A Brief Introduction to Ayurveda and it's History.


Ayurveda is something that we should all incorporate into our everyday lives. It is one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems and comes from India. The wonderful thing about Ayurveda is that it is so beautifully logical, once you get the hang of it, it's easy to integrate into you'r every day life.


What does the word Ayurveda mean?

Ayurveda literally translates to knowledge or science of life

Ayu = life

Veda = Knowledge or Science


History of Ayurveda

Where does all of this knowledge come from? If you practice yoga you may have heard of the "Vedas" or "Upanishads", but here is a little summary of the historic texts.


Vedas

As we've already mentioned, the word Veda means science or knowledge. There are 4 Vedas that are considered the cultural encyclopedia of India.

  • Rig Veda - Verses/Mantras

  • Saam Veda - Music/Rhythm

  • Yajur Veda - Sacrifice

  • Atharva Veda - Plants and Medicinal

The Atharva Veda is the mother of Ayurveda.

The Vedas are incredibly scholarly works, it is said that it will take more than a lifetime to fully understand the Vedas. To make this information more accessible, the Upanishads was written.


Upanishads

The Upanishads is a commentary on the Vedas. It is made up of 108 and verses that are short and simple, to make it easy for students to memorise. The word Upanishads, literally translates to "sitting near too" as in when students were sat near and listening to their teachers talk about the Vedas. Even though this was a simplified version, it was still considered to be quite scholarly, so these verses we made into stories, the Puranas.


Puranas

There are 18 puranas in total, puranas are ancient stories, they contain the same truth as the Upanishads but are put into stories to make them easier to understand. The last purana contains one story you might well be aware of, the Bhagavad Gita.


Brihat Trai

Brihat = Major, Trai = Three, these are the three major Ayurvedic texts.


The knowledge of Ayurveda was passed from Brahma -to- Daksha -to- Ashwiki Kumara (the first ever physician) - Indra (King of the Devas).


When humans began to settle into towns and villages, they began to get disease and illnesses this led to people wanting to seek out a way to have a healthy life, civilisations sent people to find Indra and the Devas, as it was known that they were healthy and they wanted to discover their way of life. Two books were created from this:


Charaka Samhita

Samhita = Summary, Charaka is the author. Written roughly 3,000 years ago in Western India in what is now known as Punjab. Charaka is attributed with being the Father of Ayurvedic Medicine.

As the story goes, Bhardvaj was a soldier that volunteered himself to seek out Indra to find the information, he brought back the information to Atreya who had 6 students which he passed this information too. Agnivesh was the most promising of these students and wrote the most successful compilation, this was then edited and compiled by Charaka into Charaka Samhita.


Susruta Samhita

Written roughly 3,500 years ago in Eastern India. Susruta is attributed with being the Father of Ayurvedic Surgery. Susruta was the first to ever perform a skin graft and to create a treatment for fistula that is still used, even within Western medicine to this day.

In this instance a King, King Dharanwantri went to seek out Indra when he saw his people falling ill. This information was then given to Susruta who wrote Susruta Samhita.


Ashtanga Hrudyam

This book was written by Vagbhatta and is a compilation of Sustruta and Charaka's books, into more of a "hadnbook" written about 1,500 years ago. As we know, Ashtanga means 8 limbs, the book is broken down into 8 different parts, which you might find familiar:

  1. Kaya chikitsa - Internal Medicine

  2. Bala Roga - Paediatrics

  3. Graha Chikitsa - Invisible Illnesses = Psychological illnesses and virsuses and bacteria, (there were no microscopes!)

  4. Shalakaya Tantra - ENT (ear nose and throat)

  5. Shalya Tantra - Surgery

  6. Agad Tantra - Toxicology

  7. Rasayana Chikitsa - Geriatrics

  8. Vajikarna - Sexual Health

My teacher said this beautiful phrase about this book, that his Grandfather said to him: it should go from your hand (always with you) to your throat (you can recite it) to your heart (it is a part of you).


Different Aspects of Life

Within Ayurveda there are 4 different aspects of life, these are:

  • Physical

  • Good food, water, sleep and exercise

  • Mental

  • Thoughts and mind

  • Social

  • Your relationships with other humans and trust

  • Spiritual

  • Knowing yourself, the study of yourself

Unlike western medicine, which is primarily focused on physical health, Ayurveda is the science that deals with all four of these aspects, all 4 aspects of life need to be balanced in order to achieve true health.


I hope you have found this information useful! Coming up over the next few weeks I will introduce you to the part of Ayurveda that everyone is interested in, the Doshas!


If you would like to discuss more about Ayurveda and Yogic Philosophy, Chelsea holds a weekly Yoga philosophy class with Wildflower Yoga Therapy at 6:15 pm every Monday.


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