The whole is more than just the sum of its parts. We are more than just the sum of our parts.
This is the essence of the word “Holistic”. Holistic essentially means incorporating the concept of Holism; wherein the above lines are its core philosophy. Holism regarding health and healing believes that there is more to an individual’s health and wellness than just its physical being. It focuses on treating the individual in its entirety, rather than just focusing on a single symptom or dimension. It is a three-dimensional approach that believes that every being is a culmination of the three sacred components i.e. body, mind and soul, and optimal health and wellness can only be achieved when all three components are taken care of. You can call it a more committed and long-term approach to health that focuses on our daily habits and lifestyle, rather than a quick-fix over-the-counter solution. Holistic healing believes in reprogramming our body, mind and soul to achieve a balance, wherein every component is in sync with the other.
Holistic healing has its roots in an ancient system of medicine that originated in our land about 5000 years ago. Ayurveda. The science of life. It is like the book of life which reveals the secrets to an optimal life. It helps us reach our full potential by synchronizing our internal and external environments. It eases our dis-eases by helping us reconnect with our core and attain the balance within. Ayurveda is like an eternal fountain of life, and by drinking from it we can unlock our greatest potential.
The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit scripts that celebrate the different elements and Mother earth. Ayurveda finds its first mention in the Atharva Veda, where Ayurvedic practices of healing and treating diseases were depicted and described. With time and evolution of the mind, Ayurveda too underwent refinement and two other symbolic texts of Ayurveda, namely, Charak Samhita and Sushrut Samhita were penned, in which the secrets of Ayurveda were further divulged.
Ayurveda focuses on the elements of the universe and how their interactions affect us physiologically, psychologically and spiritually. It believes that the universe is composed of five elements- Vayu (air), Jala (water), Aakash (space), Prithvi (earth) and Teja (fire). These five elements in different compositions form the three basic humors or doshas of the human body – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Together they are known as the Tridoshas.
It is believed that every human is born with a particular constitution or prakruti, which is a culmination of the physical and psychological characteristics. Due to their different constitutions or prakrutis, every individual has different characteristics and function differently. Although one’s core constitution remains the same throughout one’s life, it is constantly affected by other factors. Doshas are one such factor that plays a key role in a person’s prakruti or constitution.
Pitta dosha is composed of the fire and water elements. This humor is said to reside in the small intestine and controls the digestive and metabolic functions. It also controls the mind and our perceptions. A person with a dominant Pitta is an achiever with a sharp mind, efficient metabolism, and a large appetite. But they are also prone to digestive disorders, inflammation, and extreme anger if the dominant dosha is aggravated.
Vata dosha is composed mainly of space and air elements and is the moving force behind the other two doshas. It resides in the colon and maintains a healthy balance between our thoughts and fuels creativity. A Vata-dominant person has good reflexes, but is prone to nervous disorders, insomnia and arthritis.
Lastly, the Kapha dosha is composed of water and earth elements. It resides in the stomach and is associated with circulatory and immunological functions. It also promotes self -healing, repair and emotions of love, compassion, understanding and empathy. Kapha-dominant people are strong and wise, but easily susceptible to weight gain, lethargy, allergies and breathing problems.
A trained ayurvedic practitioner can study a person’s physical characteristics and ascertain what is his/her dominant dosha. To combat or prevent the illnesses associated with the aggravation or imbalance of each dosha, a well-rounded lifestyle plan is provided to regain the balance. People with a dominant Pitta are advised not to indulge in spicy food and to practice anger management. Those with a dominant Vata are advised to follow a routine life to avoid unnecessary stress and get adequate rest. Whereas, the Kapha-dominant ones should exercise regularly, not over-indulge during meals and avoid excessive napping. These simple lifestyle modifications not only relieve us of our symptoms, but also cure the core issue, and thus, helps us regain our core prakruti.
Ayurveda is both preventive and curative. It not only provides us with tailored regimes to maintain our constitutions but also provides various treatments and rituals to cure illnesses. The curative treatments include internal and external measures, surgery, mental and spiritual therapies, and herbal measures. This combined form of healing takes care of our body, mind and soul and treats the core of the illness in a three-dimensional way. Panchakarma, meaning five-actions, is the most significant ayurvedic treatment. It refers to five actions or therapies that will be administered to the suffering individual to rejuvenate him/her, release toxins and cure the illness. Depending on the number of toxins accumulated or degree of illness, all five therapies may have to be administered or only a few of them.
A trained Ayurveda practitioner can only administer the Panchakarmas as the individual’s needs, prakruti and doshas have to be taken into consideration, and a suitable treatment plan has to be formulated for specific periods. The ayurvedic processes are not only stimulating but also very relaxing. The mind and the body are slowed down during these therapeutic rituals to remove toxins from all the tissues and to re-attain the internal balance. Although, sometimes, the process of removing toxins can be a little discomforting due to the accumulation of large amounts of toxins and their location in the body. Ayurvedic treatments also help in the release of emotional and mental stresses that we have been harboring, and truly rejuvenates one in a holistic manner.
According to Ayurveda, when our body is functioning at its optimal best, it produces a substance or an essence known as Ojas, which can be described as the innermost sap of our being. This Ojas is crucial for maintaining a healthy mind and body. But due to our deteriorating lifestyle and accumulation of stress, our bodies are not at their optimal best. This results in the deposition of toxins and leads to the creation of Ama, which is the toxin residue.
Accumulation of Ama is considered as the underlying cause of disease in Ayurveda, as it blocks the flow of energy through our body and derails our physiological, psychological and emotional processes. The reason for the build-up of Ama may not always be physical; mental and emotional stresses also lead to its build-up. The main aim of the treatments is to clean out this Ama, as it will lead to the free flow of energy in the body and proper functioning of all the processes.
Panchakarma involves purification or cleansing of the body. It comprises of five shodanas or treatments to achieve complete purification. For those not strong enough to undergo the shodanas, milder forms of treatments known as shamanas are administered. But before proceeding to the Panchakarma stage, the body has to be prepared through the Purvakarma phase.
Purvakarma meaning pre-treatment or pre-purification is a combination of two procedures, Snehan and Svedana, that prepare the body to let go of the toxins. Snehan includes an oil massage in which oil is applied all over the body and massaged into the body in a particular manner to release stress and nourish it. It is done for a period of three to seven days, as needed. Snehan is followed by Svedana, which includes steaming the body to cause sweating or sudation. This liquifies the toxins and enables their movement to the gastrointestinal tract, from which they will be further removed during the Panchakarma sessions. The purpose of the Purvakarma is to “ripen” the aggravated doshas so that they can be harvested and released from the body.
Vamana, Virechan, Basti, Nasya and Rakta moksha constitutes the five basic Panchakarma shodanas.
Vamana or therapeutic emesis is administered to eliminate the excess Kapha stored in the body. Aggravated Kapha leads to excess mucus secretion, which in turn leads to congestion of lungs and results in asthma, bronchitis and cold. The release of the mucus often leads to instant relief. Vamana also releases repressed emotions that have been stored in the Kapha region of the body.
Virechan or therapeutic purgation is administered to release the excess Pitta present in the body. Excess Pitta causes the formation of excess bile, which accumulates in the liver, intestines and gall bladder. Rashes, skin inflammation, nausea and jaundice are the common symptoms of aggravated Pitta. Ingestion of the given purgatives completely cures this problem.
Basti or enema therapy cures the Vata dosha. Vata is the main causal factor behind many diseases and also the force behind retention and elimination of the body’s excretory products. Medications in this method are administered through the rectal opening as it goes deeper into the bones and other tissues of the body and relieves the aggravated Vata.
The nose is the gateway to the mind and through this passage prana, the force of life enters the body with every breath we take. Nasya or the nasal administration of medications is done to clear the nasal passage and to cure prana disorders, migraines, sinus congestion, and certain eye and ear problems.
The final shodana, rakta moksha, involves the cleansing or purification of blood. All the toxins secreted or released in the body is absorbed by the blood, which leads to toxemia. Aggravated Pitta also leads to increased blood toxin levels. Through the blood-letting and purifying techniques of rakta moksha, the blood is cleansed and all the toxins are released. This cures disorders of the skin, liver and spleen.
The complete benefits of any Panchakarma treatment can only be reaped when a strict diet and lifestyle are followed during the treatment. A prescribed diet should be followed that nourishes the body and also balances the doshas. Care should be taken to avoid strenuous and rigorous activities such as intense exercises, sexual activities and other stimulating activities. It is also important to keep warm and keep a check on one’s thoughts during this healing period. Only by following the dos and don’ts, can complete healing takes place. The benefits to be yielded from an ayurvedic treatment are plentiful as it is a holistic treatment. Not only does it cleanse your body, mind and soul, but also helps you find your center and inner peace. There will be a bounce in your step and glow on your face, as you are cleansed of all the toxins and stresses that weigh you down.
Ayurveda is the science of longevity that stimulates our senses and being. It is rooted in ancient knowledge that uses nature and her elements to breathe a new lease of life into everyone who practices it. It is the perfect culmination of the science of life and the art of living. It follows the well-scripted jewels of ancient knowledge to unleash our optimal health and help us to fulfill our greater purpose. Ayurveda is not only good for our body, but it is good for our mind, heart and soul. It helps us channelize our thoughts, emotions and intuitions to clear the energy passages and to relieve ourselves of all the unnecessary burdens that we carry.
The modern world in its attempt to simplify things has also led to many collateral complications. These complications have led to stressful modern lives, in which we are like hamsters running on the hamster-wheel of life. The farther we go from our roots, the more difficult life gets. Ayurveda is what compels us to stop, take a breath and re-evaluate our lives. It is the thread that connects the ancient to the modern. It is dynamic, as its principles and techniques were relevant then, are relevant now and always will be. Ayurvedic lifestyle changes need not be extravagant and hard to incorporate, they can be small and significant. It may be as simple as changing to a healthier diet, incorporating exercise into our daily regime, or simply practicing breathing techniques. The range is vast and there is something for everyone.
The most important lesson that Ayurveda teaches us is to believe in the power of our own body. We often take our bodies for granted and are the first to criticize it. But Ayurveda teaches us that if we only feed our body with what it needs, it is more than capable of healing and rejuvenating itself. And that may not always be an intake of physical food, it also means a healthy intake of thoughts, words and emotions, because everything has an energy and the kind of energy you put into your body is what will be manifested. We already have the tools to lead our optimal lives within us and in nature, Ayurveda is simply here to teach us how and when to utilize these tools.
Many of us think Ayurvedic healing is a rather slow process, and so we opt for more modern options. But as they say, all good things take time. Yes, the ayurvedic treatments do take more time than the pill-popping options, but if you are looking for a no permanent, no side-effects and holistic cure to your health woes, then there is nothing better than Ayurveda. It will transform your health and your life. Not only will it cure the existing illness but also prevent future ones. It is truly a one-stop solution. It is like drinking from the fountain of life. Once you start, you can never stop. All it takes is the will and discipline to see it through because like all good things in life, your health too is a product of practice and discipline.
Health is true wealth, and Ayurveda is your means of attaining that wealth.