Over the past several decades, the idea of complimentary medicine has taken root in the west, increasing awareness of many medical traditions. While these were viewed as alternatives to mainstream practice, it’s now clear they have their place in health care and contribute to our collective understanding of health and disease. The insights from these traditions are being integrated into a more holistic form of healing. These therapeutic modalities benefit both practitioners and patients alike.
Ayurveda, also known as the “science of life”, existed 5000 years ago, and is considered by scholars and historians as the oldest living system of medicine and health care in the world. It’s eight principle branches are:
The focus of Ayurveda has alway been on creating balance and a healthy mind, body and spirit. A life lived with vitality, expanded awareness and in harmonious relationship with the environment, the laws of nature and the cosmos. It has much to offer, as it is a viable option along side modern medicine.
This state of optimal health can be achieved through the teachings and practices of Ayurveda. These include:
They are tailored for maximum benefit according to a person’s prakruti, individual constitution. It is perhaps the greatest contribution of Ayurveda. A person’s constitution is comprise of a combination of doshas specific to the individual. The doshas are vata (earth), pitta (fire) and kapha (water). Balancing out these energies is the basic principle behind what Ayurveda is all about.
Though Ayurveda’s sophisticated analysis and in depth insight regarding individual constitutions is without parallel in the world of medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has strikingly common traditions. Both these ancient eastern healing traditions derive from an understanding that we are all connected to the universe and that our well being is inherently related to living in harmony with nature. Both systems view the individual as energetically connected with the mind, body and spirit.
Within these modalities, there are layers of the body containing life energy called prana in Ayurveda and qi or chi in TCM. The body is seen as a network of energy pathways rather than a collection of limbs, organs and physical systems. A balanced flow of this energy brings health and vitality and blocked flow a stagnant energy bringing sluggishness, mental dullness and disease. Both Ayurveda and TCM aim to keep the channels of energy open and flowing and great way of balancing out these energies is by the use of energy points called marmani or marma points. This energy point system has not yet shared in the popular acclaim that acupuncture has with TCM, however.
No system is complete in itself as every medical system has its limitation. Modern medicine has made miraculous strides and it is important to know that both systems have their place. The ideal model will integrate the modern medical approach with ancient wisdom so that both strengths are combined to provide the best care possible to all patients.