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Ayurvedic Herbs: The Natural Medicine of India
Ayurvedic medicine is the natural medicine of India and has been practiced for thousands of years.
It is based on balance and harmony.For a better understanding of Ayurveda read the introduction below.
Ashwagandha, one of the most often recommended herbs of Ayurvedia, is similar to ginseng; contributing to general health and vitality. Gotu kola is another useful Ayurvedic herb for its anti-aging qualities. Click the links for more information on these herbs.
An Introduction to Ayurveda (c) 1996 Dr. Vasant Lad, The Ayurvedic Institute
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, derived from two roots: ayur, which means life, and veda, knowledge. Knowledge arranged systematically with logic becomes science. During the due course of time, Ayurveda became the science of life. It has its root in ancient vedic literature and encompasses our entire life, the body, mind and spirit. Purusha/Prakruti According to Ayurveda, every human being is a creation of the cosmos, the pure cosmic consciousness, as two energies: male energy, called Purusha and female energy, Prakruti. Purusha is choiceless passive awareness, while Prakruti is choiceful active consciousness. Prakruti is the divine creative will. Purusha doesn't take part in creation, but Prakruti does the divine dance of creation called leela. In creation, Prakruti is first evolved or manifested as supreme intelligence, called mahat. Mahat is the buddhi principal (individual intellect) which further manifests as self identity, called ahamkara, which is ego. Ahamkara is influenced by three basic universal qualities: satva, rajas and tamas. Satva is responsible for clarity of perception. Rajas causes movement, sensations, feelings and emotions. Tamas is the tendency towards inertia, darkness, heaviness, and is responsible for periods of confusion and deep sleep.
Manifestation of Creation
From the essence of satva the five senses are created: the ears to hear, skin to perceive touch, eyes to see, the tongue to taste, and the nose, to smell. The essence of rajas is manifested as the five motor organs: speech, hands, feet, genitals and the organs of excretion. The mind is derived from satva, while rajas is manifested as prana, the life force. The tamasic quality is also responsible for the creation of tan matra, the subtle elements, and from whom the five basic elements are manifested. They are space, air, fire, water and earth. It is from pure consciousness that space is manifested.
Expansion of consciousness is space and space is all enclosive. We need space to live, and our bodily cells contain spaces. The synaptic, cellular and visceral spaces give freedom to the tissues to perform their normal physiological functions. (A change in tissue space, however, may lead to pathological conditions.) The space in between two conjunctive nerve cells aids communication, while the space in the mind encompasses love and compassion.
The movement of consciousness determines the direction along which change of position in space takes place. This course of action causes subtle activities and movements within space. According to the Ayurvedic perspective, this is the air principle. There is a cosmic magnetic field responsible for the movement of the earth, wind and water. Its representative in the body is the biological air, responsible for movement of afferent and efferent, sensory and motor-neuron impulses. When someone touches the skin, that tactile skin sensation is carried to the brain by the principal of movement, which is the sensory impulse. Then there is a reaction to the impulse, which is the motor response, which is carried from the brain to the periphery. This is a very important function of air. Our breathing is due to the movement of the diaphragm. Movements of the intestines and subtle cell movements are also governed by the biological principal of air. The movement of thought, desire and will are also governed by the air principal.
Where there is movement, there is friction, which creates heat, so the third manifestation of consciousness is fire, the principal of heat. There are many different representations of fire in the body. The solar plexus is the seat of fire, and this fire principle regulates body temperature. Fire is also responsible for digestion, absorption and assimilation. It is present in the eyes, therefore we perceive light, and the luster in the eyes is a result of the fire principal. There is a fire in the brain as the grey matter, which governs understanding, comprehension and appreciation. Fire is necessary for transformation, comprehension, appreciation, recognition and total understanding. In our small universe, the sun is a burning ball of consciousness and the sun gives us light and heat. In the body, the representative of the sun is the biological fire: the solar plexus which gives us heat, digestion, and liver function.
Because of the heat of the fire, consciousness melts into water. According to chemistry, water is H2O, but according to Ayurveda water is liquefaction of consciousness. Water exists in the body in many different forms, such as: plasma, cytoplasm, serum, saliva, nasal secretion, orbital secretion and cerebrospinal fluid. Excess water, which we eliminate in the form of urine and sweat is water. Water is necessary for nutrition and to maintain the water/electrolyte balance in the body. Without water, the cells cannot live.
