The definition of ‘Ayurveda’ in simple terms means “the science of life”. Ayurveda represents a system of healing that has been perfected over more than five thousand years. It is famed as South Asia’s ancient health care system based on herbs and diet. Ayurveda sees health and disease in holistic terms. It takes into account the relationship between energy and matter. This system of healing believes in treatment of not just the part affected by disease but the individual as a whole. It emphasizes on the harmony of mind, body and spirit to cure diseases. Moreover, the stress is on prevention rather than cure.
Since ancient times, man has been engaged in the pursuit of achieving and maintaining an optimum state of health. Way back in 600 BC, Ayurveda emerged in South Asia as the natural way of healing. Today, Ayurveda has evolved into a scientific system of holistic healing that has gained recognition across the globe.
Ayurveda in Sri Lanka
“Ayurveda” is not only a form of medication – it is a complete way of life known to generations of Sri Lankans for over 3000 years. It is a gentle method of treating the root causes of illness in both mind and body.
The health conscious today are searching for effective alternatives to the spiraling costs and side effects that at times result from the use of modern medicine. Sri Lankans, in the last couple of millennia has made use of the “user-friendly and traditional medicine – Ayurveda” which over 75% of the island’s population depend on because of its reliance on natural plants, herbs and oils. Known as nature’s way to good health, the efficacy of “Ayurveda” has been proved by 3,000 years of successful caring and curing.
What is Ayurveda? It is an ancient system of medicine developed in our part of the world, long before the “father of medicine”, Hippocrates, was even born. The name comes from two conjoined Sanskrit words “Ayuh” (life) and “Veda” (science or knowledge). It’s basically a science of healthy living. Ayurveda has two aims – to preserve health and to cure a bodily afflicted disease.
One of the fundamental beliefs of Ayurveda is the doctrine of “Tri Dosha” or the Three Vital Forces – Vayu, Pita and Kapha. Generally translated into Wind, Bile and Phlegm, a more accurate interpretation of Vayu is the transmission of energy within the body; in modern medical terms, nerve impulses, muscle contraction and hormonal activity.
Pita may not be confined to bile but signifies the whole scope of metabolism and internal heat production while Kapha means mucus, often described as “The Protective Fluid”. The modern concept of mucus as an antibody containing liquid which coats and protects internal linings of the body, seems to fit in with Ayurvedic thinking. When the three, “Doshas” are balanced, the body is in good health. When this equilibrium is disturbed and the balance of these complementary forces become unbalanced and upset, illness takes over.
Ayurvedic practitioners study the patient as a whole with the object of restoring balance, getting to the root of the problem and treating it. Local folk have been known to say that while western medicine classifieds germs and attempts to destroy them, Ayurveda classifies human beings and attempts to save them.
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Ayurveda embrace all living things, animate and inanimate. It is divided into three main branches : Nara Ayurveda dealing with human life, Satva Ayurveda dealing with animal life and its diseases,Vriksha Ayurveda the science dealing with plant life its growth and diseases. When one goes deep into the science of Ayurveda, it is clear that this is not only a system of medicine but a way of living for complete positive health and spiritual attainment.
Ayurveda believes that the highest wealth one receives is health. Righteous Life (Dharma), Wealth (Artha), Fulfillment of Desires (Kama) and Attainment of Salvation (Moksha), all these four factors depend on a healthy life. Swasthya (Health) is defined as (a) Dosha Dhatu Samya (well balanced metabolism) and (b) Prasanna Atma, Indriya, Manah (a happy state of the being, senses and mind). The five organs of perception Gana Indriya (smell, taste, sight, touch, and hearing) while the organs of action Karma Indriya namely mouth, hands and feet, organs of excretion and reproduction. The origin of Ayurveda dates back to the Vedic Era. Some historians say that Ayurveda is a part of Atharva Veda. In Athavaveda too there are hymns which mention medicine for various diseases. Medicines like Accorus calamus, Phylanthantus embolic are mentioned. The systematized form of Ayurveda dates back to the Rishi conference which was held in the place called Chityarata in the foot hills of Mount Himalaya. The great book on Ayurveda Characa Samhita gives a detail description of the Rishi conference.
Rishis are enlightened and refined persons who are absolutely free from the predominance of Rajas and Tama by virtue of the power of penance and knowledge and who are always in possession of an uninterrupted knowledge pertaining to past, present and future known as authorities (Aptaos). They are also known as gentleman (Sista) and enlightened (Vibudha) persons and their words are considered free beyond any doubt. When diseases were more prevalent these learned scientists of India and neighboring countries like Sri Lanka and of Greater India were consulted. A list of the names of scientists who attended the conference is also given in Charaka Samhita. At this conference all the scattered knowledge was collected and 8 schools of thoughts were originated. The main are the school of internal medicine, school of surgery and school of pediatrics. Agniveshas book on internal medicine became the authoritative text. Today it is known as ‘Characa Samhita’.
Susruta’s book on surgery became the authoritative text of that subject. Kashyapa’s book on paediatrics became the standard book of the subject. There were books written on other subjects like toxicology, ENT diseases etc; but they were lost and are unable to locate to this day. Nevertheless certain portions of some of these books are found. The knowledge of Ayurveda is believed to be of Divine origin and was communicated to the saints and sages of India who received its wisdom through deep meditation. Originally only Brahmins were considered as physicians. But later people from other castes also learned this art of healing and a specific term Vaidya was used for these practitioners. The state of the art of ancient healing was enhanced by the myths and legends of the God of healing, Divodosa Dhanvantari.
It is believed that Dhanvanatri, who later wrote down the text of Ayurveda, taught the science of medicine to the sages. According to another legend, the knowledge of healing originated from Brahma who taught it to Daksha, who further taught Indra. When diseases and death started creating havoc, all great sages gathered in order to find solution to this havoc-creating problem. During this meeting sage Bharadvaja came forward to learn this art of healing from Indra. He then taught this science to Atreya- who further transmitted this knowledge throughout the world. Later Agnivesh who was foremost among the disciples of Atreya wrote Agnivesha Samhita- the most comprehensive form of Ayurveda. The oldest compilations of Atreya and Agnivesha are lost. There are three main re-organizers of Ayurveda whose works still exist and are in use. These works were compiled in texts of Charaka, Sushruta and Vaghbata Samhita.
Ayurveda Body Massage
This is the application of oil on the body with the help of palms. The abhyanga (Massage) is used for relaxation, as well as giving tone to the muscles and promoting blood circulation. The regular application of oil gives longevity, strengthens the muscles and relieves fatigue. It also treats diseases of the nervous system (Vata Roga). The selection of the type of oil depends on the diagnosis of the physician and the duration of the treatment is usually for 30-40 minutes.
Ayurveda Head Oil Application
This is the application of oil and massaging with the help of hands. Different types of oils are used according to the guest’s condition and any ailments if present. It improves the blood circulation and prevents and cures headache and migraine. It also prevents and cures hair loss, baldness and premature graying of hair and helps hair growth. It promotes eye sight and clears the complexion of the face. It helps the individual to sleep and is good for stress and mental diseases. It is also good for conditions such as facial paralysis and hemiplegia (paralysis).
Ayurveda Facial Treatment
Herbal pastes and steam are used to smooth out wrinkles and clear the skin.
Ayurveda Herbal Bath
Herbal leaves and roots are boiled and the water is poured on the patients. Different types of herbal water is used according to any prevalent ailment and the condition of the patient.
Ayurveda Herbal Steam Bath
Herbal leaves and roots are boiled and the steam passed through the body for a prescribed period of time. Indications – obesity, joint pains.
Ayurveda Nasal Treatment
Medicated oils, herbal juices, powders etc. are administered through the nose tract. This treatment is very effective for chronic sinusitis, chronic headache, migraine, facial paralysis, nasal congestion, cataract and diseases of eye, nose, ear, mouth and head.
Ayurveda Arm Massage
Headaches, neck pain, aching shoulders or tired hands can all be caused by tension in the arms. Massaging the arms helps the arms and shoulders to relax, and can alleviate many of these problems.
Ayurveda Leg Massage
By stimulating the circulation, massaging brings blood and nutrients to the legs and helps to prevent varicose veins. Gentle stroking up the legs towards the lymph nodes can help to reduce puffiness or swelling in the lower legs. Help to reduce accumulation of cellulite, dry skin and flabby thighs.
Ayurveda Neck & Shoulder Massage
Special herbal oil is applied to the neck and the shoulder to release muscular spasms, rheumatic pain and stress related conditions as the neck and the shoulder area is so often stiff and tense. This is due to the neck muscles having to continuously support the head and also many people habitually hunch their shoulders, making the muscles at the sides of the neck very tense.
Ayurveda Foot Massage
During a foot massage, special attention is focused on the tender spots. This massage produces a reflect effect on the internal organs as well as creating a combined soothing and invigorating effect. Massage of the feet prevents and cures dryness, numbness, roughness, fatigue, and cracking of the heels. It strengthens walking and running.
Meditation in Sri Lanka
Meditation involves the exercise of psychological discipline in order to transcend from the automatic, “thinking” mind into a deeper state of relaxation or consciousness, which entails focusing on one single point of reference.
Meditation can help you to lead a more productive, satisfying, healthy and comfortable life. Scientific studies reveal that relaxation, concentration and maintenance of a self-observing attitude help alter metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry. The wisdom that develops through meditation brings a happiness that surpasses all others. Through meditation your life will become more meaningful and harmonious. Your mental condition can be developed. Students can improve their memory and will be able to do their studies well. Many patients suffering from stress and pain have turned to meditation to obtain relief. Physical and mental conditions can be transformed with a more peaceful mind; you will be able to have a very restful sleep.
Meditation is a recognized component of many religions, and has been practiced for centuries. Varied meditative disciplines include a wide range of spiritual and psychophysical practices that emphasize different goals such as increasing focus, creativity or self-awareness, relaxation and tranquility.
In Sri Lanka meditation is popular, particularly amongst the Buddhist devotees. Buddhist meditation aids in transforming the mind. The country has many meditation centers located in various parts. The 2 main forms of meditation practiced at the centers are Theravada Buddhism, which emphasises the meditative development of mindfulness and concentration, and the Vipassana style of meditation, which concentrates on the rising and falling breath and then on some simple symbol, body part or concept.
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