Introduction and main principles of Ayurveda
There’s a need to understand the history of the traditional system of medicine to get started with Ayurveda. Ayurveda is an ancient medicine system and healthcare dating back over 5,000 years ago from the Indian subcontinent. It’s considered one of the oldest of the traditional systems of medicine accepted worldwide.
The ancient wisdom in this system of medicine is not yet exhaustively explored. It is believed that rich knowledge from the different traditional systems can lead to the discovery of new herbal drugs.
Also, the lack of understanding of the differences and similarities between the theoretical doctrines of these systems is the major hindrance towards their convergence; apart from the other impediments in the discovery of plant-based medicines.
According to Ayurveda, the entire universe is composed of five elements: Vayu (Air), Jala (Water), Aakash (Space or ether), Prithvi (Earth), and Teja (Fire).
The main principles of Ayurveda are:
These are the five mahabhutas which include; Akasa (Space), Vayu (Air), Teja or Agni (Fire), Jala (Water), and Prithvi (Earth). Their respective properties are sound, Touch, Vision, Taste, and Smell.
According to Ayurveda, everything in the Universe is composed of the PanchaMahabhutas. Being omnipresent, they are mixed in an unknown variety of relative proportions such that each form of matter is distinct. Although each element has its range of attributes, only some are evident in certain situations.
For instance, in a single living cell, the earth element predominates by giving structure to the cell. The fire element regulates the metabolic processes regulating the cell. The water element is present in the cytoplasm or the fluid within the cell membrane. While the air element is the gases therein. Space is occupied by the cell denoting the Akasa.
Hence, the Pancamahabhutas serves as a source of diagnosis & treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has been the most valuable theory for physicians to detect and successfully treat illness of the body and mind.
This refers to the three Gunas; Satva, Rajas, and Tamas which are the three essential components or energies of the mind. Ayurveda easily provides a distinct description of people based on their Manasa (psychological) Prakriti (constitution). These psychological characteristics depend on the relative dominance of the three Gunas. Mental diagnosis can be done through this.
The three Body Humours viz.-Vata, Pitta, and Kapha form this. The Tridosas meaning three basic physical energies are the primary and essential factors of the human body that govern our entire physical structure and function. Just like the PanchaMahabhutas, the qualities of each dosa can be detected but not the elements.
This refers to the seven types of body tissues: viz. – Rasa (fluid) Dhatu, Rakta (blood) Dhatu, Mamsa Dhatu, Meda (fat) Dhatu, Asthi Dhatu, Majja Dhatu, and Sukra Dhatu. The seven tissues’ elements form the pillars of the body that form the means of nourishment and growth while providing support to the body and the mind. The fluid derived from the digested food nourishes every tissue and cell of the body and is essential to the plasma.
The nourishment of these seven body tissues takes place sequentially with original material being provided by digested food material. For instance, Rasa provides contentment, saturation, and nourishes the blood. The blood generates clarity in complexion, nourishes muscles, and sustains life. The muscles then strengthen the body and nourish fat which gives rise to sweat, firmness and nourishes bones. The bones support the body and nourish the marrow; providing function, strength, nourishes semen, and fill up bones. Semen provides valor, discharge, pleasure, physical strength, exhilaration, and is meant for reproduction or seed.
Fluid support and derive energy from each other, meaning-affecting one can influence others. For instance, interfering with the manufacture of the plasma affects the quality of the blood, which in turn affects the muscle.
Malas are the various waste products of food and the fluid produced during the normal digestive and metabolic processes. The three main malas are Purisa (feces), Mutra (urine), and Sveda (sweat). Ayurveda states that for arogya (good health or disease-free condition) there should be a balance in dosas, dhatus, and malas and their imbalance is the cause of disease or ill health.
Purisa is the waste left-back after the nutrients of digested food have been absorbed in the small intestine. Water and salt are absorbed in the large intestine, the remains are converted into solid feces, which leave the body. The consistency of the feces depends on the nature of the diet and gastrointestinal mobility.
The three physical energies must be in balance to ensure the normal removal of the wastes. Pitta and Kapha help digestion and Vata controls mobility throughout the process. Any imbalance between the regulators can lead to various symptoms of abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea. It may also cause diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, bronchitis as well as stomach ulcers and irritable bowels, etc.
The biological fire that governs metabolism (Agni) consists of all the changes in the body and mind be it minor or major ones. Such changes include the digestion and absorption of food, assimilation of sensory perceptions, cellular transformations, mental and emotional experiences. Agni, therefore, covers all chemical interactions and changes in the mind and body. Digestive abilities depend on the strength of Agni.
According to Ayurveda, there are thirteen types of Agni in the body, the most important being Jatharagni. This is the gastric fire responsible for the digestion of food eaten by correlating hydrochloric acid in the stomach and the digestive enzymes and juices produced in the stomach, duodenum, and the small intestines.
If the strength of the digestive Agni is low, one is likely to experience pain, discomfort, heaviness, constipation, or loose stools.
What are the steps you need to take to get started with Ayurveda
With Ayurveda, one needs to embrace all changes gradually and never force the body to anything. Listening to your body, letting it guide you, and giving it time is important.
You can start with the things that seem easier and more natural to you and observe the little impacts this will have. It’s expected that every single step despite the order will naturally take you to the next as your body adjusts and you get more used to listening to its needs.
The following steps can guide one who would like to practice Ayurveda:
Learn ayurvedic history; when energies are misaligned, sickness and disease occur. The practice of Ayurveda focuses on rebalancing these energies. It’s important to know the history as it will help you have a better understanding of the practice.
Discover and follow the basics of the Ayurvedic diet by incorporating ginger regularly into meals and before meals, reducing caffeine intake, adding a variety of healthy oils to the diet such as avocado, walnut, flax, etc. treating lunch is the most important meal of the day as it is in the Ayurvedic diet, lastly eating leafy greens after drinking alcohol to counteract the negative effects of the same.
Begin classes in yoga; together with meditation, these are important parts of the Ayurvedic lifestyle. You can also search for other tutorials with a focus on twisting and stretching the body.
Discover Ayurvedic pathology and medicines; Since Ayurveda emphasizes the use of plant-based medicines and treatments, it would be good to learn these remedies such as cinnamon, ginger, lemon, etc.
The easiest option: Look around on the most recognized and trusted Ayurveda platform here. On this platform, you can find several Ayurvedic products and courses to get started with Ayurveda easily. You can find courses about: