About Ayurveda

The knowledge of how the body functions in relation to nature is called Ayurveda. The word Ayurveda is made of two Sanskrit words, Ayur and Veda. The first word, Ayur, means life or the length of life, longevity. The second word, Veda, means knowledge or understanding. Therefore, the word Ayurveda means the ‘knowledge of life’ or ‘understanding nature’. In ancient times Ayurveda was the primary medical system in much of the world and placed strong emphasis on living a long, healthy life. Hence, it has been called the science of longevity.

How to choose and use a diet – duration: 22mins 34secs

URL for Viewing: http://connectpro91461020.adobeconnect.com/p4t7jqql9xve/

This is a 22 min. presentation on how to choose a diet – a long-term constitutional diet, or a short-term diet to correct a problem. The presentation is done by Vaidya Atreya Smith. Note that if you click on the small arrow on the left-hand menu the dark left-hand menu disappears and it is nicer to watch.

There is nothing good or bad in Ayurveda. Ayurveda is not an endless repetition of Indian curries and rigid yogic practices. It is simply a very ancient, practical method to understand life. Ayurveda begins by helping people understand themselves, their unique individual nature or constitution (Prakriti). Then it helps people to understand how different constitutions are effected by nature. In other words, it shows us the results of combining our nature, or constitution, with objects and places. These ‘objects and places’ can take the form of food, daily habits, climate, people and our profession. Ayurveda can be seen as an uncomplicated formula: A + B = C.

  • A = the individual constitution (person)
  • B = everything else (food, climate, season, age, profession, etc.)
  • C = the result of the two above combinations

Ancient sages developed traditional forms of medicine, like Ayurveda, Greek and Chinese medicine. All of the traditional forms of medicine are not only based on the individual, they are also ‘functional’ in nature. Today we call this approach to health ‘Functional Medicine’. Meaning that the emphasis is placed on the systems and overall hemostasis of the body rather than structures or cells. The more medicine has developed to focus on body structure, the more it has become symptomatic in its approach. Functional approaches to medicine tend to try and treat the individual first by understanding why the body’s functions are disrupted.

Ayurveda has been in continuous use for thousands of years and still treats approximately one fifth of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which recognizes Ayurveda as valid system of medicine. The Ayurvedic tradition has developed a very sophisticated system of medicine over time. Traditionally there are eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine. They are given as follows:

  1. General Medicine (Kayacikitsa)
  2. Pediatrics (Kaumarabhrtya)
  3. Toxicology (Agadatantra)
  4. Surgery (Shalyatantra)
  5. Head Diseases(Shalakyatantra)
  6. Rejuvenation (Rasayana)
  7. Aphrodisiacs (Vajikarana)
  8. Possession and Psychiatry (Bhatavidya)

In Ayurveda, medicine is considered inferior to lifestyle, food and herbs ingested on a daily basis. Actually, medicine is a ‘last resort’ and shows the results of poor habits and lifestyle of the patient. Many ancient cultures traveled to India to learn from Ayurvedic medical professionals. The Four Humor theory of the ancient Greeks was strongly influenced by India. We find the Greeks using Ayurvedic theories and herbal formulation after 400 BC when they were known to have studied extensively the Ayurvedic system.

Ayurveda has influenced many aspects of modern medicine, everything from bodywork to surgery. Both Occidental and Asian civilizations have borrowed Ayurvedic knowledge and applied it to their own cultural context and medical systems. Plastic surgery, acupuncture, disease classifications and medical schools all stem from the original Ayurvedic tradition. As such, Ayurveda and the information presented here should be viewed as complimentary to modern allopathic medicine not in conflict to it. The modern medical community can see Ayurvedic therapies as preventative measures, both physically and psychologically.

In Ayurvedic medicine the foundation of health is our diet and lifestyle. According to Ayurveda the human body is made up from five categories of matter. Likewise, our food is also composed of these same five categories of matter. Hence, in Ayurveda the physical body is often referred to as the “food body” as it is nothing more than the result of the nutrients we take into our bodies.

This idea is much more profound than it seems on the surface. On one hand, it means we could modify our body’s function by modifying our food. On another hand, it means we should then be able to correct problems in tissues (to some extent) by using the appropriate diet for this purpose. Still pursuing this idea further, it could mean that if something is wrong (e.g., pollution, quality, etc.) in our food chain we will eventually manifest problems in our body because our body is the result of the food we eat.

There are many different ways we can look at this general idea that changing our diet could change our health. Before exploring this avenue of thought it is important to realize that many people and organizations have vested interests in refuting diet as factor of health and disease prevention. Even more developed are those people that state that diet is important, but these pills (which they happen to sell) will make up the difference of a nutrient poor diet (e.g., ‘you don’t have to worry about food if you buy the right pill’ mentality). Why would anyone want to refute that diet is helping to maintain health and prevent disease? Mainly for money; either to sell medicines, supplements, or a dietary system.

If we really explore the idea that our body is made of ‘food’ and ‘food’ makes our body it is empowering. Ayurveda sees this vision as empowering because it allows us to prevent disease, live healthy and happily. It is empowering to think that we have some control in a world where we are losing control of so many things so quickly and on so many levels.

