An exploration of the science of life
In Sanskrit the word "ayu" translates to the English word "life," while the Sanskrit word "ved" means "science." According to this translation, Ayurveda means "the science of life." It does not focus on disease but rather on keeping a person healthy.
Ayurveda treatment views a human being as a microcosm of the universe. If the life force or prana is unbalanced, disease will expectedly follow.
Three forces, or doshas, that the practice puts faith in determine the proper balance of prana. They include Pitta, the force of heat and energy; Kapha, the role of water and tides; and Vata, which is linked to the wind. Their subtle alignment of mind, body and spirit produces ideal health.
To maintain the body's equilibrium, changes in diet, yoga, meditation, herbs, massage and possibly chanting will be recommended. These lifestyle suggestions are prescribed to individuals as part of the complete Ayurvedic treatment to restore the body's five elements - ether or space, air, fire, earth and water - which, according to Ayurvedic texts, are parts of nature that exist in every human being in the following ways:
- Ether (or space) - represents the cells, synapses (which connect nerve cells), and the viscera (or major internal organs like the heart, liver and kidneys).
- Air - affects the way the body moves internally (in the physical sense - such as when you are touched or as you breath, and in the emotional sense - such as how you respond to desire).
- Fire - represents inner transformations - such as with digestion and temperature change - that occur within the body.
- Water - exists within the body in the forms of saliva, mucus, urine and blood.
- Earth - is symbolic of the body's solid structures - such as bone, cartilage and teeth.
Today, Ayurvedic treatment is practiced in the traditional sense only in India because the Sanskrit language must be fully understood in order to read and translate early Ayurvedic books. Western treatments inspired by Ayurvedic medicine - such as sukh chikitsa - are from the basic ayurvedic principles but are used more for their relaxation benefits.
Popular ayurvedic treatments include:
- Abhyangam - a 45-minute oil massage that helps ease diabetic symptoms and helps with weight loss.
- Dhanyamla Dhara - a 45-minute herbal liquid body treatment to ease osteoarthritis, back pain and arthritis.
- Dhara - a 45-minute treatment that bathes the forehead in a soothing mixture of herbs and butter milk.