Ayurveda, the traditional health science from India, is based upon thousands of years of observation and inquiry about the ingredients for health, happiness and a long life. In Ayurvedic medicine, balance and harmony define health and well-being. Mind, body, and spirit are viewed as interrelated parts of a continuous whole in constant relationship and interaction with the larger environment.
What makes Ayurveda different from modern medicine?
Fundamentally, Ayurveda views each person holistically—as a part of the larger universe and in constant relationship with it. Modern (Western) medicine tends to see each patient as a sum of symptoms, or lack of symptoms. Ayurveda considers each person individually, as opposed to the Western approach of symptom-based treatments that are applied regardless of the unique aspects of each patient.
Ayurveda works to balance mind, body, and spirit as interrelated parts of a continuous whole that includes the surrounding environment. Consequently, Ayurvedic medicine focuses on harmony between the totality of ourselves and the universe of which we are a part. When we fall out of harmony, with either our environment, or our own true nature, disease can develop because that balance is lost. The main principle of treatment, then, is to restore balance in our body, mind and spirit so that we can once again be in harmony with our environment, and in turn, the larger universe.
Underlying this balance is a firm commitment to prevention—it is best to remain in balance and stay there!
Determining the characteristics of an individual’s constitution, or Prakriti, is of primary importance in Ayurvedic medicine so that proper diet and lifestyle (and, if necessary, other treatment paths) can be identified. Prakriti is imprinted on each of us at the time of conception, determining our innate physique, personality and psyche. We bring balance by honoring each person’s Pakriti, recognizing the unique combination of five elements–ether, air, fire, water and earth—that make up each mind-body-spirit.
Because foods and lifestyle practices exert differing effects on each of the elements, each of us must eat and live in accordance with what is balancing to our Prakriti to maintain balance and harmony.
Combinations of the five elements form everything in the universe, but in living creatures, the elements associate with one another in three ensembles, or Doshas: ether and air combine to form Vata Dosha, fire and water combine to form Pitta Dosha and water and earth combine to form Kapha Dosha. When in balance, the Doshas work in cooperation with one another to maintain our biological function with each Dosha governing a major area of biology. The Doshas dynamically interact with one another and with the environment—each has its natural rhythm of accumulation and subsidence. When this rhythm is disturbed by disharmony, the Doshas within us become imbalanced and can lead to a state of disease if not attended to.
Often, in today’s stressful world, improper diet and lifestyle are the root cause of imbalance in the Doshas. Balancing foods and practices can be effective adjustment to restore balance. Early detection and timely therapeutic action are best to restore balance.