Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of holistic health care that originated in India several thousand years ago. Even though the earliest literary references to Ayurveda as a medical science are datable to only around 500 BC, many of the fundamental healing principles, which Ayurveda is based upon, have already been mentioned much earlier in various sacred texts of ancient India. As a medical science, Ayurveda is as much concerned with treating disease as it is with preventing ill-health and enhancing the quality of life.
The term Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit words: ‘ayus’meaning life and ‘vid’ meaning knowledge. The "science of life", Ayurveda, is firmly embedded in Indian philosophy and its theory of evolution, according to which the universe is composed of five basic elements, namely: ether, air, fire, water and earth. These are present in all things, and in the living body they manifest as doshas.
The three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) are the primary and essential bio-energetic forces of the human body. Each has its characteristic site and unique function in the body. They are interrelated and, in their normal state, maintain the integrity of the living organism, conferring strength and assuring normal physiological functioning as well as longevity. The three doshas need to be in a state of equilibrium for the body to remain healthy. Any imbalance of these bio-energetic forces results in ill-health.
Ayurveda places particular emphasis on the individual constitution (prakriti) of every being, which is determined by the unique combination of doshas, genetic factors as well as the health, nutrition and lifestyle of one’s parents. Prakriti determines an individual’s susceptibility to different diseases and has an influence on their course and development as well as on the complications that could arise and the prognosis.
Proper hygiene, diet and lifestyle are considered in Ayurveda essential pre-requisites for good health. Ayurvedic classical texts provide detailed guidelines for health-promoting daily routines, which must be adapted to an individual’s constitution as well as to the seasons and the environment in order to ensure an optimal functioning of body, mind and emotions.
The skill of the practitioner lies in assessing a patient’s constitutional type, in diagnosing the root cause of imbalance that manifests as disease, and in selecting appropriate remedial interventions from an array of therapeutic options. Treatment is always tailor-made to the individual and can include simple diet and lifestyle advice, food supplements or medicines, physical treatments like full-body massage or local applications, psychological and emotional consulting, meditation, yoga or other forms of subtle therapies.