Frequently Asked Questions
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is the knowledge of life. The word Ayurveda comes from “Ayur” which means “life” and “veda” which stands for “Knowledge” This 5,000 year old healing tradition from India teaches us how our lives can be enriched, enhanced and extended without interference from disease or aging. Ayurveda teaches us that good health is not simply the absence of disease, but a state of harmonious and dynamic balance on all levels encompassing the mind, body, soul and environment.
What is the history of Ayurveda?
Ayurveda dates back an estimated 5,000-10,000 years and is widely considered to be the oldest form of health care in the world. It is understood by many scholars that knowledge of Ayurveda spread out from India and influenced the ancient Chinese system of medicine, Unani medicine, and the humoral medicine practiced by Hippocrates in Greece. For this reason, Ayurveda is often referred to as the “Mother of all healing.”
Before Ayurveda began its recent renewal in the West, it went through a period of decline in India when Western medical education became dominant during the era of British rule. Ayurveda became a second-class option used primarily by traditional spiritual practitioners and the poor. After India gained its independence in 1947, Ayurveda gained ground and new schools began to be established. Today more than five hundred Ayurvedic companies and hospitals have opened in the last ten years, and several hundred schools have been established. Although Ayurveda remains a secondary system of health care in India, the trend toward complementary care is emerging, and Western and Ayurvedic physicians often work side by side.
Interest in Ayurveda in the West began in the mid 1970’s as Ayurvedic teachers from India began visiting the United States and Europe. By sharing their knowledge they have inspired a vast movement toward body-mind-spirit medicine. Today Ayurvedic colleges are opening throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States.
Ayurveda is said to be eternal. Why?
Ayurveda is the collection of principles of healthy living that evolved from the time of the appearance of man on earth. It is not liable to change at any time or at any point of the world. This healing system has been practiced in daily living in India for more than 5000 years. Ayurveda, first recorded in the Vedas, the world’s oldest collection of knowledge, is still the most favored healthcare practice of millions of Indians. A system older than Greek and Egyptian medicine, it is now known to the wider world as a New Age medicine, proving its eternal significance.
Is Ayurveda a religion?
Yes and No. Yes in the sense that it originated in India and is intimately related with various rituals and traditions that are closely related to the “Sanatana Dharma” of India. No in the sense, that it does not preach the worship of any particular deity or ask you to follow a particular sect. Ayurveda advises you to achieve four aims -dharma (not religious but social duties), artha – to earn wealth through honest means, Kama – to enjoy life and Moksha-self realisation.
What is the definition of health according to Ayurveda?
Ayurveda has Holistic concept of Health. Disease free status of the body does not mean health. Swastha (Health) means to be ‘established in the self’.
The Ayurvedic view of healthy person is :
- Samadosha, samagnischa,
- Swastha iti abhidhiyate.
- (Sushrut Samhita, Sutrasthan, Chapter 15, Shloka 10)
“He whose doshas are in balance, appetite is good, all tissues of the body and all natural urges are functioning properly, and whose mind, body and spirit (self) are cheerful or full of bliss, he is a healthy person.
How does Ayurveda approach to diagnose and to treat the diseases?
Ayurvedic approach to diagnose the illness is very systematic and scientific. The logical thoroughness and minuteness of methods employed in Inquiry and Investigation of each and every factor or phenomenon of the patient concerning his habit, constitution, illness and environment are the prime factors for the perfect diagnosis. Tridosha ( Vata, Pitta and Kapha ) are the three Bio-Energies, which governs the body. The concept of these three Bio-Energies is unique. Balance of Tridosha means perfect health, and this is the basic principle of Ayurveda.
How is it different from modern medicine?
Modern medicine tries to treat and remove symptoms rather than treating the patient suffering from it. This stems from the view that all people are more or less the same. Ayurveda makes special contributions by addressing the uniqueness of each patient and by helping each body to heal itself.
What are the salient features of Ayurveda Health care system?
