Blogs

Ayurvedic Nutrition Label

Western Nutrition label focuses on Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, number of calories etc.

Dr Monica Groover and a student who was a registered dietician thought of a fun way to actually explain Ayurvedic Ahara (nutrition) to students by asking them to illustrate what they thought an Ayurvedic Nutrition Label would look like.

Here is a great example by Surekha Koya, Block 2 counselor student.


Ayurvedic Myplate for Pitta

In our Block 1 (level 1) Tracks, we start out by introducing the concept of Prana. One of the most fun and interactive activities that students love is the comparison and creation of an Ayurvedic Myplate.

After going through the foundations of Mahabhutas, and, twenty gunas--as well as the six tastes(rasas)-we do this fun activity of taking the myplate.guv and trying to add some Ayurvedic element to it.

This is an example of a student Ayurvedic Myplate for a pitta predominant Vikrti (imbalance) with low tejas, who was a stretched thin.


Ayurvedic My Plate for Pitta:(Jenny Griffith)

The My Plate for Pitta should include food that is as local, and, fresh as possible. This means minimizing or eliminating processed foods, frozen foods, canned foods, and foods containing preservatives, salts, fermentation additives, alcohol and vinegar.

In addition, it includes minimizing the use of leftovers. Food should be organic and locally grown when possible as well.

Essentially, as my pitta is high, I need to minimize any rasa’s (tastes) that contain the fire element which is salty (fire and water), sour (fire and earth), and pungent (fire and air).

Salty items include seaweed, saltwater fish, celery, natural minerals, salted nuts and sea vegetables. Sour items include citrus, yogurt, and fermented items. Pungent items include peppers, alcohol, onions and garlic. These have their place in small amounts, when in balance, but should be minimized if pitta is to be balanced.

Items that need to contribute to the majority of the myplate for my pitta imbalance are items that are naturally whole and sweet which are whole grains, organic milk, and berries and fruits that are non acidic; bitter which are dark leafy greens and some herbs and spices; and astrigent which are legumes and some raw fruits/vegetables.

There is no set amount of calories on this my plate. It is most important to honor your body’s needs and eat when you are hungry and to separate time between meals so the food can digest. Since this is a pitta my plate, it is good to have a set schedule where meals will be consumed which honors the pitta dosha.

Organic, or, local-GMo or NON GMO--Ayurvedic Perspective



By Monica B Groover

Today we will talk about organic, local foods.

Ayurveda propogates fresh, local and Organic, plus, it should be compatible with the dosha, the season, the country and terrain we live in and our age and strength. Whew!

Its a long list. How can we hope to remember this.

Lets just focus on Prana in the Food.

Prana is the vitality of the food.

One of my students asked me recently, "My question pertains to fruit that is organic, from a local farm, picked at the height of ripeness, but then frozen (but without any additives or preservatives).

In the West, I have often heard that frozen fruits and vegetables can be more nutritious than fresh, because they are picked when they are ripe, and then flash frozen which retains most of the nutrients."


Image: Wikipedia. Creative Commons by Erdbeere_Senga_Sengana

My student asked this question after our class, in which we talk about frozen food being depleted of prana.

So, I answered leading with the Ayurvedic concept of Rasa. There are shad rasa or six tastes mentioned in Ayurvedic Texts. (Naturally sweet, sour, naturally salty, bitter, astringent and pungent--a topic for later study!)

How does a fresh fresh picked organic strawberry from a field--taste? It has the following rasas--sweet, astringent, a little sour--and it is juicy and full of PRANA and vitality.

Try to taste the same organic strawberry after freezing it for one month. You will notice that all the beautiful rasas or tastes have disappeared and there is practically no prana. (You can taste it!!)

How can a frozen strawberry have the same energetics as a frozen one? (Even if organic). Answer is no--it cant. If it is not how nature intended, and, it tastes different--how can prana be intact.

Take an example of a squirrel that died in winter--and it snowed.

The squirrel's body was perfectly preserved along with nutrients, proteins in the very cold snow for the entire winter. When the snow melted--squirrel was PRESERVED--but it was a DEAD BODY!!!!