The next manifestation of consciousness is the earth element. Because of the heat of the fire and water, there is crystallization. According to Ayurveda, earth molecules are nothing but crystallization of consciousness. In the human body, all solid structures, hard, firm and compact tissues are derived from the earth element (e.g. bones, cartilage, nails, hair, teeth and skin). Even in a single cell, the cell membrane is earth, cellular vacuoles are space, cytoplasm is water, nucleic acid and all chemical components of the cell are fire, and movement of the cell is air. All of these five elements are present in every human cell. According to Ayurveda, man is a creation of universal consciousness. What is present in the cosmos, the macrocosm, the same thing is present in the body, the microcosm. Man is a miniature of nature.
Vedic philosophy classifies human temperaments into three basic qualities: satvic, rajasic and tamasic. These individual differences in psychological and moral dispositions and their reactions to socio-cultural and physical environments are described in all the classic texts of Ayurveda. Satvic qualities imply essence, reality, consciousness, purity and clarity of perception which are responsible for goodness and happiness. All movements and activities are due to rajas. It leads to the life of sensual enjoyment, pleasure and pain, effort and restlessness. Tamas is darkness, inertia, heaviness and materialistic attitudes. There is a constant interplay of these three gunas (qualities) in the individual consciousness, but the relative predominance of either satva, rajas, or tamas is responsible for individual psychological constitution.
Satvic Mental Constitutions
The people in whom satvic qualities predominate are religious, loving, compassionate and pure minded. Following truth and righteousness, they have good manners, behavior and conduct. They do not get easily upset or angry. Although they work hard mentally, they do not get mental fatigue, so they need only several hours of sleep each night. They look fresh, alert, aware, full of luster, wisdom, joy and happiness. They are creative, humble and respectful of their teachers. Worshipping God and humanity, they love all. They care for people, animals, trees, and are respectful of all life and existence. They have balanced intuition and intelligence.
Rajasic Mental Constitutions
The people in whom rajasic qualities predominate are egoistic, ambitious, aggressive, proud, competitive, and have a tendency to control others. They like power, prestige, position, and are perfectionists. They are hard working people, but are lacking in proper planning and direction. They are ungrounded, active and restless. Emotionally, they are angry, jealous, ambitious, and have few moments of joy due to success. They have a fear of failure, are subject to stress, and soon lose their mental energy. They require about eight hours of sleep. They are loving, calm and patient only as long as their self interests are served. They are good, loving, friendly and faithful only to those who are helpful to them. They are not honest to their inner consciousness. Their activities are self- centered and egotistical.
Tamasic Mental Constitutions
The people in whom tamasic qualities predominate are less intelligent. They tend towards depression, laziness, and excess sleep, even during the day. A little mental work tires them easily. They like jobs of less responsibility, and they love to eat, drink, sleep and have sex. They are greedy, possessive, attached, irritable, and do not care for others. They may harm others through their own self interest. It is difficult for them to focus their minds during meditation.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha: the Three Doshas
The structural aspect of the body is made up of five elements, but the functional aspect of the body is governed by three biological humors. Ether and air together constitute vata; fire and water, pitta; and water and earth, kapha. Vata, pitta and kapha are the three biological humors that are the three biological components of the organism. They govern psycho-biological changes in the body and physio-pathological changes too. Vata-pitta-kapha are present in every cell, tissue and organ. In every person they differ in permutations and combinations.
The sperm is the male seed, and the ovum is the female egg. They also contain vata-pitta-kapha (VPK). Bodily vata-pitta-kapha changes according to diet, life style and emotions. The sperm gets influenced by the father's lifestyle, diet and emotions, and the ovum by the mother's. At the time of fertilization, when a single sperm enters a single ovum, individual constitution is determined.
According to Ayurveda, there are seven body types: mono-types (vata, pitta or kapha predominant), dual types (vata-pitta, pitta-kapha or, kapha-vata), and equal types, (vata, pitta and kapha in equal proportions). Every individual has a unique combination of these three doshas. To understand individuality is the foundation of healing according to Ayurveda, "The Science of Life".
Vata, pitta and kapha are distinctly present in every individual and express in each human being differently according to the predominance of the different qualities (gunas). For example vata is dry, light, cold, mobile, active, clear, astringent, and it is dispersing. All of these qualities can manifest in an individual. For example, if a person has excess vata in his or her constitution, because of the dry quality, he or she will have dry hair, dry skin, dry colon and a tendency towards constipation. Because of the light quality, which is opposite of heavy, the vata person will have a light body frame, light muscles, and light fat, and so will be thin and underweight, or "skinny-minny". Because of the cold quality, the vata person will have cold hands, cold feet and poor circulation. They hate the cold season and love summer. Because of the mobile quality, vata people are very active. They like jogging and jumping and don't like sitting in one place. Vata is subtle, and this subtle quality is responsible for the emotions of fear, anxiety, insecurity and nervousness. Vata is clear, therefore vata people can be clairvoyant; they have clear understanding and perception. They understand things immediately, but forget things immediately. Vata is astringent, which is a drying and choking quality of taste, therefore the vata person, while eating feels a drying choking sensation in the throat. These qualities are all expressed in a vata individual to some degree.
Pitta is a biological combination of fire and water elements. It has hot, sharp, light, liquid, sour, oily and spreading qualities. Pitta has a strong smell, like a fleshy smell, and has a sour or bitter taste. If an individual has excess pitta in the body, these qualities will be manifested. Because of the hot quality, the pitta person has a strong appetite and warm skin. The body temperature is a little higher than the vata person. The pitta person can perspire at a fifty degree temperature, but the vata person cannot perspire even at a much higher temperature. This difference is very important. Pitta is hot, therefore the pitta person has a strong appetite. If hungry, he has to eat otherwise he will become irritable and hypoglycemic.
The second quality of pitta is sharp, therefore the pitta person has a sharp nose, teeth, eyes, mind and while talking uses sharp words. They also have very sharp memory. Because of the oily quality, they have soft warm oily skin, straight oily hair, and the feces are oily and liquid. Because of the hot, sharp, and oily qualities, pitta people have a tendency to grey prematurely, a sign of early maturity. Pitta girls get earlier menstruation and reach puberty earlier. They can even start their menstruation at the age of ten. Pitta is light, which is the opposite of both heaviness and darkness. Because of this light quality, pitta people are moderate in body frame, and they do not like bright light. They like to read before they go to bed, and sometimes the pitta person sleeps with a book on the chest. Because of too much heat in the body, the pitta person tends to loose his hair in the full bloom of youth. The pitta person can get a receding hair line, or a big, beautiful, bald head.
The next quality of pitta is strong smell. When the pitta person perspires, under the arm pit there is a typical sulphur smell, and if he doesn't wash his socks, they will have a strong smell. That's why a pitta person loves perfumes. Pitta people are lovers of knowledge and have a great capacity of organization and leadership. They are often wise, brilliant people, but can have a controlling, dominating personality. Pitta people have a tendency towards comparison, competition, ambition, and they have a quality of aggressiveness, so naturally they criticize. If there is no one to criticize, pitta people will criticize themselves. They are perfectionists. Pitta people tend to get pittagenic inflammatory diseases, while vata predominant people tend to get neurological, muscular and rheumatic problems.
The next dosha is kapha. Subjects having more kapha in their body, will have heavy, slow, cool, oily, liquid, dense, thick, static and cloudy qualities. These are the important qualities of kapha, and kapha is sweet and salty. Because of the heavy quality, kapha people have heavy bones, muscles and fat. They will have a tendency to put on weight. A kapha person may even do a water fast and will put on weight. Kapha is slow, therefore a kapha person has slow metabolism and digestion. The kapha person can work without food, while it is very difficult for a pitta person to concentrate without food. Kapha is cool hence kapha people have cool, clammy skin. The skin is cool, but within the G.I. tract the digestive fire is high therefore they have a strong appetite.
Kapha people have other qualities, thick wavy hair, and big, attractive eyes. They have slow but prolonged, steady memory. Kapha people are forgiving, loving and compassionate. Because of the slow quality, kapha people walk slowly and talk slowly. They don't like jogging and jumping. They love eating, sitting and doing nothing.
Because of the cloudy quality, their mind is heavy and foggy and after a full meal they feel lethargic and sleepy. Unless they have a cup of coffee or strong stimulant in the morning they cannot move. Finally, the kapha person has a sweet tooth and loves candy, cookies and chocolate.
