbalance by prescribing natural medicine with appropriate changes in diet & behaviour.
I want to introduce basic theories of Ayurveda to make it simple to understand, why your Ayurvedic Doctor prescribes you a certain diet, exercise & herbal combination.
Basic Ayurvedic Philosophy is based on these theories as follows:
1. Relation of Man with the Universe
Man is microcosm of this universe which means we have everything in our body in a minute form what we have in this universe. That is why; our ultimate effort should be in tune with the Universe.
2. Material & Non-material make-up of the Universe
Ayurveda follows Indian Philosophy which says that this Universe is created with Material & Non-material things. Material substance is made of Five Primordial Substances called Panchmahabhutas (Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Space) & Non-material substance is made of three omnisubstances called Trigunas (Satva or consciousness, Rajas or motion & Tamas or inertia).
3. Material & Non-material make-up of human being
Our body is also made of Five Basic Universal Elements called Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Space which can also be found in all living & non-living things on this Earth while our mental & emotional constitution is made of non-material substances called Trigunas. That is why; internal balance of our body can be changed by consumption of natural things.
4. Theory explaining about changes in body due to external things-
As we learnt that Ayurveda believes that our body has all material & non-material substances as the living & nonliving things around us have.
It can also be said that we add substances having similar properties it accentuates the impact but if we add substances having opposite properties then it neutralizes or minimizes the impact of event in body which may be in the form of physiology or pathology.
5. Everything is medicine if used wisely
Nothing on this Earth is waste but on the contrary can be used as medicine if you have that special wisdom.
6. Three basic body humors (Doshas)
Our body has three basic humors called Doshas which are nothing but expression of Panchmahabhootas or Five Universal Elements in our body. They are Vata, Pitta & Kapha.
Vata is the energy in body which controls all the voluntary –involuntary movements of body & all the activities of body & mind. Utilization of air as our life source, function of respiration, maintenance of digestive system, circulation of nutrients, excretion of waste, functions of reproductive organ these all are the functions controlled by Vata.It correlates to functions of nervous system.
Pitta is the energy in body which helps in transformation of food into nutrition through the process of appetite-digestion-assimilation & absorption. Our appetite, digestion, quality of blood, intellect & health of skin & eyes depend on balance of Pitta. It correlates to digestive functions of body which also maintain micro digestion on the basic metabolism level.
Kapha is the energy in body which helps for binding & lubrication of our body which helps to build & repair our systems on cellular level. Protection of our digestive system by lubricating it, protection of our heart by maintaining its position & functions, protection of joints by lubrication, helping our tongue to decide the taste by producing saliva & protection of our nervous & mental activities by providing lubrication & nutrition to our brain.
7. Three basic mental humors (ManasDoshas)
Our body has three basic mental humors called ManasDoshas. They are Satva, Rajas & Tamas which are nothing but expression of Triguna or Three Omnisubstances in our body.
Satva is pure state of our mind which gives complete realization or consciousness or pure knowledge.
Rajas provides us desire for activities or strive or motion or passion for something.
Tamas is inertia or ignorance which makes us flow with the desires & emotions & leads us to darkness.
8. Seven Basic Tissues (Dhatus)
Our body has Seven Basic Tissues called Dhatus. They are as follows:
Rasa – This is plasma or lymph which nourishes the body at cellular level.
Rakta – This is blood which provides life source to each cell which now we call as function of blood to provide the cells with oxygen & nutrients.
Mansa –This is musculature of our body that covers the skeleton & also perform the movements.
Meda – This is adipose tissue which lubricates & oils the cells & organs.
Asthi – This is bone tissue which provides support & protection to body.
Majja – This is marrow & nervous tissue which line the bones from inside & also carry the nervous functions of body.
Shukra – This is reproductive tissue which contains all the genetic data to propagate the life. This tissue in women is called as ‘Artav’ or ‘StriShukra’.
Once these Dhatus are nourished they produce an essence of our health which is called as Ojus which is also called as Aura or Energy.
Ayurveda has explained that Dhatus produce certain by-products in their metabolism which are called as Upadhatus.
They are again seven namely breastmilk (Stanya), Menstrual blood (Artav), tendons (Kandara), vessels (Sira), oily substance in muscles (Vasa), skin (twacha) & muscles (Snayu).
9. Three Basic Excreta or Trimalas
Our body produces some waste in the process of metabolism which should be eliminated from body at its correct time. These excreta are mainly three:
Mala means feaces.
Mutra means urine.
