Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words: Ayu, which means life and Veda, which means the knowledge of. To know Ayurveda is to know about life. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, "Ayu" is comprised of four essential parts: mind, body, the senses and the soul.
Ayurveda is considered to be the oldest healing science. Rooted in the ancient Indian body of knowledge known as the Vedas, Ayurveda dates back to about 1500 BC.
Ayurvedic medicine is holistic, meaning it is based on the intrinsic law of nature that states that whole person is made up of many interdependent parts and that when one part of the body is malfunctioning, it disrupts all other parts of that person. Therefore, by concentrating on the source of imbalance, Ayurveda uses natural treatments to eliminate the root cause and promote the person's immunity. Ayurveda not only treats physical complaints, but it also changes lifestyle practices to help maintain or improve health, wellness, beauty and optimal living.
The eight branches of Ayurveda are:
- Internal medicine - Kayachikitsa
- Surgery - Shalya Tantra
- Ears, eyes, nose and throat - Shalakya tantra
- Pediatrics - Kaumarabhritya Tantra
- Toxicology - Agada Tantra
- Purification of the genetic organs - Bajikarana (or Vajikarana) Tantra
- Health and Longevity - Rasayana Tantra
- Spiritual Healing/Psychiatry - Bhuta Vidya
Ayurveda states that everybody and everything is composed of five fundamental elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Each of us is born with all five present. However every person has within them a unique proportion that determines our individual skin type, inherent physical traits, characteristics, behaviors and even our thought tendencies. The secret of absolute beauty is to live in harmony with nature's design of us as expressed by our personal mix of elements—that is our constitution.
The elements—space, air, fire, water, and earth—give rise to three biological forces, called Doshas. These Doshas are Vata (space & air), Pitta (fire & water), and Kapha (water & earth).
Perhaps the most important lesson Ayurveda has to teach, is that our health is up to us. Every day of our lives, every hour of every day, is an opportunity to make great choices towards our health. When we choose wisely, nature rewards us. Knowing what is good and what is not so good for your personal self will only empower you along life's journey.