Prakruti, Individual Constitution
Individual constitution is determined at conception by the particular combination of the three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Every human being is a unique entity with its own individual constitution. The constitution, the psycho-somatic temperament of a person, is primarily genetic in origin. The male seed, sperm, and female egg, ovum, carry within them the constitution of both the parents. At the time of conjugation, the dominant factor of prakruti in the sperm (predominance of vata, pitta or kapha) can either neutralize a weaker or exaggerate the similar attributes of the prakruti of the ovum. For example, a sperm of strong vata constitution can inhibit some of the characteristics in the ovum of kapha constitution. The dry, light, rough, mobile qualities of vata will suppress the oily, heavy, smooth, and stable qualities of kapha. Vata and kapha are both cold, so the cold quality will be exaggerated in the prakruti of the foetus and the baby will be sensitive to the cold. The baby in this case will inherit a vata-kapha constitution. If both parents, i.e. the sperm and ovum, are of vata constitution, the offspring will inherit a vata predominant constitution. The constitution of the parents and therefore of the foetus is influenced by diet, lifestyle, country, climate, age and emotions.
Samprapti, the Disease Process
According to Ayurveda, health is a state of balance between the body, mind and consciousness. Within the body, Ayurveda recognizes the three doshas, or bodily humors vata, pitta and kapha; seven dhatus, or tissues, plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerve, and reproductive; three malas, or wastes; feces, urine and sweat; and agni, the energy of metabolism. Disease is a condition of disharmony in any of these factors. The root cause of imbalance, or disease, is an aggravation of dosha, vata-pitta-kapha, caused by a wide variety of internal and external factors. According to the attributes of these different etiological factors the bodily humors become aggravated and start to accumulate at their respective sites. Vata tends to accumulate in the colon, pitta in the intestines and kapha in the stomach. If the provocation continues, the accumulated dosha reaches a state of overflowing the original site and spreads throughout the body. The aggravated dosha then enters and creates a lesion in a specific weak tissue where pathological changes are manifested in the organ or system.
Causes of Disease
There are many factors that affect the doshas. Disease can result from imbalanced emotions. If a person has deep seated unresolved anger, fear, anxiety, grief or sadness, that also effects the doshas. Ayurveda classifies seven major causative factors in disease: hereditary, congenital, internal, external trauma, seasonal, natural tendencies or habits and supernatural factors. Disease can also result from misuse, overuse and under-use of the senses: hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell. The disease itself can be described by the number of doshas involved, the specific tissues effected, the quality or combination of qualities that aggravated the dosha, whether the disease is primary or secondary, strength, and the length of time of the disease.
There are many recognized hereditary pathologies. These can take the form of tendencies or dispositions towards a specific problem or manifest as actual abnormalities. A mother's lifestyle, diet, habits, activities, emotions and relationships can also affect the foetus.
Internal conditions such as ulcers or a damaged liver, may be caused by overuse of taste, e.g. too much hot spicy food or alcohol. External traumas are violent actions, such as automobile accidents, gunshots. etc.
Seasonal causes usually are more indirect. A person has a tendency to take his or her own primary dosha (vata, pitta or kapha) to an imbalanced state. There are four seasons. Summer season, bright light and too much heat, that is the pitta season. The autumn season is cold, windy and dry, it is a vata season. The winter season is cold, windy, snowing and raining, a kapha season. The spring season is both kapha and pitta. Early spring is cooler, with beautiful flowers and new leaves and is gorgeous and extremely beautiful, so earlier spring is kapha, and later spring is pitta. So these four seasons, have vata, pitta and kapha qualities. Apart from the lifestyle, diet, and all these changes, the vata person has a tendency for their vata to go out of balance. Vata people have a tendency towards constipation, sciatica, arthritis and rheumatism. Pitta people in the summer season aggravate their pitta and may get hives, rash, acne, biliary disorders, diarrhea or conjunctivitis. The kapha person, during spring season, has a tendency to get colds, hay fever, cough, congestion, sneezing and kapha type of sinus disorders.
Natural tendencies can also be a problem, such as overeating and smoking. Supernatural causes are those such as sunburns, lightning, and the influence of planetary bodies.
Clinical Barometers of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is an ancient clinical art of diagnosing the disease process through questioning (inquiring about the past, present and family history), observation (inspection), tactile experience (palpation), percussion, and listening to the heart, lungs and intestines (auscultation). In this art, Ayurveda talks much about interpreting the pulse, tongue, eyes and nails in the clinical examination, and also a specific examination of functional systems separately.
Ayurveda describes the basic three types of pulses (vata, pitta and kapha) and their characteristics. There are twelve different radial pulses; six on the right side, three superficial and three deep; and similarly, six on the left side. There is a relationship between the superficial and deep pulses and the internal organs. One can sensitively feel the strength, vitality, and normal physiological tone of the respective organs separately under each finger.
An ancient art of tongue diagnosis also describes quite characteristic patterns which can reveal the functional status of respective internal organs merely by observing the surface of the tongue. The tongue is the mirror of the viscera and reflects many pathological conditions.
A discoloration and/or sensitivity of a particular area of the tongue indicates a disorder in the organ corresponding to that area. A whitish tongue indicates a kapha derangement and mucus accumulation; a red or yellow-green tongue indicates a pitta derangement; and a black to brown coloration indicates a vata derangement. A dehydrated tongue is symptomatic of a decrease in the rasa dhatu (plasma), while a pale tongue indicates a decrease in the rakta dhatu (red blood cells). Ayurvedic physicians also do urine examinations as one of the diagnostic tools to understand the doshic imbalance in the body. The body fluids, such as blood (rakta) and lymph (rasa), serve to carry wastes (malas) away from the tissues that produce them. The urinary system removes water (kleda), salt (kshar) and nitrogenous wastes (dhatu malas). The urinary system also helps to maintain the normal concentration of water (apa dhatu) and electrolytes within body fluids. It helps to regulate the volume of body fluid and thus the urine helps to maintain the balance of the three humors vata, pitta and kapha, and water (kleda).
For clinical examination of urine, take a clean vessel and collect the early morning urine in midstream. Observe the color. If the color is blackish-brown, this indicates a vata disorder. If the color is dark yellow, a pitta disorder. Also when there is constipation or the body has less intake of water, the urine will be dark yellow. If the urine is cloudy, there is a kapha disorder. Red color of urine indicates a rakta (blood) disorder. Next there is the oil drop test. With a dropper, place one drop of sesame oil into the same sample of urine. If the drop spreads immediately, the physical disorder is probably easy to cure. If the drop sinks to the middle of the urine sample the illness is more difficult to cure. If the drop sinks to the bottom, the illness may be very difficult to cure. If the drop spreads on the surface in wave like movements, this indicates a vata disorder. If the drop spreads on the surface with multiple colors visible like a rainbow, this indicates a pitta disorder. If the drop breaks up into pearl like droplets on the surface of the urine, this indicates a kapha disorder. Normal urine has a typical uremic smell. However, if the urine has a foul odor this indicates ama dosha (toxins) in the system. Acidic urine which creates a burning sensation indicates excess pitta. A sweet smell to the urine indicates a diabetic condition. In this condition, the individual may experience goose bumps on the skin surface while passing urine. Gravel in the urine indicates stones in the urinary tract.
Chikitsa, Disease Management Ayurveda says that to restore health we must understand the exact quality, nature and structure of disease, disorder, or imbalance. The body has its own intelligence to create balance. and we are helping in that process. There are four main classifications of management of disease in Ayurveda: shodan, or cleansing; shaman or palliation; rasayana, or rejuvenation; and satvajaya, or mental hygiene.
The purpose of shodan, is to remove excess doshas and ama from the body. Shodan includes purvakarma (initial procedures), pradhanakarma (the main procedures), and pashchatkarma (post-operative procedures). Purvakarma procedures move the aggravated doshas and ama from sites deeper in the body to locations in preparation for elimination. Panchakarma (five actions), which belongs to pradhanakarma, then removes these doshas and ama. It includes vaman (vomiting), virechan (purgation), basti (medicinal enema), rakta-moksha (blood cleansing) and nasya (nasal insufflation, administration).
Vaman is vomiting therapy for removing excess kapha impurities out of the body. Virechan is for removing pitta by giving purgation therapy. Basti is to remove excess vata from the body by enema therapy. Nasya is administration of certain herbal powders, medicated oils and medicated concoctions, and ghee into the nose for purification of prana, mind and consciousness. Rakta-moksha includes blood letting by application of leaches or removing blood or donating blood to the blood bank, and using certain cleansing and blood thinning herbs.
Ayurveda says toxins are produced when the aggravated dosha, vata-pitta-kapha, effects the biological fire, agni, which in turn effects digestion, metabolism and assimilation. So undigested, un-absorbed, unassimilated food products remain in the body as a morbid substance. Ama, then, is a toxic, morbid, raw, undigested, unabsorbed, unassimilated, non-homogeneous, sticky substance in the body that adheres to the tissues, clogs the channels and creates toxicity in the body. It enters the blood and creates toxemia, which is a root cause of disease. The root cause of ama is the aggravated dosha attacking agni (fire) and producing low digestion and metabolism. So Ayurveda says that one should remove these aggravated doshas by panchakarma.
According to Ayurveda shaman, or palliation is the balancing and pacification of bodily doshas (as opposed to elimination). Shaman is of seven types: dipan, kindling the fire (agni); pachan, burning the toxic ama; ksud-nigraha, fasting; trut-nigraha, observing thirst, (not drinking water); vyayama, yoga stretching; atap-seva, lying in the sunlight [Sometimes they make a fire during the daytime or evening and that heat of the fire does cleansing of the astral body, physical body, subtle body and causal body. Lying in the sun, which is also used for kindling the fire in the solar plexus.]; marut-seva, sitting and doing pranayama, meditation.
Shaman is a very spiritual cleansing method of purification. People with insufficient strength to undergo panchakarma, who are emotionally weak and not strong enough to face panchakarma are good candidates for shaman. Any pitta disorder, vata disorder, and chronic kapha disorder which effects the immune system of an individual and affects the agni or fire of the individual, is a very good subject for shaman. Shaman can be done in the healthy person also, because shaman has both curative and preventative aspects. Prevention is better than curing. If we prevent the future ailment through shaman we can attain success in healing the soul.
The first method in shaman is dipan, kindling the fire. Kindling the bodily fire is absolutely necessary in kapha and vata disorders, where the person has low gastric fire. That can be accomplished by using certain herbs like pippili, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and chitrak. These different herbs are used in certain proportions with honey internally, which does kindling of the fire. You can do the fire ceremony, by burning certain special woods, making an agnikunda, like a yagyakunda, or fireplace, arranging the woods in a certain pyramidal, square fashion, putting camphor and cotton at the center, and kindling the fire while chanting special mantras. By doing these mantras, you can increase the internal fire. While watching the external fire, you are meditating and chanting certain mantras for agni, the internal fire. Concentrating at the solar plexus, you can also kindle the agni, and that will burn the toxins in the physical body, subtle body, and causal body. This kind of ceremony is very effective for kapha and vata people, but for pitta people it should be done with great caution.
Pachan, burning the toxins is done with certain herbs in certain proportions, because kindling the gastric fire is necessary to improve the digestive capacity. For pachan, Ayurveda uses trikatu, chitrak, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander and fennel. All of these herbal teas are used after meals to improve the digestive capacity of agni. Pachan can be improved through concentration, meditation and contemplation so that the person's digestive capacity will improve and there will be proper assimilation and nutrition of the bodily tissue.
Ksud-nigraha is fasting, or eating a mono-diet. In acute fever, acute indigestion, acute dysentery and diarrhea, Ayurveda suggests fasting. A person may only eat cooked apple with ghee or basmati rice with mung dal and ghee, or just yogurt and rice, and in small quantity. But in acute fever, acute diarrhea and dysentery it is better not to eat anything for a couple of days, so that the bodily fire will kindle and burn the internal toxins. For this, observing a fast is very important.
Trut-nigraha, observing thirst (not drinking water) is very important when water disorders take place, kapha disorders. For example, kidney disorders like edema, or ascites where there is accumulated water in the peritoneal cavity, or certain other kapha urinary disorders where too much water is retained in the system, there Ayurveda says not to give water. Observing thirst means not to drink water. It is not a water fast, a water fast is different. If you drink too much water, it will retain in the body. Trut-nigraha means observing thirst, which is very effective in certain kapha types of disorders.
The next important shaman is vyayam, exercise, yoga stretching. Exercise is defined here as stretching of the muscles in a particular direction with a goal so that you can reach the goal with effort and in that effort you are creating physical stress. Physical stress kindles the fire, like hiking in the mountains, walking, jogging and jumping. Ayurveda says exercise has such a quality that it improves circulation, accelerates the heart rate, enhances the combustion of calories and also stimulates metabolism, regulates body temperature and maintains body weight. Exercise makes your senses alert and attentive and your mind becomes very sharp and develops keen perception. These qualities of exercise are very important, but again, exercise varies from person to person.
Ayurveda suggests certain exercises according to individual constitution. The vata person should do certain yoga postures. The important seat of vata in the body is the pelvic cavity, so any exercise which will help the stretching of the pelvic muscles is good. Therefore the forward bend, backward bend, spinal twist, cobra pose, camel pose, shoulder stand and plow pose help to move the vata in a particular direction and that helps to calm down vata.
The important seat of pitta is the solar plexus, so any exercise that will stretch the muscles of the solar plexus will be very effective for the pitta person. So the fish pose, boat pose, camel pose as well as locust pose and bow pose will help to calm down pitta.
The important seat of kapha is the chest, therefore exercises which will stretch the chest are very effective. Ayurveda says that you can do the shoulder stand, plow pose, locust pose, cat pose, cow pose and bow pose. These different poses improve the circulation of kapha in the pulmonary cavity. Jogging is not good for vata, it is good for kapha, but kapha people don't like jogging. Swimming is good exercise for the pitta person. Swimming is also good for the vata person. Mountain climbing and hiking are good for kapha people, but they don't like hiking. So this is a very interesting thing, that proper exercise is a wonderful art of shaman.
Atap-seva, lying in the sun, is another ancient shaman. The sun is the source of heat and light. The sun is the source of higher consciousness. Pitta predominant people can lie in the sun and apply certain oils (sun blockers) so that they will reduce their exposure. The pitta person should not lie in the sun more than half an hour. The vata person can lie in the sun for about an hour. The kapha person can lie in the sun for more than an hour. If the proper care is taken, lying in the sun and meditating upon the solar plexus, is a wonderful shaman for kapha and vata. It improves circulation, the absorption of vitamin D, and strengthens the bones.
Today, however, lying in the sunlight is becoming very bad because the ionosphere and ozone are damaged and the unwanted radiation (ultraviolet rays) comes to the earth and that aggravates brajak-pitta under the skin which can result in skin cancer. The person that has multiple moles should not lie in the sun. Lying in the moon light is also an ancient art of shaman for reducing pitta.
Lastly, there is breathing. Respiration is partly conscious and partly unconscious. One should do proper breathing through both nostrils by doing alternate nostril pranayama. There are different types of pranayama, the breathing exercise, and there is a totally different science of breath one can study from an experienced teacher. But if you sit quietly, inhale deeply through one nostril, hold the breath into the lower abdomen, and slowly exhale through the opposite nostril, repeating alternately, this kind of pranayama helps to bring balance to prana, apana and udana (subtypes of prana). Out of that balance, one can attain the highest state of tranquility.
Shaman as a whole does bring balance between the body, mind and consciousness and balance to the three bodily humors, vata-pitta-kapha. It cleanses the physical body, subtle body and causal body. According to Ayurveda, every soul is immortal, every soul is sacred, and to understand the individual, to understand oneself, is the foundation of life. Without this self knowing, life has no meaning. So by understanding the basic principals of life, by understanding one's own constitution as explained in the Ayurvedic literature, and by understanding the exact nature and structure of doshic aggravation, one can follow the proper guidelines of shodan, cleansing, and shaman, palliation and pacification.
Rasayana has three sub categories: restoration of tissues through herbs, minerals and exercises; re-virilization, which is restoring vitality to the system; and longevity, slowing or stopping of the aging process.
Satvajaya, Mental Hygiene and Spiritual Healing The categories of satvajaya include: mantra, (sounds), yantra (physical devices), tantra (directing energies in the body), meditation, and gems, metals and crystals, specifically given for the imbalance or disease.
Ayurveda and Relationships
According to Ayurveda, our life is a relationship; the relationship between you and your spouse, girlfriend and boyfriend, and parents and children. Equally important is the relationship with yourself, your relationship between the body, mind and consciousness, and the inner relationship between vata-pitta-kapha. These relationships are life, and Ayurveda is a healing art which helps bring clarity in relationships. Clarity in relationships brings compassion, and compassion is love, therefore love is clarity. Without this clarity, there is no insight. Ayurveda is an art of insight which brings harmony, happiness, joy and bliss in our daily life, in our relationships, and in our daily living. Ayurveda, can definitely bring longevity to life. It can bring a quality of consciousness, such that one can get insight to deal with one's inner life, one's inner emotions, one's inner hurt, grief and sadness. Ayurveda is a total healing art.
© 1991, Dr. Vasant Lad, The Ayurvedic Institute
For more information on Ayurveda and services offered, please contact: The Ayurvedic Institute 11311 Menaul NE Albuquerque, New Mexico 87112 (505) 291-9698
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