Sweda means sweat.
Ayurveda advices to study Trimalas keenly. They are important in our metabolism as their status shows us the status of our health.
There are some other byproducts called Upamalas which are secretions in nose & throat (Mala-Kapha), secretions in stomach & intestines (MalaPitta), excretions from organs, nails (Nakha), hair (kasha-smashru) & sebum from skin.
10. Balance & relation of basic body components (DoshaDhatuMala Siddhanta)
All of us have all these basic components in our body as explained above but we have different permutations & combinations of those. We also have profound sense of the balance in body & mind on both levels; gross & subtle. This unique presence & balance of components makes our body different from others. Moreover our life depends on good balance of these basic components like Three Doshas, Seven Dhatus & Three Excreta.
When any component is disturbed it causes imbalance in organs or systems controlled by those components. Though all components are important in this complex mechanism, imbalance of Doshas is always the main cause of initiating imbalance of other factors or disease.
11. Theory explaining cause of imbalance in body components (Samanya Vishesha Siddhanta)
This theory says that if you consume any external ingredient like food, medicine & also follow behavioral pattern having similar qualities to that of any of Doshas, then it will increase the qualities of that specific Dosha in body. Vice versa; if you eat opposite quality food, medicine or follow behavioral routine, then it reduces qualities of that Dosha.
E.g. If you eat food which is dry & stale, it causes increase in activity of Vata which is dryness. This ultimately makes your skin dry.
If you want your skin supple then you should consume food which is warm, juicy & fresh. This helps to regulate Pitta which performs function of maintenance of skin.
12. Ayurvedic Pathology in short
Ayurveda believes that improper diet, behavior & external factors like micro or macro-organisms are the main cause of diseases.
Due to contact or consumption of above factors, Doshas get accumulated in excess or get aggravated or reduce in original quantity or also may get vitiated due to production of undigested, slimy & toxic by-product of impaired digestive function called Aama.
These disturbed or vitiated Doshas disturb the seven basic tissues, three basic excreta & sometimes spread even to the whole system related to that pathological process.
This is the Ayurvedic Pathology in short.
An Ayurvedic doctor has to go through all the subtypes of these Doshas, all seven basic tissues, seven byproducts of these basic tissues, all three basic excreta, all thirteen types of systems, al thirteen types of Digestive Fires (Macro & micro metabolisms) of our body.
13. Ayurvedic Pharmacology in short
As we learnt that Ayurveda believes that our body has all material & non-material substances as the living & nonliving things around us have.
We also learnt that adding substances having similar or different properties can change the process of pathology. It may be neutralizes or minimizes or maximizes the severity of pathology.
This theory in a different way says that material outside our body make changes inside our body either by increasing the power or decreasing the power of basic body humors. Substances having similar properties that of the body humors increase the power of those humors while substances having different or opposite properties that of the body humors decrease the power. That is how food & medicines affect our body & mind constitution. As food is also said to be nourishing our mind, it has emphasized a lot on selection of food as per constitution or to achieve certain changes in mind.
A special branch of Ayurveda deals with knowledge regarding Ayurvedic Pharmacology & that branch is called as Dravya-Guna-Vidnyan.
This branch of Ayurveda deals with identification & pharmacognostic knowledge of medicinal plants which is used in treatments.
According to Ayurveda,every plant works due to active principles which are mentioned as ‘Rasa-Vipak- Veerya & Gunas’.
Rasa means Taste. This is directly experienced or conclusions are taken about taste as per Ayurvedic principles told in Ayurvedic Pharmacology called as ‘Dravya-Guna-Vidnyan’.
Vipak means post digestive effect of plant.
Veerya means potency of plant.
Gunas means properties of plant.
Karma means pharmacological actions of the plant.
14. Concept of Desh
According to Ayurveda, Desh is a specific geographical pattern with specific soil pattern, climate & flora-fauna.
Ayurveda has divided Geographical patterns among 3 types:
Jangal, Anoop & Sadharan
Jangal is a desert like or semidesertlike geographical pattern in which there is mostly arid land with less rainfall, less vegetation with mostly thorny, succulent plants, with dry, blowing winds.
Anoop is a coastal or highly humid forestation area like rain forests or beaches with hot & humid climate, with plenty of plants of all variety, variety of animals & birds, high rainfall, wide rivers or sea.
Sadharan is combination of these two types which is said to be excellent habitat for people.