The Ayurvedic view of food is that it is a pleasure to be enjoyed. The main concept in this vision is that we can eat whatever we want if we can digest it. This means if we can assimilate the nutrients in the food – assuming there are nutrients to absorb. So, we have two important concepts here:

  1. not just swallowing food, actually being able to assimilate the nutrients in the food;
  2. if we are unable to assimilate the nutrients, the food could stick around and putrefy in the digestive system.

These two concepts are opposites, when one works the other doesn’t and vis versa. In Ayurveda, these two concepts are called Agni and Āma. Agni is the digestive ability to separate nutritive elements from non-nutritive elements and to be able to assimilate the nutritive ones into the body. These nutrients then go on to build and form tissues.

The opposite of Agni is Āma. Ama or (aama) is food that has not been assimilated as nutrients, nor evacuated as waste. It stays in the body and putrefies. The GI tract is a warm, humid, dark environment that favors purification of food that is stagnant. Ama is formed when Agni is not working well or when the food is of a very poor quality. When our digestive capacity, or Agni, is working well it is impossible for Ama (non-digested food) to form in the intestines. This is all well and good one may say, but who or what is controlling, or disturbing, Agni and our capacity to assimilate nutrients and thus form rotting food masses in the body?

Through generations of observation Ayurveda noted that the body has three managers that control all the functions, or physiology, of the body. During the fetus formation these same managers control how the structure of the body is formed, and they continue to do so until growth is finished at the end of adolescence. The nature of observation based health systems is functional in both orientation and vision. Historically traditional Greek, Persian, Chinese and Indian medical systems are all what we call now ‘functional medicine’. This is because the function of the body is given precedence over the structure of the body; structure as the result of function. Hence, all of these ancient systems have ‘managers’ that control the functions of the body (e.g., physiology).

In Ayurveda, there are three managers that control the homeostasis or physiological processes of the body. Among their many tasks they also control the digestive function, or Agni. Therefore, Ayurveda places a huge importance on the managers of the body because they control how the food is digested, nutrients absorbed and distributed. When the managers do not work well the result is Ama, or non-digested food accumulating in the body. To understand what Ama is I suggest opening up the drain underneath your kitchen sink. See that smelly, black, sticky, putrid stuff? That is more or less what Ama is in our bodies; a slow accumulation of rotting food.

This explains why Ayurveda views dietary rules according to function and the manager who controls those functions. In other words, Ayurveda bases the dietary advice according to the manager because they are the single most important factor in transforming the food or herbs into nutrients that can be assimilated into the body. This is due to the fact that the manager controls Agni, and Agni digests the food.

The three managers, or Dosha in Sanskrit, are called Vāta, Pitta and Kapha. Their names imply the functions that they carry out in the body, Vata as wind or movement; Pitta as fire or transformation; Kapha as water or cohesion. Obviously, the names are metaphorical and not as important as understanding that they control our digestion and capacity to either maintain health or become sick. This is why Ayurvedic theory is based on the Tridosha, or three Dosha (managers).

In conclusion, the Ayurvedic vision is based on the concept that the whole world (our bodies, our food, and everything else) is made up of five categories of matter (Panchamahabhuta). This means we can adjust or modify the body by changing the food we consume. All functions in the body are controlled by three managers (Tridosha) who also dictate how our body assimilates nutrients and evacuates waste in the digestive system. The digestion of nutrients is carried out by Agni which is controlled by the three Dosha. Hence, all dietary advice in Ayurveda is given according to how these three Dosha (managers) function, because they control Agni. If they do their work correctly we stay healthy, if they fail to function correctly we build up non-digested food (Ama) in the body and this gives rise to disease. In general, Ayurveda says seventy-five percent of disease is due to Ama accumulation in the body.

On this website we suggest that you take the test from the home page. This will give two sets of results, one long-term Prakriti result and one short-term Vikriti result. The protocol in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce or remove the short-term Vikriti issues that affect the body and mind. They could the same, or they could be different from the long-term Prakriti results. We suggest that you follow the protocols of Ayurveda and choose a diet and lifestyle that reduces the highest scoring Dosha on the short-term Vikriti test. This should be followed until it either disappears or becomes a non-issue. When this happens follow the diet and lifestyle for the long-term Prakriti results.

If you feel that you want to invest time and energy to speed the results up you may want to consider using a Detoxifying Diet that is explained in this section. This diet removes Ama, or non-digested food matter, from the body. There are restrictions on using it, which are explained and should be followed to prevent reactions. Changing diets and lifestyles should usually be done slowly so as to avoid shocking the body or the psychology.

When using this website it is important to understand that the results of the test taking from the Home page will give you the correct indications on what diet, lifestyle and herbal blends to take. Obviously, being honest is critical for this website to offer the correct advice as per the Ayurvedic health care system. This website does not keep records of any kind – your test results are deleted when you leave the webpage, or the website. Therefore, we strongly suggest re-taking the test every month to note differences; you can save each test results for your own records.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This website presents the point of view of traditional Ayurveda and may not be adapted to you or your health situation. Consult your primary health care provider if unsure.