Good health stands at the very root of virtuous acts, acquirement of wealth, fulfillment of desires, and ultimate emancipation. Diseases are destroyers of health, well-being, and life.
This has manifested itself as a great obstacle in the way of human life.
What could be its remedy? With this end in view, they (the sages) entered into meditation.
- Charaka Samhita,
When I first heard this quote, I was moved by two things. One was the realization that disease is not just what I learned in medical school - an affliction of the body cells, organs etc. – it is much more than that.
The absolute worst thing it does to humans- is rob of us our potential, the unique and valuable contribution that each us of has to offer to the world. We cannot sing, teach, heal, explore, write, mother, father or whatever it is one chooses to do – we cannot when we are ill – when the body is not well. Whether it is diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s etc. – no matter what the disease is – ultimately it is loss of this potential which is tragic – not necessarily the limbs, lives or memories.
The second is the intention or sentiment on which the knowledge of Ayurveda was obtained. Love and compassion for humanity. This is something that can be felt in the Ayurvedic texts.
The basis of all the writings and how they were obtained is this - which for me transforms it from just health system or medicine to healing practices for body, consciousness and spirit.
As a physician, mother and human being, I have been saddened to see the number of people with diet related diseases – such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and all their associated complications - increase in the world.
This is happening not only in adults but children and adolescents as well. It was a dark day when I first saw a large billboard advertising bariatric surgery for adolescents at nearby hospital center. I remember being stunned that day – wondering how could this be.
Ayurveda provides a way to improve health with emphasis on diet. It is different than the typical nutritional advice in that it is tailored to each person’s mind body constitution and imbalances. It also takes into consideration natural laws of the universe.
For many years I followed a relatively healthy diet rich in fruits vegetables and grains – it was far better than the average American diet. Still I did not feel well – I was not ill but I did not feel vitality, energy and clarity that come with wellness. It was only when I adapted an Ayurvedic diet did I see the change in my overall wellness – I feel better today than I did 20 years ago and I attribute that wellness to Ayurveda.
It is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. And as the name implies it is not just about health but also about life. Ayurveda teaches about human health and wellness in context of the Universe not as independent life forms.
Some key concepts in Ayurveda are Universal interconnectedness, Harmony with natural laws and Mind-Body constitution. With respect to the human body the most important Ayurvedic concept is that the Body has an inner intelligence that underlies all physiological structure and function.
All of the practices of Ayurveda are to reawaken, optimize this inner intelligence.
Ayur = life
Veda = knowledge
"Doshas are three: Vata, Pita, and Kapha. In their balanced state, they maintain the body. When imbalanced, they afflict the body with imbalances and diseases."
- Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthan, 1.5
Doshas are three fundamental life forces that govern physiologic functions of the human body and health
They are made of the 5 mahabhutas – or great elements:
THE DOSHAS ?
"From food, verily, are produced whatsoever creatures dwell on the earth. Moreover, by food alone they live. And then also into it they pass at the end. Food, verily, is the eldest born of beings. Therefore it is called the healing herb of all. ... From food are beings born. When born they grow up by food. "
Taittiriya Upanisad, Brahmananda valli
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
If you think about it – every cell, every muscle, every bone and fiber of your body is made up of the food you consume.
Food is the very basis of our physical body and therefore of paramount importance. In Ayurveda digestion is the other key factor in addition to food. Many of the diseases we face are directly related to diet as well as poor digestion and can be prevented, removed or ameliorated by proper diet. Ayurveda addresses both of these key elements to vibrant health in a unique and holistic way.