Yoga holidays

Yoga Ireland

Free yoga bulletin board

Yoga books - reviews

Yoga videos

Yoga Quotes

Useful Yoga addresses

Yoga links

Site map

An introduction to Ayurveda

What does Ayurveda mean?

Two words, 'Ayur' - meaning longevity, 'Veda' meaning knowledge or perhaps science - thus Aurveda is the science of longevity.

How is Ayurveda pronounced?

Pretty much as it reads - Ayurveda not Ayurweda - four syllables A-yur ved-a - The 'v' as pronounced as a 'w' - the 'e' in Veda is pronounced as 'Ay' rather than 'eee' Thus the whole reads - ayurvayda

3. What qualifications should I expect a Ayurvedic physician to possess?

Probably the most widely known and respected is B.A.M.S - which stands for Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery. A physician may also be a M.D. which is a postgraduate qualification and stands for Master of Medicine. Both qualifications are validated by a Government's University system. The training is full time over several years and includes detailed knowledged of allopathic (western clinical) as well as Ayurvedic principles. Having said this, it has to be said, that as in the west, there are other qualifications, such as diplomas in specific or limited aspects of Ayurveda, such as beauty therapy or sports medicine. There are also perfectly good Ayurvedic colleges and related medicine systems such as the Siddha system, but that may lack 'external verification' of quality. There is no easy answer to how an ancient system of medicine can fit into the modern world.

4. How old is Ayurveda?

Most practitioners routinely claim that the science of Ayurveda is at least 5000 years old. That is to say it originates in the Vedas. It has to be said that there some of these dates are based more on national pride than historical research. In my own view, I would say that although many individual elements of the Ayurvedic system can be recognised in the ancient Vedas, Ayurveda as a system of medicine was synthesised at a much later date. I would say arund the time of the Buddha in say 5th - 6th century BC.
In other words Ayurveda is a different system of medicine that developed from ancient Vedic ideas on disease and healing.

5. In Ayurveda what is the principal disease mechanism?

In Caraka's medical textbook, he draws all of his sources together in the form of a dialogue. In it several elders of the Ayurvedic tradition discuss the origin of humanity and its diseases. Several divergent views on the origin of disease are discussed: some suggest âtman ('self') is the cause, another that disease is a mental phenomenon caused by Rajas and Tamas (two subtle strands of matter). Yet another contends that disease is hereditary or due to actions in past lives. Another opinion is that God or time itself as manifesting seasonal change is the cause of disease.
Although all of these things and more are thought relevant, the grand patriarch Atreya refutes them and states what has since become the authoritative explanation of the advent of disease. 
In Ayurveda the very same thing that determines the healthy development of an individual is also responsible for a creature's downfall:
'Whatsoever produces growth beneficial (sampad) to man, those very (things) wrongly disposed (vipad) may set in motion numerous diseases.'

This common cause is food, the basis of health and ill health. The eating of wholesome food brings health, whilst ill-health results from wrong eating. Malnutrition is here taken in its widest sense and includes consideration of the quality of the food eaten and the manner of cooking etc. Also to be considered are its inner qualities. In addition, a food that may be thought in all other ways good such as milk or rice may be unwholesome in medical terms if taken at the wrong times, or in inappropriate quantities.

In the stomach the food is divided into two portions; a pure liquid food called 'rasa' and the indigestible part or waste 'kittâ'. The rasa undergoes a series of metabolic changes within different parts and tissues of the body. This process can be likened to a cascade, as it flows through the body undergoing several transmutations. At each step in the cascade a waste product is produced. The point determines the form of this waste product in the system at which this happens. Some of the waste products of digestion are actually quite useful to the good running of the system. Most important are the three humours or doshas - Vata (Wind), Pitta (Bile) and Kapha (Phlegm).

For more information on Ayurveda, see also our articles on ayurvedic eating  and on the three doshas.