Prevention is always better than cure. And it is important to make sure a person is in optimum health in order to prevent diseases. Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine from India, is gaining popularity as an alternative approach to disease prevention and treatment. Ayurveda is based on the belief that good health depends on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. It is a natural system of medicine that encourages certain lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain a balance between the body, mind, spirit, and the environment. Ayurveda uses a different approach to heal the body because it does not focus on disease. Rather, it focuses on keeping the life energies in balance. Ayurvedic treatments include oral medication, external treatments, purificatory procedures like shodhan chikitsa (panchakarma), and stipulated diet and lifestyle regimens.
Understanding the Dosha Prakriti
Ayurveda believes that every individual is unique and possesses a unique mind-body constitution known as Dosha. The three Doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and they determine an individual’s physical and emotional characteristics. Knowing your dosha can help you understand your body’s natural tendencies, and Ayurvedic practitioners develop a personalized treatment plan based on your unique constitution. This is known as the PRAKRITI of an individual which dictates the overall physical, emotional, and mental attributes of a person.
Vata: Vata is characterized by the qualities of air and space. Individuals with a predominantly Vata constitution are prone to anxiety, constipation, and dry skin.
Pitta: Pitta is characterized by the qualities of fire and water. Individuals with a predominantly Pitta constitution are prone to skin inflammation, indigestion, and irritability.
Kapha: Kapha is characterized by the qualities of earth and water. Individuals with a predominantly Kapha constitution are prone to weight gain, congestion, and lethargy.
Keeping this in mind Ayurveda has suggested various types of therapies.
Acharya Charaka classified Chikitsa (treatment) into three types-
1. Daivavyapashraya Chikitsa (Divine Therapy) i.e. non-pharmacological.
2. Satvavajaya Chikitsa (Psychotherapy) i.e. non-pharmacological.
3. Yuktivyapashraya Chikitsa (Rational Therapy) i.e. pharmacological.
Here is a brief introduction to the treatment.
1. Daivavyapashraya Chikitsa
It is a non-pharmacological treatment based on faith in divine power and social rituals. This was mostly followed during ancient times, popular & religiously followed by society then. Some of this is followed even today for example mantra chanting and mala japa. Whether to follow or not is a matter of faith.
The words Daiva mean divine, Vyapashraya is trusting and Chikitsa is therapy or treatment. It is explained that the seeds of disease first develop in the mind and then proliferate in the body when they exceed the limit. Eventually, the disease manifests at appropriate times during one’s life. Planetary forces carry imprints, in the form of karma, which fructify at a particular time.
Therefore, these kinds of diseases should be treated as follows.
- Aushada is organic medicine.
- Daana means being compassionate and charitable.
- Japa means focusing the mind through mantra chanting.
- Homa is cleansing using the fire element.
- Suraarchanais is using the power of prayer.
The above, directly or indirectly, have a positive influence on the mind (manas).
How does Daivavyapashraya Chikitsa help?
It Reduces stress, Controls negative thoughts, Pauses negative actions due to the diversion of the mind into other activities, Increases belief that there exists a Divine power, learns to surrender to a higher power, and Increases strength & confidence.
2. Sattvavajaya Chikitsa
This is applied mainly in mental illness and a few physical diseases where it is a supportive therapy. It is a psycho-behavioral Ayurveda therapy. “There is no fundamental difference between sattvavajaya and modern psychotherapy”.
Sattva means mind or supreme quality of mind and Avayaja means to overcome.
Ayurveda states that Kama (lust), Krodha(anger), Lobha (greed), Bhay (fear) Moha (desires), Irsha (jealousy), Dwesa (hate), Visada (grief), Ego (pride) cause stress, anxiety, & depression and are symptoms of mental illness.
Sattvavajaya makes the mind positive by overcoming these negative behavioral traits. The classical Sattavajaya is based on three principles namely –
- Substitution of emotions
- Commitment and
There are many therapeutic models in this for the cultivation of Gyana (knowledge), Vigyana (right knowledge), Dhairya (patience), Smriti (memory), and Samadhi (integration of individual & universal energy in oneness).
Acharya Patanjali wrote about yogic practices like Ashtanga Yoga. It is about controlling the mind (manas), improving psychosomatic health, and not only about physical exercise.
Ayurveda prescribes a regimen, that when followed enhances sattvic gunas. This in turn makes us content and results in a healthy life. Details of the regimen follow.
Pathyapathya (Do’s & Don’ts)
Ayurveda described Ahara (diet), Nidra (sleep), and Brahmacharya (celibacy) as the basic three sub-pillars of life (Trayopastambha). To maintain proper balance among them one should follow some principles or regimen regularly for example waking up early, and eating fruits and vegetables. This regime is called Pathya. If one does not follow this regimen it is called Apathya for example sleeping late, eating very spicy food or meat.
Dincharya (daily regimen) and Ritucharya (season regimen)
According to Ayurveda when a daily regime is followed religiously it inculcates a sense of discipline. Further, the regimen needs to change depending on the season.
When we follow a regimen regularly it makes us follow the routine even on days when we do not feel like doing so. This improves control over the mind and its wavering thoughts.
Sadvritta and Achara Rasayana
Ayurveda offers a code of good conduct under the heading Sadavritta and Achara Rasayana.
Sadvritta consists of Sat means good and Vriita means ideal habits or routine.
Achara Rasayana consists of Achara meaning behavior and Rasayana meaning rejuvenation. Simply put codes of conduct or ways of rejuvenating behavior.
This is non-pharmacological therapy that works miraculously.
If one follows the principles of Sadvritta and Achara Rasayan it shall make us mentally healthy and prevent psychosomatic disorders.
In this way, Ayurveda offers a wide range of preventive and therapeutic measures to achieve a balance of body, mind, and consciousness.
3. Yuktivyapashraya Chikitsa
The aim of Ayurveda is to bring homeostasis to the tissues in order to maintain health. This can be achieved through diagnosis and treatment by a Vaidya (Ayurvedic doctor) to overcome illness. Since it relates to physiological & psychological illness it is treated with pharmaceutical drugs and therapies.
Yuktivyapashraya has two types of treatments i.e. internal and external.
Internal consists of Langhan & Brumhan therapy
It means Shodhan & Samsham therapy comes under Langhan treatment and reduces kapha dosha. Brumhan therapy mainly works on vitiated vata and pitta dosha.
Shodhan therapy works for people who have strong stamina & strength. It removes the vitiated dosha from the body through panchkarma therapy for e.g. Vaman, Virechana.
Samshaman therapy works for those with mild stamina strength. It alleviates the vitiated dosha through medicines and dietary regimens.
External treatments involve Snehan, Swedan, and Nasya.
Thus, Ayurveda has a wide range of pharmacological & non-pharmacological options to treat illness. They reduce Rajasic and Tamasic gunas AND enhances Sattvic gunas.
An increase in sattvic gunas takes an individual closer to achieving life’s goal of Samadhi or Self-realization.
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