Ayurveda is much more than a medical system, it is Yogic healing and spiritual therapy that has been a part of India's history, cuisine, culture and collective consciousness for thousands of years. This ancient science encourages us to become the stewards of our body, mind and environment.
Ayurveda views health and healing as a spiritual journey of slowly absolving ourselves of our toxic interactions with the physical world, at the body, mind and soul level, and moving towards a more divine exchange with entire cosmos. Whenever possible, it favors a gradual introduction of changes in diet, medicine, lifestyle, culture and mindset, over sudden transformations or extreme cures. With Ayurveda, step by step, we will be transformed without necessarily being able to point to any one thing, herb or activity.
Ayurveda emphasizes that imbalances will return to normal naturally when permitted to do so. There is a cause for what created the imbalance in the first place, which has to be uncaused at every level possible to get our health and vigor back.
According to Ayurveda, Ojas is that special substance in the body that gives health, immunity, mood, vigor, sleep, digestion and even the capacity for emotional wellbeing that includes discernment, equanimity and spiritual awakening. Ojas is the most essential life energy that results as the final bi-product of all the "nutrition" that we consume, digest and absorb, including food, water, air, thoughts, impressions, ideas and experiences. To some extent the capacity for the body to produce healthy Ojas is inherited and part of our genetic code, which can be seen be seen in the Vedic Horoscope.
The body and mind not only run on the fuel of Ojas, but the physical body is also connected to the cosmic/vibrational body through the quality of Ojas that our body produces. In western biochemistry Ojas can be equated to our "happy" neurotransmitters , such as Dopamine, which gives motivation and reward, Serotonin that provides satisfaction and contentment, Oxytocin that helps us love and form bonds, Endorphins, which produce bliss and joy and Gaba that functions as a sedative and pain killer. Healthy production of these and other neurotransmitters is critical to every aspect of our physical, mental and spiritual health.
In a healthy person who is under average stress, it should take a minimum of 30 days for the body to complete the digestion, process and produce refined and high quality Ojas. Modern day living makes it almost impossible to produce and maintain a healthy level of Ojas at this speed. We all have too many compromising factors such as environmental toxin overload in our food, water, air and environment and long term diminished digestive health and as a consequence depleted organs. Furthermore, the overuse of anti-biotics and other pharmaceuticals and even many nutraceuticals that are not easily broken down and absorbed by the body send the body into toxic overload. Therefore, it has become even more important in this day and age that our emotional consumption, something which we have more power to control, be as toxin free as possible. Ayurveda offers many mental therapies, such as mantra, meditation, Marma therapy, Yama and Niyama (yogic rules for healthy living), alongside its herbal remedies.
The Root Cause of Disease
According to Ayurveda, the root cause of all our diseases, directly or indirectly, is called prajnaparadha, which in Sanskrit means “Ilusion masquerading as Wisdom.” Actions that are not approved by the intellect (budhi), patience and equanimity (dhariya), rooted in True knowledge (Smriti), and with the absence of discrimination (Viveka) create this prajnaparadha.
This is what compels us to lose touch with our inner knowing of what is good for us and what is not and we end up consuming all the wrong foods for our constitution, drinking too much, making bad lifestyle decisions or exerting beyond our capacity. Human caused pollution and global warming is perhaps the greatest prajnaparadha of cosmic proportions, as we are destroying the very environment that sustains us.
Overblown focus on a goal or belief, be it self-promotion or altruistic, allows us to move in a direction that is directly contraindicated to our constitution and neglect our body and mind. The body in its wisdom adjusts to whatever we put into it, even if it is toxic, and soon we become immune to the negative effects of our consumption until it reaches critical levels.
Ayurveda has many lifestyle recommendations including rising early, Abhayanga (self oil massage), living with the circadian rhythms of nature and seasons and many medical prescriptions, tonics, spices, teas, herbs and foods that can help replenish the body's Ojas. Unlike, modern day holistic medicine, Ayurveda prescribes supplements and herbs with the doshic balance and the unique physical and mental health condition of the patient in mind.