15. Body & Mental Constitution
Ayurveda believes that physical & mental constitution of our body is decided at the exact time of conception. Although seven basic constitutions are told, every individual has it own combinations of factors which has to be decided by an expert. It has a unique way to decide basic body & mental constitution of a person which decides basic balance of humors in your body & mind. It is almost 1 hr session in which Ayurvedic Doctors asks you questions & checks you from head to toe. Once your constitution is decided, it’s easy to find out reasons behind the disturbances in body.
Ayurvedic Treatment – Theories & techniques
Ayurvedic Principles regarding Treatment
Ayurveda believes that while treating a patient if you give medicines without proper cleansing of systems then it will be wasted. A very good example is given by Ayurvedic Sanhitas .They say that if you try to paint a very dirty cloth it won’t get colored nicely. Our body also cannot absorb good medicine if systems are blocked with undigested nutrients especially Aam which is a sticky, slimy & obstructive product of undigested food due to low appetite & hampered digestion. That will be waste of medicine.
Ayurveda recommends proper Cleansing Treatment which is called as Shodhan Chikitsa.There are five types of Shodhan Chikitsa which are also famous as ‘PanchKarma’.
They are Snehan (Oleation), Swedan (Fomentation), Vaman (Vomiting), Virechan (Purgation) & Basti (Enema).
Vaman is best cleansing technique recommended for KaphaDosha, Virechan is best cleansing technique recommended for PittaDosha &
Basti is best cleansing technique recommended for VataDosha.
Before these three treatments a patient should go through proper course of Snehan (Oleation) & Swedan (Fomentation).
Oleation makes walls of systems smooth & supple while fomentation pulls out toxins & waste by-products from channels & systems.
Then a proper cleansing treatment as per recommendation is done & after thorough cleansingrecommended additional herbal treatment is given.
Basic things to check before deciding about treatment
Dooshya- Basic body components which get imbalanced or vitiated in pathological process are called as Dooshya. They are SaptaDhatu i.e. Seven Basic Tissues, Upadhatu i.e. Byproducts of Tissue Metabolism, Mala i.e. waste products including main three excretas called Trimalas & microwaste-products of microdigestion i.e. SookshmaMalas.
Ayurvedic doctor should think about which Dooshya is imbalanced or vitiated.
Desh- As a science believing in relation between Universe & human body, Ayurveda also provides guidance about relation between geographical pattern & status of health or more specifically status of basic body components. These three geographical regions decided by Ayurveda are Anoop, Jangal & Sadharan which will be explained in detail later in this book.
Ayurvedic Doctor should think about Desh of the patient as imbalance of certain Dosha is more prevalent in certain Desh. Even this helps to decide dosage or ‘Maatra’ of medicine. E.g. Patient living in Jangal or dry-hot-arid region should not be given strong medicines in comparatively large doses. I.e. medicines having Black Pepper or mercury & Sulphur should be used only if required & in very very low dose.
Balam-This is body strength or muscle mass of patient.
Cleansing should be done very carefully in patients having very less muscle mass.
Kaala- Seasons of year are profoundly explained in Ayurveda & they are named as ‘Rutu’.
Six seasons according to Ayurveda are;
Vasant Rutu (Spring),Greeshma Rutu(Summer),Varsha Rutu(Rainy season),Sharad Rutu( season after Rains has stopped & Autumn is about to start),Hemant Rutu (Autumn) & Shishir Rutu (Winter).
In certain seasons, certain Doshas show certain conditions or status.
That is why it is very important to think about season to consider status of Dosha.
E.g. Medicines which can exaggerate actions of VataDosha should not be given in Rainy Season (Varsha Rutu) as VataDosha is naturally increased excessively in this season.
Agni - Anala or Agni means Fire. This is ’Digestive Fire’. Four types of Digestives Fires are seen in four different constitutions.
Kapha constitution shows Manda Agni or low digestive fire. It means low appetite & slow rate of digestion.
Pitta constitution shows Teekshna Agni or strong digestive fire. It means they have very large appetite & strong digestive capacity.
Vata constitution shows Visham or irregular appetite with irregular & unpredictable digestive capacity.
People who have all Three Doshas in balance they show Sama Agni. It means average appetite which has average digestive power compared to other constitutions.
While giving medicines Ayurvedic doctor should decide about type of Digestive Fire in patient. If a medicine having quality named ‘Guru’ or ‘heavy’, is given in large quantity to a patient having low digestive fire then he won’t be able to digest that medicine completely & medicine will be waste. It will also confuse practitioner about expected results of treatment.
