What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is the 5000-year-old healing science of India. It is the oldest medical system continually practiced in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that Ayurvedic Medicine treats almost one third of the world’s population. It is practiced in Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist countries throughout the world. It has been recognized as a valid system of medicine by the UNO since 1982.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that roughly means the "science of life". It is the original system of ‘mind-body’ medicine and is still the most comprehensive system of disease prevention available today. It is a system that includes all domains of life and one that treats the individual rather than the disease. Ayurvedic medicine is a system based more on function than on structure. It strives to bring the systems of the body into equilibrium so that the body, or metabolism, functions as a unit according to the needs of its environment.
There are thousands of medical texts available on Ayurveda. Unfortunately they are written in Sanskrit and only a small fraction are available in English or other languages. Ayurveda can appear complicated or confusing to due to the culture and language in which it is presented. Actually Ayurveda is a simple system of health care that is based on the observation of nature. It is easy to use and apply in the daily life.
The fundamental idea of Ayurveda is that your daily activities create the power for health or disease. If you live in accord with your individual metabolism then health is realized effortlessly. On the other hand if you live in conflict with your natural metabolic activities then disease results. The old saying that one man’s food is another mans poison exactly presents the view of Ayurveda. Diet is the foundation of health or disease according to Ayurveda as it is the main daily activity that provides energy and nutrients to the body.
A poor diet or one lacking in fresh, whole foods will create illness over a long time. A diet strong in fresh, whole foods will bring health and in some cases even cure diseases according to Ayurveda.
One of the fundamental ideas in Ayurveda is that your body is intelligent and seeks health if you support it through good habits. Additionally, health is defined as a dynamic state – not just the absence of disease as in modern medicine. The idea in Ayurveda is that health can be increased not just maintained through right lifestyle and diet.
There is also a basic understanding that the psychology and physiology are intimately linked – in fact, they are not two things but different aspects of the human being. Thus, anything effecting one will effect the other. This is popularly called mind-body medicine these days, but only Ayurveda has developed a complete medical system that treats both aspects together as a unit.
If you are searching for a system that is easy to use and gives you control over your health then Ayurveda is for you. Ayurveda requires your participation and interest. The doctor is more of an educator that an authoritarian in Ayurveda as it is your effort that makes you well or ill. The information is there in the system to heal yourself or prevent illness – one only needs to become informed and apply the information.
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Other books by Vaidya Atreya Smith
Ayurvedic Medicine for Westerners series of textbooks
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