Ayurveda: A Spiritual Take on Medicine





To kick off our time in beautiful Palampur in the state of Himachal Pradesh, we got to learn about the basic concepts of Ayurveda and how certain aspects of it are used to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases! We stayed at a treatment center called Kayakalp for ten days to become completely immersed into what kind of regimen patients (or so called “health-care seekers”) go through during their time there. Depending on their condition (which is commonly either obesity, back pain, or arthritis based off of the clientele), they are referred to either Naturopathic or Ayurvedic treatments. We got to get the full experience by getting fully implemented into the general Kayakalp schedule which consisted of earlyyy morning yoga, eating the completely organic food (which could have been mistaken as prison food by some), treatment demonstrations, and afternoon meditation. I won’t lie, we all were a little taken aback by the very guarded nature of the treatment center. Although we weren’t “healthcare seekers” ourselves (one of my peers referred to us as more of healthcare knowledge seekers), we did have to be respectful to the strict guidelines the treatment center had, which is definitely the most restricted we felt the whole trip thus far. I think our eagerness to learn more about Ayurveda helped us put aside our mild discomfort with our living quarters, which, when put in perspective, weren’t really that bad! We were hit with another curveball when we met the Ayurvedic practitioner that would be teaching us about the principles of Ayurveda (to protect his identity I will be referring to him as Dr. A). He wasn’t like any of our other professors and we couldn’t really place him the first day. Heck, we couldn’t even place him the second day. At first, I was very taken aback by his tone of voice and how he spoke to us. I felt very belittled by him and at times it seemed like he wasn’t open to our perspectives if they objected his own (which about 90% of the time…they did). Throughout his four days of lecture, we got to learn about the five elements (earth, fire, water, air, and space) and how their sequence of space > air > fire > water > earth is important into how our body functions and flows. Dr. A kept emphasizing how these five elements are in anything and everything! I was a little puzzled at first because I thought, “How can fire possibly be inside of me?!” I then came to the realization that it’s not in a literal sense. It’s more-so that these elements are classified in what properties they hold opposed to what they actually are. For instance, air is movement, fire is heat, water is fluidity, and earth is solidity. When you think about it in this way, it makes complete sense that our bodies consist of all of these elements just by the way it processes and functions. These elements then make up the three Doshas and the three Doshas are also within everything as well! You keeping up? The Doshas are classified based off of their prominent element (see below):

Dosha Prominent Element

Vata Air

Kapha Water

Pitta Fire

The Doshas are the biological forces within us and are used to explain why our body metabolizes a certain way and formulates diseases. Imbalances of the Doshas is what provides the precedence for diseases or conditions that one may have, which is a similar concept that all the practices we have learned so far have indoctrinated (it’s all about BALANCE!!). All of the Doshas and all of the elements play into the seven metabolic factors (the Dhatus) of our body:

Dhatu English Meaning

Rasa Plasma

Rakta Blood

Mansa Muscle

Meda Fat

Asthi Bone

Majja Bone Marrow

Shukra Sperm or ova

Going into this session, I assumed we were going to talk about how the body systems work to do certain functions. In some part we did talk about this, but opposes to the metabolic factors being systems/processes, they are actually constituents of our body. We got to learn how each of these factors “feed” one another. For example, the food we eat fuels the plasma, which then fuels the blood then the muscle and so on. There is a specific sequence and process just like the flow of the elements and our bodily processes.

The last and perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ayurveda we learned tied basically everything we learned prior together. These are the Prakritis, or what I like to call “the Indian Enneagrams”. Prakritis are the Ayurvedic perspective on behavior and how it is defined, identified, and characterized. Each Prakriti is categorized by its most prominent Dosha(s). The compositions of the prominent Doshas can then explain why a person or thing of that Prakriti behaves and appears the way they do. For instance, a Kapha Dosha has an oily/sticky property, therefore, socially, a Kapha person will be “sticky” to their friends, or in other words, have long-lasting friends.

Like I mentioned before, the imbalance of Doshas are used to often treat patients in Ayurveda. We got to see this is in action when we got to watch some treatment s done! For instance, for the Sherodhara procedure (which is a treatment done in which warm oil is trickled onto the forehead to help with stress, insomnia, hyperactivity, and anxiety), the doctor mentioned to us that the use of herbs to make the oil depends on the aggravation of the oil. For example, if there is excess Pitta in the body, butter milk is used, but if there is excess Kapha, milk and a mix of 3 herbs is used. It was interesting to see that the Doshas are accounted for in every treatment and diagnosis in Ayurveda, which really signified what we learned in class for me.

Although it took me a little while to warm up to Dr. A and his very outlandish perspectives at time, I learned to be able to be open to his views. I didn’t always necessarily accept them or agree with them, but by the end of the week, I was definitely more eager to hear his perspective on certain topics opposed to being repulsed by them. I may not agree with him on his view on how we shouldn’t put anything on our skin that we wouldn’t eat or that leg fidgeting is just purely out of anxiety and not hyperactivity, I found a way to respect his views and understand why he believes what he believes. I ended up coming out of the week not only being grateful for all the knowledge I gained on Ayurveda, but also for being challenged in my own beliefs and perspectives and being introduced to a whole new way that the world is seen.

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