Frozen, canned, tinned---is food that has died. It is dead. It has no prana from an Ayurvedic perpsective...yes, it has nutrients-some of it.

If something organic is frozen--yes the nutrients are preserved--but PRANA is not! However, when it is sun dried

Some of the prana is preserved--because seeds retain prana when dried. (Strawberry has seeds on the outside that will be preserve prana when sundried--but when frozen may not)

There are some seeds that will retain prana when frozen--but they are few and far in between.

It is always better to eat something local--even if not organic--then organic, frozen that has travelled from a long time.

However, we are bound by time, convenience, cost and availability depending on where we live.

1. Best foods that retain prana and therepeutic and healing to body and mind are

LOCAL, ORGANIC, NON GMO

2. Second best--foods that can be stored--in winter in very cold places.

Sundried organic foods, organic seeds, organic nuts, legumes. Whole grains (not ground into a flour) can stay for a longer time and will retain maximum prana.

3. Third best.

Better to eat fresh food, plants, veggies and fruits that are not organic, but LOCAL--compared to fresh food that is frozen and organic. Or, local dried fruits and vegetables--can be used in soups--if fresh vegetables not available.

4. Best choice

Mix and match--depending on your budget and availability.

More to come on...GMO FOODS and Ayurveda.

If you have any questions feel free to post it on our Facebook Page SDCOA

https://www.facebook.com/AyurvedaYogaTraining

Yoga and Ayurveda Compared

Yoga and Ayurveda Compared

Julie Neiman

(Track B- Level 1 Student)

Ayurveda is a holistic health modality which originated in Indian and has been practiced for thousands of years. The goal of Ayurveda is to maintain an optimal healthy balance in the mind and body, according to each individual’s unique constitution, or inherent nature. The word Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words: “Ayu” meaning “life” and “Veda” meaning “knowledge”.

I had my first experience with Ayurveda when I was in the middle of my 200 hour Yoga teacher training. It was October, and my studio was organizing a fall Ayurveda cleanse, which lasted for one week. It was at this time that my yoga practice changed dramatically. Yoga and Ayurveda are often referred to as “sister sciences” as their teachings go hand in hand, complementing one another. From my personal experience I will say that yoga introduced me to Ayurveda, and Ayurveda took my yoga practice to a completely new level.

Not surprisingly, there are many similarities between Ayurveda and Yoga, as the two are deeply rooted in various ancient Indian philosophies and texts, and are created from many of the same, or similar, concepts.

Yoga, like Ayurveda, is a way of life; both philosophies have the potential to become integrated into many aspects of the practitioner’s daily routine, as they focus on caring for the whole, multi-dimensional person. They both acknowledge the five sheaths of being, or the five koshas. It is understood that each of the five koshas (physical body, energetic body, mental body, intellectual body, and spiritual body) must be in balance for a person to be considered truly healthy. Caring for all sheaths of being means that instead of just focusing on the body, as we commonly do in Western culture, the mind and spirit must also be nurtured equally in order to achieve this optimal health and wellbeing.

Additionally, Ayurveda uses many concepts from the Yogic eight-limbed path (the guideline for Ashtanga Yoga, outlined in the Yoga Sutras) in order to balance the body and the mind. These concepts include: asana (physical practice), pranayama (breath work), pratyahara (sensory control), dharana (concentration), and dhyana (meditation). The Yogic yamas (external ethical disciplines) and niyamas (internal ethical observances) relate to the Ayurvedic concepts of Hit-ayu (righteous living), and karma, respectively. Furthermore, the ultimate goal of both philosophies is spiritual liberation, which is Moksa in Ayurveda, and Samadhi in Yoga.

Both Yoga and Ayurveda work to prevent disease and injury by creating an optimal, harmonious balance within the body. There are specific Yoga asanas, or poses, that help to balance the three Ayurvedic doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). Meanwhile, when the doshas are balanced, the practitioner is able to delve even deeper into their personal Yogic journey, as a body free of disease and imbalance is more receptive to a deeper spiritual experience.

The focus on achieving individual balance, rather than striving toward a specific, pre-defined outcome, means that both Yoga and Ayurveda are relevant to all people, and not just those with a certain body type or particular condition. Each practice encourages individuals to connect in with their own deeper self to identify what they truly need to heal and improve their own personal situation.

