Veda means Knowledge and it is said that the Almighty god is the propagator of all kinds of knowledge. The celestials or heaven dwellers first took this knlowledge (Devas) and later brought down to the Earth level by sages or Rishis who had super human powers to attune their minds to the celestial level by meditating in silence. Since this entire Vedic tradition is composed of highly spiritual wisdom and pure knowledge revealed through the hearts of enlightened rishis, Vedas are considered aporasheya, which means not a creation, made by the mind of man but rather unfolded in the hearts of meditative minds. These rishis used to meditate in mountain caves and jungles distant from civilization. This Vedic wisdom was imparted to disciples who came to quench their thirst for knowledge and later eminent students divided this knowledge into four sections namely – Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda more than 5000 years ago. The Vedas has been passed down to us in sutras or small phrases and the wisdom they contain is there to be unlocked by the inquiring mind. When looked at these Vedas, we find sutras on healing in a majority in Atharva Veda and to a small extent in Rigveda. These sutras were compiled together and given the name Ayurveda.
Ayu grossly means lifespan – the period of life from the womb to the tomb. But the Vedas define ayu as events that an individual has to face from the day of fertilization to death. Since each routine event can be anticipated and planned by following vedic recommendations, an ideal life can be lead. This takes us to understand the definition of ayurveda as the science of life.
Ayurveda stands on the principles of three energies, which govern the entire physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions of an individual’s life they are
These three energies are also known as tridoshas. Any ayurvedic physician should be capable of assessing whether these energies are in balance or out of balance because ayurveda says the balanced state of these energies is health and imbalance – disease. Maintaining them in balance is the study and practice of ayurveda. This is important because imbalances could affect an individual’s physical, mental and spiritual aspects of life.
Two factors – external and internal could cause an imbalance in these energies. Consumption of contaminated food and water, exposure to extreme weathers, natural disasters, stress, strain, irregular food habits and activity, bacterial and viral infections are considered to be external factors. Inherited diseases caused by genetic factors are considered internal.
The imbalances of these energies exhibit certain signs and symptoms in the individual’s body and mind depending upon the type of impact. This has to be assessed by the physician by examining the patient in detail and arrive at a proper diagnosis.
Ayurvedic treatments are again two fold –external and internal which aim in balancing these energies by using special herbal preparations such as medicated oils, herbal decoctions and powders. Using medicated oils in ayurvedic massages (abhyanga) is one of the time tested curative and therapeutic treatments of ayurveda. There are other multi farious treatments in ayurveda specific to individual health need. These treatments in contrast to the modern medicine aim in curing the disease process from the root level by effectively bringing the three energies back to balance by either pacifying (shamana) or detoxifying (shodhana or panchakarmas) through elimination. Rejuvenative therapies that help to maintain invigorating health on a daily basis is equally important as a preventive measure.
Prakruti means an Individual’s original constitution at birth, determined by the genetic and tridosha factors. This permutation and combination is specific to each individual which reminds us of the famous proverb “what looks similar will never be the same.” The prakruti determines one’s physical and psychological behaviors and one’s resistance and susceptibility to various health ailments. The prakruti of an individual could be vata, pitta or kapha predominant or in any combinations. Any deviation from this original prakruti is known as vikruti (imbalance). This can be diagnosed by pulse reading, which is an ancient art. Administration and acceptance of medicine thereby differs from person to person.
Pancha means five and karma means treatment. Five types of classical therapeutics, which are mainly used for purification, and elimination of toxins are known as panchakarma. Purification or eliminations is a natural instinct of the body and our body has its own wisdom for clearing out the impurities, which are produced by physiological functions. However, there are certain situations when this wisdom or immunity becomes impaired and does not perform its function properly and so physicians have to help to re- establish this natural mechanism otherwise the toxins start accumulating in the body which leads to serious imbalances of the tridoshas and cause damage to normal bodily functions leading to various diseases.
The principle of panchakarma is to trail the path of toxins in the body, reach the target and bind it. After binding with the toxins, it is gently pulled or eliminated from the body through the following gentle procedures. Each procedure is specific for a particular dosha imbalance or a combination of them. The selection of a particular procedure is based on the individual’s age, sex and medical situation. This is decided after a detailed consultation, examination and investigations as required and the physician will recommend the most appropriate panchakarma or a course of rejuvenative therapies.
Vamana and Virechana treatments are accompanied by a pre-procedure administration of medicated ghee/ oil for three to four days in order to bind the accumulated toxins at end tissue levels. When the binding is complete it is eliminated either through vamana or virechana.Equally important are the post-procedures, which involve regimented diet and activities for two to three days. The above treatments are administered based on individual’s health condition. Not all these treatments may be recommended to one individual.
The healthy feeling one gets after a proper panchakarma is an amazing experience. Ayurveda recommends panchakarma to all individuals periodically to maintain good health and youthfulness. The duration of these panchakarma treatments would range from a minimum of eight days to twenty-eight days. Panchakarma is not suited for those who are in a hurry or to those who cannot control their indulgences in diet and activities.