The Ayurvedic Path to Healing: Respecting the Body’s Own Intelligence

Posted on March 25, 2022

Ayurveda is the oldest medical system in the world. Practiced in India for over 6,000 years, Ayurveda believes the body has its own intelligence and innate healing powers. The Ayurvedic objective, therefore, is to assist the natural wisdom of the body and not disturb its inherent process for healing.

Ayurveda in Sanskrit means “science of life” (ayu means life, and veda means knowledge of). It is commonly referred to as “mother of all sciences”. Rooted in ancient books of wisdom, the Vedas, Ayurveda is deeply spiritual and encompasses life in its totality. It epitomizes a true body-mind approach to health and wellness.

This medical system defines health as a balance of body, mind and spirit—a balance that includes being in harmony with one’s environment and the cosmos. The goal of Ayurveda is to maintain this balance and harmony so that one lives life to its fullest.

When imbalance occurs, our outlook and approach to life suffers, resulting in illness or “dis-ease”. To restore balance, Ayurveda combines natural therapies with a highly individualized regimen to revive our innate immune system and restore health. Recognizing that we are all unique, Ayurveda addresses that uniqueness in its specific approach to treating each individual. It evaluates the whole person to uncover and treat the root cause of the health concern. The emphasis is on cure, not just treating the symptom.

To determine whether a balance or imbalance is present, Ayurveda uses the patient’s body type or constitution (called dosha) to make an assessment. In Ayurveda, our dosha is made up of a combination of the five universal elements—space, air, water, fire, earth. The combination of space and air dosha is called Vata; fire and water is Pitta; earth and water is Kapha. Each person contains elements of all three doshas in their own unique balance, with one predominating.

Doshas affect various aspects of the body’s functioning. Vata governs movements in the body, such as nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, elimination. Pitta governs metabolism, including digestion and absorption. Kapha is responsible for growth and the immune system. The seat of all doshas in the body is in the gastrointestinal tract. Kapha is in the stomach and lungs, Pitta in the stomach and small intestine and Vata in the colon. Therefore, an imbalance in any of the doshas will have an impact on digestion and can eventually result in illness or disease. Western medicine is now realizing the connection of the gastrointestinal system to illness and often refers to it as “the second brain”.  

By observing the tongue, eyes, posture and feeling the pulse and skin, an Ayurvedic practitioner can determine if the doshas are out of balance, with one being excessive or depleted. This, along with an in-depth discussion about lifestyle, environment, stressors, work and relationships, will determine a plan to correct the imbalance. 

The healing process is supported in three ways: first, purifying the body by excreting waste products (digestive or metabolic); second, calming the excessive dosha so that the disease process ceases, and/or providing rejuvenation herbal therapy to compensate for dosha depletion; third, reinforcing the power of the mind and body so that a healthy state is maintained.

Ayurveda has been used successfully to treat some of the major health conditions prevalent in our society, including: hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis and diabetes, as well as anxiety, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue, depression, insomnia, migraines, male/female issues, skin disorders, ulcers and more.

Treatment also takes into account the fact that Vata, Pitta and Kapha are present in the food we eat and our environment. Therefore, as Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to healing, a regimen might include specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines, vitamin and mineral supplements, herbs and homeopathy, and a detox or cleansing program for expelling toxins and regenerating the immune system. Ayurveda’s signature detox regimen is Panchakarma, which includes five elements that gently detox the body, lymph and blood systems.

Panchakarma is often used as a seasonal detox as well. Some herbs that are used in Ayurveda include turmeric, cumin, cloves, garlic, ginger, coriander, fenugreek, cinnamon and saffron, to name a few. These are famous for their anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiseptic, antimicrobial, antiallergenic and anti-mutagenic properties, as well as their abilities to optimize digestive, immune and cardiac function. Breathing techniques, yoga exercises and meditation might also be part of the plan. When back in balance and with health restored, our outlook is in sync with life, the environment and the well-ordered universe.

Ayurveda is a healing regimen as well as a health maintenance program. Since imbalances can be detected before the manifestation of illness, Ayurveda offers an effective prevention program as well. Prevention and balance are the main focuses of Ayurveda. Overall, Ayurveda is a way of life—a path to fulfillment, health, happiness, harmony and bliss.

It is important to remember that to avoid any complications from self-medicating, a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner should be consulted when embarking on any health or wellness program.

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