Prakruti- This is our physical & mental constitution which is explained in detail before.
Vayam- Vayam means age of patient. Dose of medicine changes according to age of patient.
Sattva-That is emotional or mental tolerance of patient. Some people don’t like smell of alcohol or don’t have much courage to face strong cleansing treatments like Vomiting, Purgation etc. In that case doctor should consider things tolerated by patient or only mild cleansing treatments or soothing treatments relatively.
Saatmya- We always have dietary & activity routine as per our geographical region & body needs. We are accustomed to certain types of foods & environment too. While consulting patients, Ayurvedic practitioners have to consider these habits of food, medicines & behavior of patients. In patients who eat Ginger in regular food, we have to consider some other plant as medicine or we have to give it in large amount to make it cause desired effect. Sometimes people have intolerance to certain medicines e.g. if patient is not used to medicines having strong smell, he may vomit the medicine.
Aahar- Practitioner also has to study food habits of patient. Medicines should be given according to food patterns of patient.
E.g patients who eat fish will appreciate medicines made of fish parts or combined with fish. Learning about food habits also helps a doctor to check nutritional level of patient.
There are many rules & regulations told by Ayurveda for practitioners.
Basic principle is taking out imbalanced & vitiated Doshas & maintaining their balance in body.
Main actions involved are Reduction of increased Doshas & Increasing Doshas which are very low in amount.
E.g. when main reason behind diseases is excessive oilyness or slimyness i.e. ‘Snigdhata’ then Rukshan or dry treatment is used & vice versa.
When patient is having problems due to excessive ‘Bruhan’ or eating heavy food & lack of exercise then ‘Langhan’ i.e. treatment which produces lightness in body is used.
Ayurvedic Method of Diagnosis
First step is deciding the constitution of patient.
Then diagnosis is made after head to toe checkup of patient with thorough investigation of symptoms & sign.
In checkup, Nadipariksha or unique Ayurveda style checking of your pulse is one of the highlights of Ayurveda.
After careful checking & diagnosis about imbalance of humors & their spread in systems, treatment is decided.
Ayurveda offers wide range of treatments but your Doctor will decide the specific ones suitable for you. This is another peculiar feature of Ayurveda.
One for all doesn’t work here!
There is a wide range of Ayurvedic Treatments but all work in three basic steps. Doctors decide if they want to go through all the steps for every patient or want to choose specific step with specific types of treatments for the patient.
These are basic steps:
Cleansing – If your body channels are clogged with toxins, all the efforts & medicines go waste. That is why, as per patient’s strength & severity of diseases, a wide range of mild to strong cleansing treatments are given which are called as Panchkarma.
These are five main activities namely Vomiting (Vaman), Purgation (Virechan), medicated enemas & douche(Basti), instillation of medicated oils or powders in nose (Nasya) & removing impure blood (Raktamokshan).
Panchkarma are also recommended as prophylactic treatment to cleanse your body time to time to maintain your immunity & strength.
This is a thorough treatment which includes internal & external oiling of body, Medicated Steams, Cleansing Treatments & prophylactic routine with special diet & activities chart.
Digestion of Aama – In some patients if their Digestive Fire is not working properly it produces an undigested, slimy, toxic, slug like material from food which clogs the channels & causes various diseases. This is called as Aama.
With the help of Panchkarma & some medicines, this Aama is removed & remaining is digested.
Alleviation or restoration of balance – According to Ayurveda, Doshas or three basic humors are the main cause of diseases in our body. They get accumulated or aggravated or reduced which causes imbalance in body. This leads to disturbed functions of Dhatus or Basic Tissues & Malas or Basic Excreta of our body. Ayurvedic Doctors remove the excessive or aggravated Doshas & disturbed Dhatus & Malas with the help of Panchkarma & give Dietary Routine & Medicines to establish the balance.
Rejuvenation- This treatment is famous as regime which makes one look younger. In treatments it is used to erase the negative impact of disease from your body & set up a healthy constitution once again. It includes special diet, special behavior patterns & certain medicinal formulations.
This is an important part of treatment to strengthen the body resistance & to slow down the wear & tear of tissues. This allover helps to slow down the biological clock.
That's all about basic Ayurvedic theories!!!
I have tried my best to brief the vast knowledge of Ayurveda. I hope this will help all of you to understand what your Ayurvedic Doctor is thinking when he/she recommends you certain treatment.
Dr. Sharduli Terwadkar
(Ayurvedic Doctor based in Centurion, South Africa)