What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda - Basic Facts Everyone Needs to Know

Ayurveda is a medical practice that originated in India. Thought to be far superior than other forms of medicine, it promises treatment for various ailments that would not normally not be found in other systems of medicine. If you are looking to get treated by the Ayurveda system of medicine, here are 10 facts about the practice.

The rishis of ancient India through deep meditation were able to pierce the veil of illusion and see the  underlying mechanics of the manifest world.  What they could see was that everyone and everything is made of five elements that interchange and morph into that which can been seen, touched, heard, tasted, and smelled.  These fundamental elements are air (vayu), space (akasha), fire (agni), water (jala), and earth (prithivi). They were also able to experience the source of the five elements as pure silence and unbounded awareness.

The most fundamental element is space.  Space is unbounded and infinite.  It is also called Akasha and is the first manifestation of pure awareness. When we think of space, we can imagine the unlimited canopy of the sky or the infinite galaxies and within the human body, it is the hollow spaces and cavities within bone structure and the colon.  As space becomes more condensed, atoms and molecules are created and space becomes a notch more manifest as air.  Air is moving, light, cool, and unstable and as it moves quicker and quicker a friction is created and transforms itself into fire.  Air is connected to thoughts and movement in the human system.

Fire is hot, consuming, transformational, and powerful.  In the human body it is connected to metabolism, digestion, blood, and hormone functions.

This fire melts everything into a liquid state and this liquid is the water element.  Water is cool, heavy, flowing, and moist.  This water then solidifies into Earth element.  Earth has qualities of solidity, groundedness, coolness, moisture, and density.

These are the fundamental elements that overlap with each other, combine, and continually fluctuate in all of manifest creation.  All animal, plant, mineral, and human physiology have a unique combination and pattern of these five elements.


Specific combinations of the elements are called Doshas and categorized as Vata, a combination of air and space, Pitta - water and fire, and Kapha, earth and water.

The Dhatus

The dhatus are translated as tissues.  Ayurveda recognizes seven main tissues that sequentially unfold from the first to the last. The 8th tissue is formed only if the first seven have been properly formed. Lymph, blood, muscle tissue, fat, bone marrow and nerve tissue, bone, sperm and ovum. If all of these seven tissues are properly formed then the 8th tissue which is more subtle is formed and that is called ojas.  Ojas is what gives a healthy glow to the skin, strong immunity, energy, and the experience of natural happiness and bliss in individual life.  Ayurveda takes great precautions to protect one’s ojas through diet, digestion, and healthy lifestyle.


The way that the tissues of the body are transformed is through Agni (fire element).  There are many types of agnis at work in the body.  These agnis are like small flames that help transform tissues, transform food into energy, and transform food into waste products called malas.  An Ayurvedic practitioner will check to make sure that these agnis are working properly.  If the fire is too strong then it is burning to quickly not allowing the tissue to fully develop. If the agni is too little, then it is too weak to do its job. Herbal medicines and diet will be recommended to get the agni back to normal functioning.


Malas are feces, urine, and sweat.  The formation of malas is something that  Ayurveda also analyzes to come to understand the health or disease state of the body.  Burning urination could be a sign of excess agni.  Loose stools and foul smelling sweat are a sign of toxins in the body.  These toxins are called ama.  In order to eliminate ama, therapeutic detoxification procedures called panchakarma are recommended.

Three Humors or Tri-Dosha

Ayurvedic Medicine is based on the concept of the three doshas - Tridosha. Dosha commonly means 'force' or 'fault, something which can easily go out of balance, leading to a disorder in the body or mind.

The concept of dosha is not unlike the traditional Western idea of three basic body types - ectomorph (lean and delicate), mesomorph (compact and muscular) and endomorph (stocky). Most of us are a combination of two or three types. The Ayurvedic tridosha are known as Vata (the lightest, portrayed by the colour blue), Pitta (medium, red) and Kapha (heaviest, yellow). Somebody with dominant Vata energy tends to be thin, restless and creative; the Pitta mostly conforms to a happy medium; Kapha people tend to be heavy, slow and lethargic.

Ayurveda teaches that everything in the world is made up of a combination of the three doshas, and that the doshas themselves combine two of the five elements; Vata is Ether and Air; Pitta is Fire and Water; Kapha is Water and Earth.


"sama dosha sama agnischa sama dhatu mala kriyaaha|
Prasanna atma  indriya manaha swastha iti abhidheeyate" - Sushruta Samhita


One is in perfect health when  the Three doshas ( vata, pitta and Kapha) Digestive fire ( digestion, assimilation and metabolism) all the body tissues & components (Dhatus) (the entire physical body) all the excretory functions  (the physiological functions of urination and defecation) are in perfect order with a  pleasantly disposed and contented mind, senses and spirit.