In summary, Yoga and Ayurveda are both ancient Indian philosophies of self-care, which focus on optimizing and maintaining total health on an individual level. Each philosophy is incredibly effective when practiced on its own, and even more astonishing when practiced together.

Let seasons help you detox!

Monica B Groover, Ph.D, AWP
Director- San Diego College of Ayurveda

Starting a DETOX program after New Years Day in the middle of the winter while your body is dormant, and, storing energy is a NON STARTER.

I always laugh at this--because the BEST TIME to melt that kapha and toxins is SPRING, and for Vata and Pitta is FALL.

How is the physical body going to detox or lose weight, or, let go of toxins. It is hanging on to everything and dormant--because we are the microcosm of macrocosm. (I explain it later)

Why not take the assistance of mother nature in detoxifying? If you are a Kapha, you can also begin an Ayurvedic detox in the early summer. However, I would say pittas should just restore themselves and take it easy.

Why do we want to take help of the seasons?

Ayurvedic practitioners like myself to say – we are the microcosm of the macrocosm. This is repeated in religious and spiritual texts throughout history. If we are the microcosm of the macrocosm, a small part of the bigger pictures, minute part of the bigger whole – then, it goes without saying that we have the same purpose, same aim and same journey as the nature and our universe.

Going against the nature, against the natural laws of nature and universe is harmful to us, our planet and our future. In the last fifty years we have become disconnected from our environment and with the greenhouse emissions, we are making sure that future generations suffer.

Whether its raising huge amounts of livestock so we can overeat and become obese and subject ourselves to all the health issues caused by red meat, or using ridiculous amount of resources by raising this livestock; whether, its filling our landfills with trash that cannot be recycled , or filling our space with orbiting space debris, –we, as a species are not in sync with ourselves, our nature. That, my friends – is one cause of disease right there.

In my lectures, I talk about four types of lifestyle choices. Ayurveda suggests that living ahitayu – life not in sync with nature will cause havoc, imbalance and trauma.

Lets discuss this disconnectedness more. We communicate to the world and people around us through texting, Facebook, twitter and emails. We have created a virtual persona of ourselves – our virtual Doppelganger.

You’d be surprised how many clients I get whose physical imbalances stem from spending too much time on the social media websites. Living other people’s lives instead their own. Nature –being our parent, our macrocosm—has its own way of communicating with us. Nature provides feedback in many forms to us. However, in our virtual Doppelganger form it is hard for us to get the message. our body, the changing seasons, omens, sights, smells, how we feel – how our body feels. And, the universe lets us know. How?

We get instant feedback via our near environment. To give you an example, if you clutter your refrigerator and do not clean == strange smells will emanate. Instant feedback. If the winter is about to onset, fall will create dryness in your skin, your hair and preparing your body for the winter.

This is the season providing feedback to the body to start lubricating your skin with warm organic oils, and start eating soups. Moving on, lets clarify what we mean by our environment. What surrounds us is our immediate environment – be it social environment, the weather. The Macro environment would be prakrti or mother nature, and earth or the bigger universe – the planets and being part of the greater whole.

Ayurveda suggests we bring this journey of outer environment and what’s happening in and around us in sync. We can do this by living in sync with the seasons, with the cycle of day and night, with cycle of waxing and waning of moon. (Lunar and Solar cycles). Lets discuss a small example. Water is regulated on earth through moon. Moon gives rasa or taste to the fruits and fragrance to the flowers.

It regulates the oceanic tides. Water in the outer world is signified by the vast bodies of oceans. In fact 2/3rd of earth is water. Inside our body, the moon also influences the water element which is manifest as all fluid secretions, mucosa, lymphatic system, and blood.

In our mind, the moon supports water element that is manifested as feelings of relaxation, love, romance, winding down after a hard days work. It has been proved that listening to sounds of waves or waterfall can induce a feeling of relaxation in our nerve center. Earth element is manifested as mountains, deserts, rocks, the crust and inner part and center core of our planet.

Earth in our physical body is the structure, the muscles, the bones and the organs. In our mind the earth element is manifest as a feeling of being grounded, decision making, sticking to one’s guns so to speak.

