Relevance of Ayurveda for a healthy life

#globalite Dhwani is a student of Ayurveda and explains the benefits of #Ayurveda for a #healthy #lifestyle

A sunny afternoon it is, and I am in a building on a busy road. A peek outside the window, and the scene I see has diverse elements. There are people, people, and people everywhere. Vehicles and garbage fill the road, smoke and dust fill the air. I feel sonder. There’s a hospital on the opposite side, and I see people rushing in and out. There’s distress everywhere. There is not the slightest indication of the presence of happiness. Thinking of the world that lies beyond this street, we realize that this is the story of almost every place on our planet today. Misery – the word defines our times. Misery brings down efficiency on all spheres of life. Misery depresses, misery burdens, misery kills.

One of the most significant and apparent cause of this seemingly omnipresent misery is – improper health. More so, when we look deeply into the definition of health stated by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Clearly, by this definition of health, the achievement of health would essentially mean the achievement of happiness and peace, which would automatically drive away miseries from our lives. This would bring back the lost joy into our lives, and would help people improve efficiency in every action performed. And ultimately on the larger scale, we would be able to solve social problems in a better way. After all, only healthy individuals can create a healthy society. So, the base for everything lies in health. But when we analyse how health can be achieved, we can create a huge list of activities to be performed. These activities would essentially include measures to restore physical health, mental health, and social health, so as to holistically be able to lead what can be called a “healthy life”.

If we set out on a mission to achieve this, tackling the three spheres of health would be a mammoth task. More so, because this path is filled with obstacles. And the number of obstacles increase as time goes. Because along with time, science does not grow alone – the darker side grows as well. There’s more pollution as time goes, and our lifestyles are constantly changing. After performing a great deal of analysis of the situation and then establishing a seemingly efficient system for health improvement, a new obstacle arises. And then there is a dire need for immediate amendments. When viewed from the broader perspective, it seems as if a lot of man’s efforts are being spent in only wondering what to do, and thus we are left with little or no opportunities to actually experience the fruits of it. What then, is the answer to this muddle?

The answer, believe it or not, lies in documented texts widely used ages ago. Due to various reasons, known and unknown, the modern world is blinded or ignorant about these texts. While everyone today is trying to find solutions to a problem, let us realise that the answer in question is already existent. These texts are Ayurvedic texts, written by Indian scholars thousands of years ago. While outwardly it might seem unconvincing that books of such ancient times can actually answer modern problems, deep study would suggest that every word in the texts was written after much thinking and understanding. The intense analysis that went behind the creation of these texts have given immortality to the words in them. The reason is one and simple – that which is said in Ayurveda is the truth. And we all know that no matter what, the truth does not perish – which is the reason that all of those words still stand applicable. They never get outdated, and never get disproven. This is said not just by yours truly, but also by honorable people world over.

Let us now ponder over the intensity of the relevance this science has got, with respect to our goal here – of achieving health in its true sense.

Ayurveda can better be referred to as a way of life, rather than a study or science. This is because Ayurveda is normative in nature. There are a number of regimens in Ayurveda, that are focused towards the sustenance of health, as well as its restoration in case of diseases.
According to Susruta, one of the scholars of Ayurveda and a famous surgeon, there are two aims of Ayurveda:
1. Swasthasya swaasthya samrakshanam -Maintaining the health of the healthy person
2. Aaturasya vikaara prashamanam -Curing the disease of the diseased person

The above objectives are fulfilled through the latent goodness of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is based on the principle that diseases are caused due to an imbalance in certain body components, called doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are concepts that can only be understood by intellect, and cannot be perceived by vision. The treatment is thus based on the restoration of the balance in the doshas. Thus, treatment is not based merely on treating what is physically seen. It is a science of life, a way of living with the rhythm of nature. The entire creation, the flora and fauna, live in harmony with nature and innately utilise the laws of Nature to maintain health and balance within their beings. Ayurveda readily reveals to us the secrets of healthy living through natural diet and lifestyle and shows us how to balance our life in harmony with nature’s rhythms. It emphasizes the importance of tranquillity of mind. It aids in bringing the individual back to one’s true self by using the inherent principles of nature.

Ayurveda and physical well-being

Ayurveda provides measures to maintain health of every part of the body. The regimen in Ayurveda is called dinacharya – which typically means “daily routine”. This includes the norms related to every part of the day. According to Ayurveda, one must wake up before sunrise. Modern findings also suggest that waking up early in the morning helps maintain homeostasis and mental health. Techniques of oral cleansing, maintenance of neat facial hair and trimmed nails are also emphasized. With reference to physical activities, Ayurveda talks about daily exercise. Different types of exercise have been explained for people of different categories. In Ayurveda, each person is said to have a unique prakrti or “body nature”. One can, even today, look into the texts and perform the activities as suggested for his body nature, and attain innumerable benefits. Emphasis is also laid on the duration of exercise based on the capabilities and needs of each person. One can find the explanation on how much water is to be consumed by a person of a particular constitution (prakrti). Parameters to check the quality of water, food, milk, drugs etc., are an important and valuable tool found in Ayurveda. Thus, Ayurveda serves as a handy guide during all walks of life.