Three Doshas: 
Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the three functionalities, which govern all the physiological, psychological and spiritual aspects of one's life. They each have five subdivisions, delicately intertwined. Ayurveda describes in great detail as to how they function and how to keep them in balance and also how to bring them into balance when they are out of balance.

Digestive fire:  This is called Agni. Agni can be equated to the word metabolism. This includes the digestion, absorption, assimilation. Conversion of the assimilated food into various  Dhatus, such as Plasma, blood, muscle, bone, fat, seminal fluid in men and Artava in women (There is no equivalent term in English for Artava) and finally Ojas or the vital force of the body. In medical term this could be the final responsible tissue for the secretion of Serotonin and Dopamine.

Excretory functions:
Ayurveda puts great emphasis for the excretory functions to be in perfect order to be in perfect health. This would prevent diseases. Keeps one in good health, spirit and gives long life. Ayurveda elaborately describes how one should maintain one's lifestyle.

Pleasantly disposed contented spirit, senses and mind: Ayurveda's definition of health is all encompassing. Social well being can only be possible when all these criteria are met.

Concept of Disease according to Ayurveda

Ayurveda has a very profound insight in understanding the disease and its time of manifestation and the various approaches to treat the diseases.

This particular verse from the classical Ayurveda text beautifully describes it.

"Janmaantara kritam paapam vyaadhi roopena bhaadate. Tat shantihi aushadhaihi, daanaihi, japa homa suaarchanaihi."

All diseases are rooted in the mind before manifesting. (mind has a longer shelf life than the physical body. The imprints of the mind gets carried forward to the next body. This is known as repeated births. According to Ayurveda the seeds of diseases are carried in the mind and they manifest at appropriate times during one's life. According to Vedic astrology, which is also in line with Ayurvedic principles, Planetary forces govern the expressions  of these imprints (KARMA) in the mind. This is where Ayurveda and Vedic astrology come together as interconnected Vedic sciences. A Vaidya in real sense must have the knowledge of both Ayurveda and Astrology

When such a disease is manifested, it should be treated with:

  • Aushada - Medicine.
  • Daana - Giving donations and doing charitable acts.
  • Japa - repeating a particular mantra in a prescribed manner.
  • Homa - offering of various herbs and dishes to the fire, chanting mantras with a particular intent, either to a deity or a planet.
  • Suraarchana - Special prayers to specific deity.

Such was the ancient wisdom of our Sages. We are committed at IVAC to be the living examples of this wisdom.

WHO (World Health Organization) DEFINITION OF HEALTH

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

The correct bibliographic citation for the definition is:

Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.
The Definition has not been amended since 1948.

Ayurvedic Medicine is a holistic health care science that focuses not only the prevention of disease but addresses solutions to chronic conditions.  Indus Valley Ayurvedic Center (IVAC) is dedicated to practicing this ancient system in its pristine form by integrating the knowledge of modern medicine as in diagnostics, surgeries, trauma, emergencies and scientific research along with the treatment and healing modalities with the traditional Vedic wisdom of Ayurveda.

The Vedic masters of ancient times inform us that all suffering in life is due to the violation of natural law, either knowingly or unknowingly.  Ayurveda generously gives the guidelines to live life in accord with the laws of nature, thereby preventing illness and unhappiness in life.  These guidelines are simple tools to maintain balance in life.  Lifestyle, diet, knowledge of herbs, and behavior are mapped out for each individual according their unique body-mind type.

Modern day society has primarily been focused on addressing disease when the symptoms have already manifested.  Allopathic medicine prescribes medicines that target the symptom and often have harmful side effects that cause additional health problems.  Ayurveda’s approaches focuses on the root cause of the health problem and solves it through effective natural procedures.  Through rejuvenation and detoxification therapies, herbal medicines, diet, and lifestyle changes chronic conditions such as Diabetes, Arthritis, Irritable Bowl, High Blood Pressure, Constipation, Chronic Fatigue, Insomnia, Depression and Anxiety can be effectively addressed.

Ashwini Mathur aptly states that "reported lack of efficacy of Ayurvedic treatments in clinical trials is often not due to inefficacy of the treatments itself, but arises from inadequacies of trial design. Ayurvedic interventions should exclusively use its multi-component, individualised and inherently holistic approach and that general guideline for rigorously  reporting such clinical trials should be developed"

There are several methodologies to conduct good clinical trials.

  1. The CONSORT (CONsolidated Standards of Reporting) has released guidelines on reporting of trials using herbal products.
  2. The SPIRIT initiative defines Standard Protocol Items for Randomised trials.
  3. In epidemiology, the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) statement similarly aims to strengthen reporting of observational studies, while the Meta-analysis Of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) group has prepared checklists for meta-analysis of observational studies.
  4. Transparent Reporting of Evaluations with Non- randomised Designs (TREND) statements concern methods of research design to eliminate biases in non-randomised studies.

Ayurveda would certainly benefit from similar guidelines. Ayurveda needs to take a giant leap forward to position itself alongside the modern medicine to be truly integrative. The benefits of Ayurveda is only being realised at the minuscule level worldwide.  Proper presentation of Ayurveda to the world is the need of the hour.

IVAC is constantly striving to improve the standards of care and delivery of Ayurveda to the humanity at large through research and development.

IVAC's Initiatives so far:

  • Developed a world-class therapists training program. Our therapies have a consistent rating of 98% "EXCELLENT", several years in a row.Developed designs for equipment: Massage tables, Steam units. Designs for Interiors, Panchakarma units and Vaastu based constructions.
  • Obtained ISO 9001-2008 Certification.
  • Our latest initiative is "GO GREEN". This would create an organisation, which would live up to the true Vedic heritage, non-polluting, nature-friendly, nurturing the nature and being nurtured.
  • Thousands of studies have been done showing the clinical efficacy of Ayurveda. The Rishis did not have laboratories to do such experiments, but through their profound intuition and level of sensitivity, they understood plants and diseases at it are fundamental level. Thus modern science is just validating what the sages of yore had already proven through their deep knowing of reality.

Immunity and the Mind Body

Ayurveda has understood the deep interconnection between the mind and body for thousands of years.  Whatever is happening in the physiology affects the mental and emotional state. Whatever is being experienced in the mental and emotional state affects the body. For example, if one has missed a night of sleep and the physiology experiences fatigue, the corresponding mental state is experienced as lack of mental acuteness. If an individual experiences fear, the physiology automatically reflects this in an increase in cortisone and rapid heartbeat.  Ayurveda views the body and mind as a single connected unit.

Modern scientific research has confirmed this connection and calls it Psychoneuroimmunity.  Dr. Candace Pert, of the National Institute of Health discovered that the immune system and emotions are interdependent.  Prolonged periods of anxiety and depression can weaken and suppress the immune system.

This is why Ayurveda emphasis the importance of having a balanced lifestyle.  Staying rested, fresh, energetic and enthusiastic are requirements to keep the immune system strong and averting illness.  If you are seeking to increase your immunity, Ayurveda has several approaches.  The first approach is to understand your outlook on life.   If there is a pessimistic perspective, then this is something that should be adjusted.  Reading of Vedic literature or other philosophies may be recommended to study in order to broaden one’s outlook.  One may even be recommended a trip or pilgrimage to gain a different viewpoint on life.  If there are emotional issues that have been suppressed, then counseling along with Ayurvedic therapies would be recommended.  If one has weak immunity due to an intake of antibiotics, then natural probiotics, herbs, and special diet will be recommended. Or, if one is under a lot of stress, then meditation and yoga would be advised as part of the daily routine.

Ayurveda gives modern medicine tools to integrate the mind and body through a multitude approach thereby offering the promise of a long healthy life, free from disease.

Ayurveda is based on the principle that the body is made up of 5 elements space, air, water, fire and earth. When all these elements work in congruence they make a healthy person. While all of us have all the five elements, they are in different proportions in our body making a person one of these three vata, kapha or pitta. An imbalance in any of these elements makes a person ill and a realignment of these humours can cure a disease.

According to Dr Ramesh, CMD of Aryavaidyasala, Kotakkal, 'Although all these five elements flow through the body at all times, each individual has certain elements which are more dominant than the others. For instance, a person having a vata constitution has more of air and space; pitta has more of fire and water, and kapha, water and earth. At the time of conception, each person's predominant constitution (prakriti) is created by the way in which the three doshas combine through the union of parents. Besides genetic, the prakriti is also affected by emotions, diet, lifestyle, and even environmental factors like climate and time of the day. Once a person recognises his prominent dosha, a lot can be done to take care of the diseases that one is most prone to.'