Ayurvedic healthcare system has perfected efficient methods and herbal preparations to keep the physical, mental and emotional health of a person in its prime throughout life. It is contrary to the current practice of seeking treatment when a disease strikes or waiting to get medical help till symptoms manifest. It is a mind and body health care system evolved to help human beings get the maximum out of their lives in a perfectly natural and healthy way. Ayurveda instills in you a view of life that is holistic and congenial to enjoy the pleasures of life in a sustainable way. This can be achieved without disturbing the rhythm of your life.
In one sentence what is the message of Ayurveda to present day human being?
A nontoxic body fortified with natural and herbal nourishments is the abode of a creative mind, and indomitable spirit.
What is the action plan of Ayurveda for a ‘toxin free body and electrified mind’?
Ayurveda can indeed be called an ancient health care system devised for the fast-paced and stressful modern life. This system is a stress reliever and immunity builder. Ayurveda approaches the problem from different angles. Panchakarma (Five cleansing procedures) and Ayurvedic massages are effective in flushing out toxins already in the body and internal systems down to the last cell. The body is tuned up by massage, oil bath and other procedures. Herbal food supplements and health care products build up the immunity system in a natural way. There are specific drugs to strengthen each system of the body, and arrest aging process Ayurveda prevents toxins entering into the body by making people keep a watch on their food habits and food.
Why is Ayurveda becoming more and more popular in the western world?
Ayurvedic science though ancient, could not be more relevant to today’s medical challenges and needs. In fact along with Buddhism it is the fastest growing belief system in the West. In ancient India, Buddhism enriched the Ayurvedic system and took it to the masses. Ayurveda is becoming so popular because it complements western medicine and Ayurveda understands how and why we become ill. It can offer effective treatment for many conditions for which conventional medicine has not found cure.
What is the contribution of Buddhism in Ayurveda?
Though Ayurveda is of vedic origin, and dates back to 5000 years, Buddhist contribution to this system of health science is invaluable. Along with propagation of education Buddhist monks paid keen attention to health care education. They popularized herbal medicine and Ayurveda benefited tremendously from it. Buddhist contribution is clearly visible in Kerala where the most authentic form of Ayurveda is being practiced now. Many of the present day Ayurvedic practitioners are descendents of early day Buddhists. Similar to the Buddhist doctrine of the ‘middle path’, Ayurveda also advocates moderation in all things. Like the ”eight fold path’ – eight basic tenants of Buddhism, Ayurveda also has rules for healthy living. Ayurveda advises us to resist negative thoughts, abstain from physical abuse, not to give into greed, not to give into sorrow, resist fear, shun pride, arrogance and ego.
What are the eight branches of Ayurveda?
- Internal medicine (Kaya chikilsa)
- Pediatrics and gynecology (Balaroga Chikilsa)
- Surgery (Shalya Chikilsa)
- E.N.T- ear,nose and throat surgery (Shalakya Chikilsa)
- Toxicology (Agadatantra)
- Rejuvanation (Rasyana)
- Study of sexual function and reproduction (Vajikarana chikilsa)
- Psychiatry (Manasroga chikilsa) Notice how pediatrics and geriatrics were given important place in healthcare even in those early days of history.
What is the Ayurvedic view of organisational layout of the body?
The science of Ayurveda has simplified the organisational layout of the human body into three basic components, Dosha (Fault), Dhatu (Tissue) and Mala (Impurities). The entire science of Ayurveda is based on the “five great element” (Pancha Mahabhootha) theory. The five elements are Earth (Pruthvi), Water (Jal), Fire (Agni or Tej), Air (Vayu) and Ether or Space (Akash). All matter in the universe is made up of these elements. Earth represents the solid state, water the liquid state, air the gaseous state, fire transforming force and ether is simultaneously the source of all matter and the space in which it exists. Thus all matter from tissues and organs, to diets and “doshas” (faults) is built on the five elements.
What are the main pillars of human organism, according to Ayurveda? How are they related?
The troika of Fault (Dosha)-Tissue (Dhatu)-Impurities (Mala) along with Fire (Agni), which means the fire of life that transforms matter in to energy form the main pillars of human organism. The fourth component is the mind, which is of immense importance according to Ayurveda. According to the concept of good management, Ayurveda insists that the Fault (Dosha) – Tissue (Dhatu) – Impurity (Mala) should be in harmony with each other, with all the components properly balanced. Any discordant note in this orchestra due to external or internal causes is a cause of concern.?
What is ‘tridosha’ theory? Why is tridosha considered the central point around which the philosophy of Ayurveda is woven?
‘Vata’, ‘Pitta’ and ‘Kapha’ are the names of tridoshas. Vata (air), Pitta (bile) and Kapha (phlegm) means more than literal. Doshas are basically three different forms of energy. The three doshas contain two of the five elements as any other matter. Thus ‘vata’ is made up of air and space and hence the lightest ‘dosha’. ‘Pitta’ contains fire and water, and ‘kapha’ with earth and water is the heavist of all ‘doshas’4. They work as a team in a natural healthy individual and could be termed, ‘the executives’ of human organism. Perfect balance of these three doshas(energies) is the basis of well being.These constituents give specific properties to ‘doshas’ with each ‘dosha’ having one property particular to itself and two opposite to others. Hence the character of doshas is influenced mainly by what is eaten as also by the ambient temperature, season, input, mental state etc.In most persons either one or combination of ‘doshas’ would be dominant. This defines the constitution of the person.
Does Ayurvedic treatment take a long time to heal ailments?
No. This is a common misconception about Ayurveda. In reality the time to heal any ailment depends on various factors- age of the patient, type of the disease, whether it is acute or chronic, how many doshas, tissues, organs and channels are involved in the disease process. If the disease is newly formed and is with a single dosha and tissue involvement, then Ayurveda can cure such a disease very quickly. On the other hand if the disease is formed with the aggravation of two or three doshas, and if more organs and channels are involved, then naturally, the treatment takes long time to cure this disease.
Does Ayurveda have any side effects?
Yes. Ayurveda uses varieties of herbs, minerals and metals for the treatment of diseases. Similarly, many potential toxins are also used in the treatment procedures.However, all these substances are purified and detoxified before they are used. If the process of purification and detoxification is not done properly, then the final product may produce some side effects. Similarly some toxic substances and oxides of minerals and metals, if not used in proper dosage, may also cause some side effects.
Are all Ayurvedic products of natural origin?
Ayurveda favors administration of natural health care products (of plant, animal, mineral origin) and their preparations. Generally Ayurvedic medicare products cause no toxic or side effects, and hence are totally safe. These are time-tested preparations, which have been used by many generations. There is no question of tolerance, resistance or addiction with Ayurvedic health care products.
Which are the authentic texts, on which these health care products are based?
Ancient classical texts of Ayurveda Charaka Samhitha, Susrutha Samhitah, Ashtanaga Samgraham, Ashanga Hridayam, Sargadhara Samhitha, Bhishaga Ratnavali etc. are the treatises of effective practices and formulations and these form the basis of Ayurvedic pharmaceuticals. Recent scientific research has proved the efficacy of herbs used and also the formulations. Number of Ayurvedic research institutes in different parts of the country has taken up scientific research into these health care products.
What is Ayurvedic massage?
It is a massage based on the diagnosis of constitution, age, type of disease, season and the predominance of doshas. For a Vata constitution it is advisable to use sesame oil or almond oil; for a Pitta constitution, use of coconut and sandalwood oil is advisable. Kapha constitution people require a dry massage. This can be done with the powders of chickpea, horsegram or dry and hot herbal powders like calamus. Similarly hot oils like mustard can be used in small quantities for Kapha people.
What are the benefits of an Ayurvedic Massage?
A Proper Ayurvedic Massage with oil removes dirt from the skin, cleans the pores and indirectly helps the functioning of lungs, large intestine and kidneys. With massage the blood circulation increases and this helps the exfoliation of superficial dead skin cells, tones the skin and encourages its rejuvenation process. Massage also helps the skin to maintain its elasticity and strength. Increase in blood circulation helps to accelerate the lymphatic system, which absorbs and eliminates many waste products.
Can I do Ayurvedic massage at home?