The fire element in our planet is the summer season, transformation process of how seeds grow into a plant, then tree, the volcanoes. For example, all trees are made up of wood – which has the inherent fire element in it. In our body the fire element is exhibited by the digestion of food, transformation of thoughts into ideas, The air manifests as atmosphere and the gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide, in the planet and manifests as the exchange of gases in our lungs.

In the mind it manifests itself as creativity. Space in the nature is important. Most important. All planets exist in space. Space in our body is the space in our stomach, our lungs, nerves. Without space element, our mind would be crowded by thoughts and we wont be able to function.

So, use the early summer or spring--to its full advantage. Start your detox program at this time.

THE WONDERS OF TURMERIC -HARIDRA BY MONICA B GROOVER

Last year, during SDCOA's annual 3 day workshop a student of mine told us that her husband was in a motorcycle accident and besides concussion, had a nasty contusion on his back. He was told that it will heal by itself in time. She took turmeric root powder, as, well as turmeric root juice--and applied it with Aloe vera gel -as a LEPA. In three days, before his next appointment with her husbands physician, the bruising had practically disappeared. The Physician was amazed.

Be mindful, that this was not an open wound. This is the blue purple bruising only.

Then, there's yesterdays story of a toddler bumping his head, and, getting a blue bruise, and, my special herbal mix with turmeric as chief ingredient really helped.

(You dont want to put any herbs on an open wound--see your doctor)

A Lepa is a paste in Ayurveda. Yes, the Turmeric or Haridra paste will make everything yellow and it doesnt look that pretty-but its results are amazing.

Turmeric is used in Chinese Medicine and called E Zhu.

Haridra (Turmeric)is a rhizome in the Ginger family. It the west it was used as a dye and food color, before its wonderful medicinal properties became popular.

It's Roots are of two types:

!. White Turmeric Rhizome
2. Yellow Turmeric Root

Pandit Atul who cooks a lot with White turmeric root during our SDCOA workshop, and, he makes an amazing astringent chutney with it. I also tend to have turmeric root pickle in my kitchen cabinet. When there is no time to cook, a simple corn tortilla with turmeric root pickle and make a fantastic healthy snack.

Usually, when we talk about Turmeric we are talking about the Yellow Turmeric. However, I wanted to talk about both of these varieties. Below is the instagram photo of his turmeric chutney:

Turmeric root chutney by Atul

A post shared by ayurveda-college-online (@ayurvedaonline) on

Now, lets talk about the wonders of Turmeric. Studies and research have shown that it is helpful in normal brain function, and cell reproduction(‘Common Indian Spice Stirs Hope’, Wall Street Journal, 2005). According to Chinese Medical Journal, September 2008, 17;3:11, Turmeric's bio component called curcumonoids have shown therapeutic actions and molecular biological action. Ataturk University, Turkey, has had a research team that have studied the antioxidant properties of Haridra in response to free radicals. (Chemico-Biological Interactions, July 2008, 10;174(1):27-37). What does Ayurvedic Texts say? Haridra is bitter and drying so Vata should have it with ghee or with soups and foods. Remember Turmeric has poor absorption so it is best eaten with food and cooked in fats. (Fat soluble) As Ayurvedic Practitioners, we use certain Ayurvedic Herb glossary terms for Herbs. For (YELLOW TURMERIC). For, Haridra they are: Artavajanana - Supports menstrual cycle. Artava is menstrual blood. Janana means promotes. Usually, must be combined with Shatavari, and/or other artavajanana herbs for most potent SUPPORT action. Agni Dipana - Supports Jatharagni (Digestive fire) Thermogenic. This means that it is heating. So, Pittas can have with Aloe juice or coconut or ghee to counteract this property. Jvaraghna - Jvara- Supports Fever. Supports certain fevers, especially the kapha kinds. Krimighna - Krimi covers a broad term here. Fungus, and, all kind of bacteria usually bad ones. So, it is anti fungal, anti bacterial Kusthaghna v- Kushtha is skin. So, Turmeric is great for skin Lekhana - Have you ever scraped wood to get to the bottom layer. Now, imagine this wonder and Super herb scraping Ama (toxins). Lekhana is scraping. Supports Detoxification. Pandughna - Pandu was the name of father of Pandavas in Indian Vedic Literature. He was so named because of his light skin and anemia. So, Pandu is the name used in anaemia. When used in conjunction with dates, blackstrap molasses, pomegranates--(all iron rich foods), turmeric increases their efficacy and supports Anemia. Pramahana - Supports healthy glucose levels when used with jambolana, Gymnema (shardunika) and gokshura Raktashodhana - Rakta is blood. Shodhana is purification. Turmeric supports Blood purification. Combine this with skin clearing action--supports bumps, contusions and bruising. (Be mindful--that it turns everything yellow--so you want to put a lepa or paste of turmeric, use a cloth over it) Sandhaniya - Sandhi means to join. You know how after a bone fracture has healed that area is still kind of sensitive. Turmeric Ghrita or Ghee is a great option to rub at this point. Stanyashodhaka - Turmeric supports purification of breast milk. Why would anyone need that? Well, how about if mom is on antibiotics or has toxins--does she want that to flow to the baby. So, there you go. Turmeric supports Vedanasthapana - Vedana is pain. So we can translate Vedanasthapana as anti inflammatory analgesic. Remember the story of my student, or, my friends toddler who had a bump on his head--I have turmeric in three different forms in my kitchen at all times. 1. TURMERIC GHRITA - Ghee form 2. TURMERIC ROOT - in the fridge 3. TURMERIC POWDER - in the kitchen cabinet I can mix and match it for LEPAS, with aloe, or use it in the food. Internally or externally--it WORKS!! Last, but, not the least Haridra is Vishaghna - Supports purification of bad toxins. Visha is actually poisonous toxins. We use it in India to make our skin beautiful. I remember our student who is now a sucessful Ayurvedic Practitioner once rubbed Turmeric on her face and arrived at my class. I asked her if she was feeling okay. (Yellow skin signifies liver issues and pitta issues in Ayurveda). She told us she had rubbed turmeric on her face. It was her idea of a facial. One of the best stories from our classes. :) Again, a word of caution--not on open wounds. Ayurveda is not recognized by FDA and this information is from ancient Ayurvedic texts and for informational purposes only. Please see your physician for any health issues. If you want to contact me for an Ayurveda Consultation, contact me using this contact form https://www.ayurveda-wellness-center.com/contact Information about how consultations https://www.ayurveda-wellness-center.com/consultation

What is Panchakarma?

What really is Panchakarma?

June 13, 2015

Monica B Groover, Ph.D., AWP, CMT, RPYT

There is detox. Then, there is Ayurvedic detox. As you see in this post--a regular detox may involve some fruits, smoothies or pills. And, it is generally aimed at clearing in a general way. It is not specific to an area of the body. For example, detox for kidneys. (TCM has a lot more specific detox --however, I am not talking about TCM)

Ayurvedic Detoxfication is very specific, customized to the individual, very powerful, and, must be done under a qualified professional with years of training and experience. Ayurvedic Detoxifcation may be aimed at balancing agni, doshas, tissues and eliminating Ama (food molecules decomposing and creating toxins).

Ayurvedic detoxification procedure is called Panchakarma.

So, I will specify it here for my future students, and, anyone reading this.

PANCHAKARMA IS NOT A MASSAGE.

So, what is it, if not a massage. Massage with Ayurvedic Tailams (medicated and herbal oils prepared in a traditional way) may be used for Vata or Kapha individuals before Panchakarma. Yes, Before--as part of snehana in preparatory stage. (See snehana below).

Panchakarma is a THREE STAGED bio purification program. Each stage has many steps. And, practitioner chooses the steps.

If a person is weak, post partum, menopausal and does not have the strength, we follow the palliative or the first portion of this process called Purvakarma. (Preparing the body and mind for Panchakarma). We also call this stage Shamana stage. (A lot more about shamana later!)

In Purvakarma, we prepare the body and mind by herbs, diet, meditation, agni dipana (increasing digestive fire), snehana (Oils, and fats--externally and internally) and svedana (sweat therapies).

When the person is ready, we move to stage two. This is panchakarma.

