Ayurveda is a system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. Globalized and modernized practices derived from Ayurveda traditions are a type of complementary or alternative medicine.
In countries beyond India, Ayurveda therapies and practices have been integrated with general wellness applications and in some cases in medical use.1
READ MORE: What’s An Ayurvedic Practitioner?
Ayurveda Pronunciation: Sanskrit + Meaning
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word composed of two words joined together. Ayuh means life or longevity and veda means science or knowledge. The word ayuh + veda means the science of life.
In Sanskrit, the concept of sandhi tells us that when certain sounds come in contact with each other they must shift to blend in a harmonious way. When the ‘h’ in āyuh meets with the ‘v’ in veda, the ‘h’ shifts to become an ‘r’ and changes the first part āyuh to āyur. The soft letter ‘r’ then invites the soft letter ‘v’ in veda to connect and now the word is more easily pronounced. Properly said the word is āyurveda.
Pronunciation Guidelines: Accent the first long ā and pronounce the ‘r’ after the ‘u’ then accent the ‘e’: Āyur – Veda, Āyurveda.
Ayurveda Definition According To The Ancient Texts
The Charaka Samhita is an ancient Ayurvedic text that expounds the science of Ayurveda in detail. The author Charaka explains Ayurveda as follows.
Ayurveda explains that which is wholesome and unwholesome, and that which produces happiness and unhappiness. It also explains what is conducive and non-conducive for life and the measurement of life.
The ancient author Sushruta in his ancient text, the Susruta Samhita, defined Ayurveda as follows.
Ayurveda is that in which explains the knowledge of life. Ayurveda can be defined as the science which gives the knowledge of attaining a long and healthy life.
The term ayu refers to the combination of the shareera (body), indriya (senses), sattva (mind) and atma (soul). When the body is intact with the sense organs, mind and soul, there is life, or ayu.
The synonyms of ayu are as follows.
- Dhari: prevents the body from decay
- Jivita: supports life activities
- Nityaga: keeps the soul and mind intact with the body without discontinuation
- Anubandha: the outcome of the association of sariradi factors resulting in conducive and non-conducive life.
Nityaga and anubandha are not directly the synonyms of ayu. They indicate the bondage between sharira, indriya, satva atma.
As stated previously, the term Ayurveda comprises two words – ayu (life) and veda (knowledge). Ayurveda deals with many aspects of health and wellbeing in their diverse aspects including a happy life, sustainable happiness, and longevity.4
Ayurveda is beneficial to mankind both in this lifetime and beyond. One who knows the science is most auspicious. It is beneficial to humans and the entire creation.43,5
READ MORE: 50 Health Conditions Ayurveda Can Help With
Contemporary Ayurveda has been standardized and institutionalized in education, clinical approaches, pharmacopeia, and product manufacturing beginning in the late nineteenth century.
In the post-independence period in India, Ayurveda has been recognized as a formal healthcare system.
Advancement in medical science led to the discovery of many therapies and treatments which to a large extent have relieved many human problems.
Ayurveda, the ancient system of Indian traditional medicine, is widely recognized as a system of comprehensive health care offering a wide variety of natural medicine and therapies.
But the obvious question arises, how relevant or effective is this ancient system of health care when fast developing technology has drastically altered our lifestyles, environments as well as our medicine?
Ayurveda not only deals with the cure of some diseases but provides a complete way of life for the prevention of various diseases.
Ayurveda provides holistic methods for combating physical as well as mental illnesses. Ayurveda utilizes medicines prepared from natural herbs, promotes behavioral changes and a nutritious diet so that problems related to mind and body can be resolved.
Ayurveda emphasizes healthy habits called dinacharya. They include getting up early in the morning, having sufficient sleep, proper detoxification practices, body massage, regular physical exercises, yoga, meditation, good clothing habits, a balanced diet, adequate drinking of fluids, avoiding stress, anxiety or anger and maintaining a healthy social and personal life.
A key concept of Ayurvedic medicine includes universal interconnectedness among people, their health and the universe. The body’s constitution (prakriti) and principles of disequilibrium (dosha) are also important.
Using these concepts, Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe individualized treatments, including compounds of herbs or proprietary ingredients and diet, exercise and lifestyle recommendations.
The majority of India’s population uses Ayurvedic medicine exclusively or combined with conventional Western medicine. It’s also practiced in varying forms in Southeast Asia.
Ayurveda is concerned with re-establishing equilibrium, living a lifestyle in harmony with nature and one’s body type, and stilling the mind. Yoga, breathing and meditation along with proper diet, exercise, and herbal support, as needed, can set the ground for optimal health.
Ayurveda’s Sophisticated Detoxification Programs
Ayurveda believes that healing starts from within.
The idea of giving an herb to sedate you for insomnia, or a laxative to relieve constipation, is contrary to the Ayurvedic philosophy.
Ayurveda attributes 80% of all disease to imbalances of the digestive system and, therefore, much attention is given to its maintenance.
In Ayurveda, as the digestive system is also our detoxification system. When your digestion breaks down, so does your ability to detox.
Five thousand years ago, the environment was clean, and food and living was non-toxic, unlike today. The great Ayurvedic experts thought it important, even then, to design one of the most sophisticated detoxification programs in the world. Ayurvedic detoxification is called Panchakarma.
Today, with digestion-compromising stress and environmental toxicity at an all-time high, resetting digestive strength and regular detoxification is more important than ever.
This more than 5000 old system of medicine is still one of the largest systems of medicine on earth. Perhaps the reason for Ayurveda’s unrivaled longevity is its basis in truth.
Ayurvedic principles have been time-tested for thousands of years, and now it is supported by modern science. Ayurveda is still not only relevant but on the cutting edge, after all these years.
2. Charaka samhita sutra sthana, ch 1, pg,12]
3. Susruta Samhita, Sutra sthana, chapter 1, line 3.
4. Sharma PV, editor. Charaka Samhita. (Vol. 1). Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia; (2001). p. 5–9,190,228,375–6.] 5. Charaka Samhita, sutra sthana, chapter 1, verse 43, pg. 13