TRADITIONAL & MODERN AYURVEDA
Traditional Ayurveda treats the mind and body complexes, noting variations of disease imbalances, as also considerations of age, sex, climate, job etc. and their actions on our biological makeup.
It is common today when people hear “Ayurveda”, that it connotes spiritual, yogic, diet and lifestyle concerns. However, often it has been reduced to a few mere Spa Therapies.
Ayurveda is the ancient medical system of India and the system of healing behind Yoga. Just as Yoga has been reduced to a few exercises (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayamas), so also Ayurveda is largely popularised by it’s massage therapies and spa therapies over others.
Many also do not realise in the West that Traditional Ayurveda is not what is taught in the BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) curriculum in India. Even it’s Yogic approach is not based on Ayurveda, but follows a largely generic and allopathic model for application of asana-therapy or Yogic postures for healing. Traditional Yoga and Ayurveda however disagree with this.
By contrast, many people practising 'Ayurveda' have little knowledge about it, and assess peole only at the level pf Prakriti (Physical Constitution) alone, not addressing the levels of the mind (Manas) and also Disease (Vikriti). Sex, Climate, Age and Seasons also play roles here, and cannot all be determined by a single factor alone - as the body's imbalances change and are different to our permanant nature or constitution (Prakriti).
Many self-professed "Panchakarma therapists" are also not properly trained in either herbology, counselling or diagnosis, and thus they create a generic model that has become a "Spa Panchakarma", but passing off their knowledge as clinical, when it is at the level of therapists alone!
In New Zealand, this is especially true, since Yoga has only recently become a fad, and Ayurveda is slowly gaining popularity. Yet, people are not often exposed to the greater science of Traditional Ayurveda.
Special herbs, diets, massage oils and massage therapies in Ayurveda are very helpful for Yoga practise, as also specific meditations, mantras or chants and even deities for example.
This is because classical Yogis and Vedic Rishis or Seers behind the Yoga traditions were not only masters of postures, but also Astrologers, Spiritual Guides and Vaidyas (Ayurvedic Doctors). Many had a deep knowledge of Ayurvedic alchemy (rasa shastra).
Traditional Ayurveda, like Traditional Yoga, focuses on the individual, and individualised dietary, herbal and most importantly, personalised lifestyle regimes, which include personalised marma or pressure-point therapies, aroma therapy, sound therapy, colour therapy, yoga postures, breathing techniques, hand-symbols (mudras) and even specific application of mantras. It also brings in the science of Vedic or Hindu Astrology (Jyotish), especially for karmic implications behind diseases, their timing and also psychological disorders.
Astrology and Yoga traditionally form aspects of Ayurvedic Psychology (Bhutavidya). It assesses the influences of planets upon the mind-body complex, relative to birth charts, planetary transits and cycles, and prescribes even spiritual therapies such as fasting, charity, prayer, rituals, mantras, wearing of special gemstones and amulets etc.
Healing of the astral sheaths (koshas) and recognising their place in causing various diseases and dealing with them through various spiritual methods, including Pranic healing are also a part of Ayurveda that we often hardly find today – or if we do, in it’s much reduced or New Age form, which often does not compliment the greater tradition and great body of wisdom and healing it stems from!
Ayurveda also hence has a spiritual concern, and focuses upon the Vedantic view in Hinduism that we are not the body, but rather the Soul-Self, beyond the mind-body complex. By living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, we begin to recognise that the body is composed of elements alone, and also how to work with our own unique formation (prakriti, nature or constitution), and disease imbalances. These require also opening up to and working with the energies of nature on a deeper level.
Ayurveda also has a special system of detoxification – Panchakarma, meaning “Five Actions”. These are Nasal therapies (nasya); Therapeutic vomiting (vamana); Purgation therapy (virechana); Medicated enema therapy (basti) and blood-letting (rakta moksha).
Various massage therapies and other therapies are also involved, aim at various disorders such as psychological and neurological disorders, rheumatoid issues, broken joints amongst others. There are hundreds of specific medicated oils for various diseases in Ayurveda, just as there are various medicated butters (ghritas), powders (churnas), tablets (gudika), fermented preparations (asavas, arishtas), medicated decoctions (kashayas) alchemical powders (bhasmas) etc.
It is important to know of these, since there are very effective and themselves have specific properties, not only as per different constitutional types but also disease categories in Ayurveda also.
I myself am a certified Yoga and Ayurveda Teacher, Ayurvedic Astrologer, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Vedic Teacher, trained in all aspects of Ayurveda, including the Kerala system (Ashtavaidya) of Ayurvedic Pharmacy and Panchakarma therapies, and hence bring in a more traditional Integral Ayurveda, as opposed to what many are doing in the West today – often a quick session taking the pulse and giving a few herbs.
But, that is largely an allopathic approach, just as receiving some mild Ayurvedic massages and therapies (Spa Ayurveda, but passed off by many as "Panchakarma") is alone palliative (shamana) at best, and can aggravate doshas or biological humors if not properly dealt with by proper examination and state of the client (which requires elimination of their excesses) and proper purification (shodhana, the true Panchakarma of Five actions: Blood letting; Enema therapy; Purgation, Nasal and Emesis).
Many psychological disorders such as Stress and Anxiety for example, common in the West can be helped by specific (not generic) application of special mantras according to Ayurveda, as well as Yogic practices apart from the typical breathing and posture techniques (which can be integrated), as well as Panchakarma therapies, herbs and diets.
Seasonal changes, climates, age and sex amongst other factors also play important roles in diseases and imbalances.
Above all however, Vedic Astrology and it’s importance in Ayurveda, like Yoga here is important, especially assessing the spiritual karmic nature behind such imbalances. Leucoderma and other skin conditions in Ayurveda for example often are a result of not honouring properly one’s mentor or elders in previous lives, amongst other issues.
Vedic Astrology gives us special practices by which we can strengthen weak planets and propitiate harmful ones, as also specific herbal formulas and foods to correlate with them, as well as more spiritual therapies and remedies mentioned before.
This hence brings in a more Traditional Ayurveda, and is what we wish to promote for people in the Western world, especially here in New Zealand, where Ayurveda is relatively new, and often misunderstood in its complete and Traditional system of healing!
-Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham
R.A.P (Registered Ayurvedic Practitioner, AAPNA)
Yoga & Ayurveda Teacher
Arogya Ayurvedic Health Ltd