Ayurveda means ‘Science of Life’. It deals with each and every aspect of human life. Its first objective is to maintain health and happiness while the next is to manage and restore the status of health and productive state of mind. Ayurveda offers wonderful tools for a better lifestyle. It gives equal importance to our body, mind, and soul; therefore works with a holistic approach.
The Body Matrix
Life in Ayurveda is conceived as the union of body, senses, mind, and soul. The living man is a conglomeration of three senses of humor (Vata, Pitta &Kapha), seven basic tissues (Rasa, Rakta, Mansa, Meda, Asthi, Majja & Shukra) and the waste products(Mala) of the body such as feces, urine, and sweat. Thus the total body matrix comprises of the humor, the tissues, and the waste products of the body. The growth and decay of this body matrix and its constituents revolve around food which gets processed into humor, tissues, and wastes. Ingestion, digestion, absorption, assimilation, and metabolism of food have an interplay in health and disease which are significantly affected by psychological mechanisms as well as by bio- fire(Agni).
Panch mahabhutas: The Five Basic Elements
According to Ayurveda all objects in the universe including human body are composed of five basic elements (Panchamahabhutas) namely, Akash (Ether), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Jala (Water) and Prithvi (Earth). There is a balanced condensation of these elements in different proportions to suit the needs and requirements of different structures and functions of the body matrix and its parts. The growth and development of the body matrix depend on its nutrition, i.e. on food. The food, in turn, is composed of the above five elements, which replenish or nourish the like elements of the body after the action of bio-fire (Agni). The tissues of the body are structural whereas humor is physiological entities, derived from different combinations and permutations of Panchamahabhutas.
Health and Sickness
Health or sickness depends on the presence or absence of a balanced state of the total body matrix including the balance between its different constituents. Both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors can cause a disturbance in the natural equilibrium giving rise to disease. This loss of equilibrium can happen by dietary indiscrimination, undesirable habits and non-observance of rules of healthy living. Seasonal abnormalities, improper exercise or erratic application of sense organs and incompatible actions of the body and mind can also result in creating a disturbance of the existing normal balance. The treatment consists of restoring the balance of disturbed body-mind matrix through regulating diet, correcting life-routine and behavior, administration of drugs and resorting to preventive Panchkarma and Rasayana therapy.
The Ayurvedic approach of diagnosis is very unique and different from conventional medicine. An Ayurveda physician examines patient and disease both for confirming the diagnosis and status of disease. The physician takes careful note of the patient’s internal physiological characteristics and mental disposition. He also studies such other factors as the affected bodily tissues, humours, the site at which the disease is located, patient’s resistance and vitality, his daily routine, dietary habits, the gravity of clinical conditions, condition of digestion and details of personal, social, economic and environmental situation of the patient. The diagnosis also involves various other examinations, like- Pulse examination,: Urine examination, Tongue examination etc.
Preventive Approach Based on the Concepts of Aetio-Pathogenesis
Ayurveda has developed a very vivid analytical description of the stages and events that take place since the causative factors commence to operate till the final manifestation of the disease. This gives this system an additional advantage of knowing that possible onset of disease much before the latent symptoms become apparent. This very much enhances the preventive role of this system of medicine by making it possible to take proper and effective steps in advance, to arrest further progress in pathogenesis or to take suitable therapeutic measures to curb the disease in its earliest stage of onset.
The basic therapeutic approach is, ‘that alone is the right treatment which makes for health and he alone is the best doctor who frees one from disease’. This sums up the principal objectives of Ayurveda, i.e. maintenance and promotion of health, prevention of disease and cure of sickness.
Treatment of the disease consists in avoiding causative factors responsible for disequilibrium of the body matrix or of any of its constituent parts through the use of Panchkarma procedures, medicines, suitable diet, activity and regimen for restoring the balance and strengthening the body mechanisms to prevent or minimize the future occurrence of the disease.
Normally treatment measures involve the use of medicines, specific diet and prescribed activity routine. Use of these three measures is done in two ways. In one approach of treatment, the three measures antagonize the disease by counteracting the etiological factors and various manifestations of the disease. In the second approach, the same three measures of medicine, diet and activity are targeted to exert effects similar to the etiological factors and manifestations of the disease process. These two types of therapeutic approaches are respectively known as Vipreeta and Vipreetarthkari treatments.