Ayurveda makes use of resources widely present in the flora of the land. The benefits of each herb have been well identified and exploited to the fullest benefit of mankind. Different types of leaves, roots, flowers, fruits, seeds, twigs, etc. are utilized widely for several practices in Ayurveda. A variety of oils are included in the regimen of the day. The benefits lying in each oil have evidently thus been thoroughly studied before establishment of norms. Ayurveda deals extensively with the cleansing of the body – both internally and externally. Internal cleaning includes appropriate washing of the gastrointestinal tract, and other channels of the body. This can be done periodically or when needed. Thus, the approach of Ayurveda is essentially to eliminate the causative factor completely, and treat the cause directly. Thus the treatment is necessarily permanent in action.

A unique emphasis is given on how we must respond to the urges of the body and mind. There are, according to Ayurvedic scholars, some urges that are to be controlled, and some that must never be controlled. The urges that aren’t to be forcibly controlled include – the urge to defecate, urinate, yawn, sneeze, vomit, cough, cry etc., Forcibly control of any of these urges (and few more) would cause several complications. Forcible control of, for instance, the urge to cry, could cause a running nose, heaviness in the eyes and head, body pain, headache, tire, and even giddiness. Thus, it is to be noted that every aspect of our lives is dealt with, deeply and extensively in Ayurveda.

Ayurveda and mental well-being

Just as the modern medicine has allocated mental illness to the psychiatry division, Ayurveda too has several treatment methods detailed in the ancient scripts. There are certain herbs proven to nourish neurological tissues. These herbs are collectively called ‘medya rasayanas’. These ‘rasayanas’ are used as nerve tonics. Panchakarma treatment is a common method to treat mental illness. Panchakarma is a combination of five treatment processes. The five processes are namely nasya (nasal therapy), vamana (emetic therapy), virechana (purging) vasti (enema). Depression, insomnia etc., are treated effectively in Ayurvedic psychiatry. The stress laid on mental health is with respect to a continuous conscious check on the nature of thoughts created by the mind. The World Health Organization describes mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental Health is not just the absence of mental illness. Achieving and maintaining health is an ongoing process, shaped by both the evolution of health care knowledge and practices as well as personal strategies and organized interventions for staying healthy, known as – Lifestyle Management. These practices are well explained in the texts of Ayurveda.

Yoga and meditation are the very common psychiatric practices associated with Ayurveda. Physicians prescribe these two methods commonly to their patients. Yoga is an ancient form of influencing the mind and achieving mental stability and calmness. Yoga helps a person to control his/her mind and gain perfect psychic balance. Under full concentration one can master his/her mind and thus cleanse the impurities. Meditation is a method of controlling thoughts – an exercise executed in the psychic level.

Ayurveda and social well-being

As discussed earlier, social well-being is the third sphere of health. Ayurveda instills the values of universal brotherhood. The nature of conversation to be established is well explained. The scholars of Ayurveda explain that it is unwise to reveal publicly enmity towards someone – “prakasayet na apamaanam, na ca ni-snehataam prabhoh”.
One of the prime factors for social well-being is our attitude towards others. Irrespective of what we show outside, what we think in our minds is very important for our own self. Our scholars tell us not to develop a negative attitude towards anyone – “na kanchidaatmanah shatrum, naatmanam kasyachidripum”.

Ayurveda has its own philosophical approach in delineating health and illness. Interestingly some of the fundamental tenets of social and behavioral sciences find their places elsewhere in the classical treatises of Ayurveda. It is difficult to find the modern day terminologies but the age old principles described in Ayurveda can be understood in the light of social and behavioral concepts. Dharaniya Vega, Sadvrutta and Achara Rasayana can be understood in the light of Deviance and Social control, social cognitive theory and social network theories which are in fact the most widely used models for control and prevention of health related events. In this present document an attempt has been made to explore some of the age old social and behavioral health concepts which have got a contemporary relevance.

As a whole, Ayurveda prepares a person to both be at peace, and also not lose his stance at the same time, in the name of letting go.  Importance is laid on appropriate conduct, which is a prime factor that determines social health.  Presented here are just a few ideas present in the vast ocean of Ayurveda.  Making Ayurveda the way of our lives would ultimately provide the achievement of a healthy life. After all, old is gold.


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