Before you scoff at the idea, here is what Ayurvedic practitioners believe. A person who is of a particular dosha has unique characteristics. Due to the dominance of one of the doshas it affects a person's temperament, the diseases that can affect him and even governs how he react to stress. Apart from that it also dictates the type of body structure he has and the foods he is likely to love. We

Dosha type Physical characteristics Psychological characteristics Common ailments
Kapha Gains weight easily. Loses weight with difficulty Short and stocky or tall and sturdy Hair, neck are all 'thick' Abundant strength and stamina Weak digestion. Feels heavy after eating Regular bowel movements Oily skin. Smooth and pale Sleeps easily and soundly Catches cold easily Prefers hot weather Large-hearted Calm nature Prefers slow, relaxed lifestyle Not a very quick learner but excellent long term memory Sentimental. Often thinks of past Methodical Protective of self and family Lets negative emotions build up rather than addressing them Lets others take the lead Natural listener who many people confide in. Congestion, Usually overweight, Have fluid retention problems, Experience swelling, Commonly have head colds (congestion in the head), Suffer from lung problems, Are lethargic, May experience depression and sadness
Pitta Medium build. Gains and puts on weight easily. Average height Pointed features Energy levels high Strong appetite Regular bowel movements. Occasional bouts of diarrhoea Oily skin. Reddish tone Easy perspiration Prefers cool weather. May become irritable in hot weather Penetrating eyes Goal-oriented Good sense of humour Strong intellect. Likes learning new things. Natural ability to lead Critical of self and others Perfectionist Tends to become angry and irritable Becomes irritable if meal skipped Stubborn Enjoys competition They commonly experience inflammation of joints, tissues and organs. Excess heat can cause problems in the liver, blood, gall bladder and intestine. As heat rises they may experience migraines, neck and spinal stiffness, fevers and headaches.
Vata Slender and does not put on weight easily Height is taller or shorter than average Hair, neck are all 'thin' Energy fluctuates and comes in bursts Appetite is variable There is a tendency to become constipated Skin frequently becomes dry Cold hands and feet Light sleeper and may even have difficulty falling asleep Prefers warm, moist weather to cold weather Creative and imaginative Artistic Active and restless Quick learner but forgets quickly Becomes 'spaced out' quite easily Tendency to feel anxious, nervous and insecure Speaks quickly and uses hand gestures Always on the go Irregular routine Often has colourful dreams They commonly experience stiffness, especially in joints, low back and spinal pain, sciatica. Constipation Nervousness
Ayurveda uses the system of 'Astavidha rogi pareeksha' or eight methods to examine a patient. This includes testing the following factors Naadi (Pulse), Mutra (Urine), Mala (stool), Shabda (voice),Jivha(tongue), Sparsha (skin), Drik (Eyes) and Aakriti (body build). After the doctor has understood the type of body you have and the problem you might be suffering from, he/she will try to understand which humour could be imbalanced and thereby prescribe medication.
In Ayurveda a disease is known as a disharmony (or imbalance of energy flow) between mind, body and soul. This means that your body, its organs, your mind and your mental makeup all play a role in diagnosis and treatment. This way it tries to treat the root of the problem rather than the organ or part of the body that is affected factoring in how the medicines will affect the person as a whole.
What you eat, where you live, even the colours you are attracted to can be explained by Ayurveda. According to the principles, a person's dosha mitigates this and therefore being in an environment that is contrary to your dosha will elevate one particular humour in the body leading to an imbalance and disease. Ayurveda seeks to negate that effect and bring the balance back into equilibrium.
Ayurvedic medicines contain not only herbs but also other substances like milk, ghee, butter, honey, molasses, gingelly oil, rock salts, minerals, ashes and self-fermented alcohol. While herbs are a major component of the medicines prescribed, other compounds are used as well. In some cases the other compounds are adjuvants or carriers (help the medicine perform better) and in others they form the medicine itself.
Ayurveda is based on the very compounds that make and run your body. During treatment, an Ayurvedic doctor finds the problem, then looks for the reason for it. Once the reason is found he/she will treat the factors that are hindering the entire recovery process. Once cleared he/she will take care of the disease itself. This way Ayurveda looks to root out the problem rather than simply treat the symptoms -- hopefully eradicating the problem entirely.
The word Ayurveda is derived from two words; 'Ayur' meaning life and longevity and 'veda' means knowledge. The basic scripture of Ayurveda talks about living life the Ayurveda way, where every aspect is in line with keeping your body's humours in check. So if you have diabetes, and with Ayurveda your blood sugar levels have been brought under control, you will notice that along with the medication there are several lifestyle changes you will have to make. Therefore, if you follow those principles for as long as you live, your diabetes will stay under control.
Ayurveda has many more principles than just prescribing medicines. It also has specialties like surgery (Shalya-chikitsa), diseases above the shoulder (Shalakya), internal medicine (Kaayachikitsa), psychiatry (Bhutavidya), pediatrics (Kaumarabhrutyam), toxicology (Agadatantram), rejuvenation (Rasayanam) and aphrodisiacs (Vajikaranam). All these can treat every complication encountered by the human body. So, the next time you are looking for a comprehensive and effective treatment protocol for yourself, try using Ayurveda. It may take a little longer, but the end result is definitely worth all the effort.

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