Yes. Ayurveda advises that every person should do an oil massage or ‘Abhyanga’ every day to protect the skin and to get strength and immunity. This can be done with the method advised under ‘Auto-Massage’ You can start with applying a small amount of oil appropriate to you constitution to your head and then slowly apply oil to other parts of the body till you reach the feet. Keep the oil for 10 minutes and then take a warm bath. For detail knowledge of this art please.
Is massage done with only oils?
No. it can be done with the use of herbal powders, pastes or simple friction with the use of cloth or by use of round wooden balls. For Vata and Pitta constitution it is advisable to use proper oils. For Kapha constitution it is always good to massage with the help of dry and hot herbal powders. One can use powder of calamus or flour of chickpea or horse gram for Kapha constitution.
What to expect from the first consultation with the doctor
The initial consultation begins with a verbal analysis – taking the total health history of the patient. A visual analysis of examining the eyes, tongue, nails and skin is then carried out. This is followed by the critical pulse diagnosis. As Deepak Chopra the best selling author points out: “One radio wave is all it takes to broadcast an entire symphony; likewise nature has figured out how to broadcast the entire body’s activities via the pulse.” It is via the nadis that the radial pulse receives this information. After evaluating the patient’s food habits and lifestyle, the final picture of the individuals’ physiological state in relation to three doshas is drawn. This sets up the therapist to determine the proper treatment required.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a psycho-physical discipline which originated in India some 5000 years ago. Yoga means to join, to bring together, union or communion. It combines or permeates individual human spirit into Universal Spirit. The Yoga discipline emphasizes the purification of all channels of circulation and communication in a human body. It is practiced by specific physical postures called ‘Asanas’, breathing exercises called ‘pranayama’ and meditation. The benefits of practicing ‘Yoga’ include improved physical fitness, mental clarity, greater self-understanding, stress control and general well-being. However, the beauty of Yoga lies in its strong underlying theme of spirituality.
What is Panchakarma?
These are five purificatory procedures for removing toxins and aggravated doshas from the body:
- Medicated emesis- for removing aggravated Kapha and Pitta.
- Medicated purgation – for Pitta.
- Medicated enema for Vata.
- Medicated nasal drops – for all doshas and
- Bloodletting – for Rakta and Pitta.
Is it painful to follow Panchakarma?
There is no pain in any of the Panchakarma procedures. However there can be some discomfort in all the procedures described above. However if the preliminary procedures (Poorvakarma) are done in correct method and the dose of the medicines of purificatory procedures is selected properly, then this discomfort can be reduced to a minimum.
Which is the best season for Panchakarma?
For maintaining health one should select proper season.Ayurveda advises that every person depending on the aggravation of dosha in his body should regularly carry out purificatory procedures. E.g. medicated vomiting should preferably be done in spring while medicated purgation and bloodletting in summer. Medicated enema during late winter and nasya can be done every day.
For treating diseases, one need not select season, as in treatment these procedures are to be carried out any time irrespective of the season.
What are the benefits of Panchakarma?
The most important benefit is removal of toxins from the body.We all accumulate toxins due to improper food habits, polluted atmosphere and stressful situations. Over accumulation of these toxins hamper the normal rejuvenation of body cells. Once the toxins are removed, the body cells to regenerate quickly and the person gains good strength. Also it allows all systems to function normally. Proper purification also increases the immunity.
Is Panchakarma done only when some patient is suffering from some ailment?
No. It is also done to maintain health and to prolong life.
What is the Ayurvedic view of skin and hair care?
Ayurveda emphasis the all important value of good diet as it creates good quality nourishment. (Rasa) which in turn will nourish blood (rakta) and subsequently influence the skin. Ayurveda says that skin diseases occur primarily due to sluggish liver function which leads to ‘pitta’ and ‘kapha’ dosha dysfunction. Another vital factor that contributes to healthy appearance is the clean bowel. Hence the need for regular and complete bowel evacuation.The hair is the metabolic end product of bone and marrow. Thus if thediet falls short of nourishing bones, the quantity of hair is affected. Similarly stress and worry leads to unhealthy hair. Wholesome diet is necessary for good skin and hair. Ayurvedic skin and hair care products are formulated with this fact in view.