For successful administration of a treatment, four things are essential. These are- physician medicaments, nursing personnel and the patient. The physician comes first in order of importance. He must possess technical skill, scientific knowledge, purity and human understanding. The physician should use his knowledge with humility, wisdom and in the service of humanity. Next in importance comes food and drugs. These are supposed to be of high quality, wide application, grown and prepared following approved procedures and should be available adequately. The third component of every successful treatment is the role of nursing personnel who should have good knowledge of nursing, must know the skills of their art and be affectionate, sympathetic, intelligent, neat & clean and resourceful. The fourth component is the patient himself who should be cooperative and obedient to follow instructions of the physician, able to describe ailments and ready to provide all that may be needed for treatment.
Types of Treatment: The treatment of disease can broadly be classified as:
b. Shamana therapy (Palliative Treatment)
c. Pathya Vyavastha (Prescription of diet and activity)
d. Nidan Parivarjan (Avoidance of disease causing and aggravating factors)
f. Rasayana therapy(use of immunomodulators and rejuvenation medicines)
(a) Shodhana treatment aims at the removal of the causative factors of somatic and psychosomatic diseases. The process involves internal and external purification. The usual practices involved are Panchkarma (medically induced Emesis, Purgation, Oil Enema, Decoction enema and Nasal administration of medicines), Pre-panchkarma procedures (external and internal oleation and induced sweating). Panchkarma treatment focuses on metabolic management. It provides needed purificatory effect, besides conferring therapeutic benefits. This treatment is especially helpful in neurological disorders, musculo-skeletal disease conditions, certain vascular or neuro-vascular states, respiratory diseases, metabolic and degenerative disorders.
(b) Shamana therapy involves suppression of vitiated humours (doshas). The process by which disturbed humour subsides or returns to normal without creating the imbalance of other humours is known as shamana. This treatment is achieved by use of appetisers, digestives, exercise and exposure to sun, fresh air etc. In this form of treatment, palliatives and sedatives are used.
(c) Pathya Vyavastha comprises indications and contraindications in respect of diet, activity, habits and emotional status. This is done with a view to enhance the effects of therapeutic measures and to impede the pathogenetic processes. Emphasis on do’s and don’ts of diet etc is laid with the aim to stimulate Agni and optimize digestion and assimilation of food in order to ensure the strength of tissues.
(d) Nidan Parivarjan is to avoid the known disease causing factors in the diet and lifestyle of the patient. It also encompasses the idea to refrain from precipitating or aggravating factors of the disease.
(e) Satvavajaya concerns mainly with the area of mental disturbances. This includes restraining the mind from desires for unwholesome objects and cultivation of courage, memory and concentration. The study of psychology and psychiatry have been developed extensively in Ayurveda and have a wide range of approaches in the treatment of mental disorders.
(f) Rasayana therapy deals with the promotion of strength and vitality. The integrity of body matrix, promotion of memory, intelligence, immunity against the disease, the preservation of youth, luster and complexion and maintenance of optimum strength of the body and senses are some of the positive benefits credited to this treatment. Prevention of premature bear and tear of body tissues and the promotion of total health content of an individual are the roles that Rasayana therapy plays.Importance of Diet in Ayurvedic Treatment In Ayurveda, regulation of diet as therapy has great importance. This is because it considers the human body as the product of food. An individual’s mental and spiritual development as well as his temperament is influenced by the quality of food consumed by him. Food in the human body is transformed first into Rasa and then successive processes involve its conversion into rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), meda (fat), asthi (bone), majja (bone-marrow), shukra (reproductive elements) and ojas. Thus, food is basic to all the metabolic transformations and life activities. The concept of compatibility and incompatibility of food ingredients also offers a unique opportunity for the selection of food for better health.Prakriti: The Unique Identity of IndividualsThe concept of prakriti offers an individualized approach for the prevention and management of diseases. It is an essential tool of Ayurveda which helps to plan and live a healthy life style. It provides information about the physical and mental constitution of an individual.
Strength of Ayurveda
Ayurveda offers an effective and safe solution for various health problems like Life Style disorders, degenerative conditions, neuro-muscular disorders, allergies etc. Prakriti-based counseling helps to enjoy a happy and healthy life. Immuno-modulator approach helps to boost the immunity for prevention of various infections, especially in children.