Thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, the sages of India developed Ayurveda, which continues to be one of the world's most sophisticated and effective mind-body health systems. More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (ayus = life, veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realizing their full human potential. Ayurveda teaches us that in order to be truly healthy, cannot just take care of our physical body- we need to address the health of our mind! We need to address the health of our mind, body, spirit and environment so that we may experience a state of wholeness.
The guiding practice of Ayurveda is the interconnection of all things. You aren't an isolated collection of atoms and molecules; you are an inseparable part of the infinite field of intelligence. From this holistic perspective, health isn't merely the absence of illness or symptoms- it is a higher state of consciousness that allows vitality, well-being, creativity, and joy to flow into your experience. In contrast, illness is a disruption, a blockage in the flow of energy and information that creates sense of separation of alienation from the field of intelligence. Ayurveda describes disease as the final expression of toxic accumulations in the mind-body physiology. Symptoms and sickness are the body's signal that you need to restore balance, eliminate whatever is causing the blockages, and reestablish the healthy flow of energy and information. Ayurveda offers practices that help us to return to balance and experience our natural state of health and well-being.
Ayurveda Focuses on the Individual, Not the Disease
In contrast with conventional medicine, which has devoted a lot of effort to isolating the differences among various diseases. Ayurveda focuses on the unique qualities of individuals, pointing out that disease differ mainly because people are so different.
Ayurveda teaches that all health-related measures-whether an exercise program, dietary plan, or herbal
supplement- must be based on an understanding of individual's unique mind-body constitution or "dosha". By knowing your unique dosha, Ayurveda can tell guide you in which diet, physical activities, and medical therapies are most likely to help, and which might do no good or even cause harm.
In addition, while Western medicine has tended to treat the symptoms of disease, Ayurveda seeks to eliminate illness by treating the underlying cause. For example, for a patient suffering from depression, an allopathic physician would likely prescribe a standard course of antidepressants and perhaps, therapy. An Ayurveda practitioner, on the other hand, would seek to understand the root imbalances contributing to the depression. The patient would then be looked at as a whole, including the individual's mind, body, spirit, and environment. The practitioner would consider the patient's lifestyle, activities, diet, recent stressful events, beliefs, and mind-body constitution, and recommend a treatment plan taking all of these factors into account.
It's important to keep in mind that Ayurveda doesn't reject the use of antidepressants and other prescription medications; in fact, Ayurveda's central principal is that we should make use of whatever healing modalities will restore health and balance to the body, including herbal remedies, dietary changes, pharmaceutical medications, surgery, meditation, exercise, and psychotherapy.
A classic story about Jivaka, the Buddha's personal physician, illustrates the holistic, integrative nature of Ayurveda. While applying for a faculty position at an Ayurveda medical college, Jivaka was given the assignment to find substances that could not be used medicinally. Several days later, he returned empty handed, saying he could not find a single substance that had no potential therapeutic value. Every flower, tree, mineral, and creature, as well as the wind, sun, and sea- all had potential healing properties when used appropriately. In short, Ayurveda encompasses a perspective that allows us to integrate the wisdom of the ancient traditions with the best in modern medicine so that we can experience optimal health and well-being.
** Stay tuned next week for more information about the mind-body constitution or "dosha's"!