However, Ayurveda recognizes that the primary cause of disease is unrequited Desire, which leads to excess chasing of an illusory promise of fulfillment and satisfaction. All yogic traditions encourage some detachment from the game of life and see desires as deceptive, because they produce frustration when they are not fulfilled and addiction and intoxication when they are. This leads to Doshic imbalances and subsequently disease. As long as there is excessive anything in our lifestyle be it study, ambition, ideals, goals, we are at risk of low Ojas. In Vedic Astrology, this excess is attributed to the lunar nodes Rahu and sometimes also Ketu in the horoscope, which lead us into extreme states of mind. Unfortunately, there is no one who is not under the grips of Rahu and ketu, and the area of our life they influences, is bound to go out of control at some point. Therefore, no one is exempt from health problems and doshic imbalances. Only the extent of the loss or gain is in question.
Gut Brain Connection
It was only as recent as 2010 when Western science first begam to recognize the Gut-Brain Connection, which shows that many of the essential functions of the mind and nervous system that effect mood and cognition have their source in a faulty digestive process. Ayurveda has known for thousands of years that our digestive system is our "second brain" and that emotions and feelings are closely linked to bowel function.
Ayurveda calls good gut bacteria Yogini and bad bacteria Krimini (root word criminal in English). and treats most mental health and nervous system disorders like anxiety, IBS, depression, ADD, Autism by helping to restore the digestive system and digestive flora. Indeed Ayurveda's first principle of treating any health concerns is to prevent any side effects to the digestive system with the herbal or detox protocols, while maintaining doshic balance at all times.
Ayurveda and the Mind
Ayurveda is a mind body medicine system based on the belief that the macrocosm and microcosm are one. The burn of fire, the softness of water, the hardness of earth, the movements of air, the infinite space of ether are all contained in our bodies and its actions in varying degrees. In the process of governing the body these elements go into excess mode as doshas - Vata (air and ether) Pitta (fire and water), Kapha (water and earth).
Turbulent or calm thoughts, anger, joy, compassion, will, desire, suppressed and past life memories are also all varying expressions of how we are consuming these elements in our mind. Ayurveda psychology requires a delicate balancing act of nature's forces like wild fires from raging in our minds (high fire/pitta), high winds from making us lose focus and concentration ( high Air/vata) or emotional floods (high water/kapha) from taking over our ability to navigate life.
The healing path of Ayurveda prescribes that we understand that every food, herb, activity we partake in and every impression we consume effects the balance of the elements and as a consequence the doshas in our body and mind. Ayurveda even recommends that spiritual practices and yoga be done with these elements in mind. Indeed, too much meditation and pranayama can unground the airy Vata type of individual and too much hot yoga can aggravate the pitta individual.
Each and every one of us has many levels of toxins and dosha accumulation at the cellular, mental, as well as deep in our subconscious. These cannot be released too quickly, because this would overwhelm the organs of excretion and destabilize the mind. Drastic detox can literally change our personality, which is not always recommended, especially in Vata types. In fact, if you force the body or hurry up the transformation process your body, if it is healthy it will resist you. You must honor your body and let it return to equilibrium at its own pace over the many cycles and season of life. Traditional Ayurveda focuses on daily detox rather than drastic detox therapies popular today.
Panchkarma, Ayurveda's medical detox, which requires purgation, enemas and serious elimination therapies, should only be performed under the guidance of a highly skilled Ayurveda doctor.
Today Ayurveda must also take into account that when a herb or food has to pass through a digestive and metabolic system that is overloaded with toxins, as is common today, the divine intelligence of the herb gets corrupted and lead to further damage.
Ayurveda, Marma Therapy & Vedic Astrology
Ayurveda diagnoses must be done along with Vedic Astrology, as planets exert powerful influences on our physical and mental health through the vibrational, or subtle body.
Marma therapy is Ayurvedic Energy Healing Therapy. Marmas are junction points connecting thousands of vibrational channels, or nadis, in the body where concentrated life force energy is located, much like the acupuncture points of TCM.
Marma therapy is very effective as a remedy for negative planetary influences because it not only helps balance the doshas in the physical body but also promotes a connection with our vibrational body, which creates balance with the planetary energies.