Lets break down the word panchakarma--

1. PANCHA- FIVE

2. KARMA- ACTIONS

These five actions are cleansing therapies. If I say, I am going to start Panchakarma tomorrow--it is not going to happen unless I have prepared myself --my doshas, dhatus and mental self. Plus, there is a large list of contraindications.

There is a period of preparation for the mind and body. (In the west, people just leave certain foods and habits cold turkey--which is not suggested in Ayurveda).

The preparation period is called PURVAKARMA. (yes, a lot of sanskrit words--bear with me)

Panchakarma is a deep cleanse of the mind, and, body and very specific areas of the physical body, organs, dhatus that requires bringing AMA (undigested and unmetabolized food molecules that may be lipophilic or hydrophilic) back into the the GI tract, and, then eliminating them. That can take weeks, if not more just to get to the point of starting pachakarma.

What these people are looking for is SHAMANA. That is a sanskrit word for pacification. Not a hose me down with therapies, herbs, kitchari and self enema with decoctions and sesame oil. PK is rather a SHODHANA or deep cleanse and purification of either middle area- (Liver, spleen cleanse for pitta) with Purgatives like Kalamegha, Kutki, Panchatikta ghritum (Very very bitter herbs cooked in ghee), OR, ENT, chest and stomach area (Kapha area) with Kaphatic (my friend Sudevis phrase for kapha issues) herbs like Trikatu, Triphala with raw honey (Although these herbs are pretty standard Ama busters). Kaphas tend to recieve dry massages with herbs like Triphala.

And, last, but not the least a special lubrication and oleation called SNEHANA for the Vatas.

The SNEHANA means lubricating the inside and outside of the physical, mental and spiritual body with oil baths, oil massages, drinking soups made with ghee and pouring herbal oil onto the hair, and, sneha pana--eating ghee for a few days. Finally, there is also oil bastis

So, I will write more about Shamana, Shodhana and Brihmana(Tonification), as well as Rasayana (Rejuvenation) and PK for Vata, Pitt and Kapha issues in the days to come.

The suppressible and non-suppressible urges

The suppressible and non-suppressible urges
By: Alexis A. Arredondo

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of physics states: “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In Ayurveda, this very same law can be applied through the suppressible and non-suppressible urges.

The eight suppressible urges are greed(Lobha), grief(Soka), fear(Bhaya), anger(Krodha), vanity(Mana), shamelessness(Nirlajja), envy(Matsarya) and attachment(Raga).

As students of the Dharma and Ayurveda, we are aware that by allowing ourselves to give in to these urges, we run the risk of an “equal and opposite reaction” from them.

For example, by giving in to attachment, we open the door to the equal and opposite reaction of greed, envy or anger.

These urges not only affect our mind and body, but also effect the four goals of life which are:

i) a life of righteous living in harmony with nature (Hit-Ayu),
ii) a self-absorbed life not living in harmony with nature (A-Hit-Ayu),
iii) a life of good health/comforts with partial consideration to nature (Sukh-Ayu), and, a
iv) disturbed mental/physical state of negative karma (Dukh-Ayu).

By giving in to these urges, we quickly climb our way down to Dukh-Ayu by allowing our minds and bodies to take 0n that negative karma.

The non-suppressible urges are Urination(Mutra), Defecation(Purisa), Ejaculation(Retas), Flatus(Vata), Vomiting(Cardi), Sneezing(Ksavata), Hunger(Ksut), Thirst(Pipasa), Tears(Vaspa), Sleep(Nidra), Breath(Srama Nihvasa) and Cough(Kasa). Once again, like Newton’s law, each one of these urges will create an “equal and opposite reaction” to the suppression of that urge.

I still remember being in high school and having problems with flatus. When we are in that awkward age, we do what we can to impress others and remain socially viable. I would often hold in flatus in order to save myself embarrassment and began to develop constipation, stomach aches and pains. I know now that these were caused by the “equal and opposite reaction” of suppressing flatus.

Perhaps the most interesting discovery in my path, is that the suppressible urges often played a role in my non-suppressible urges. My attachment and vanity to be thin caused me to skip meals. Then by having that fear of violating social stigmas, I would suppress my flatus which would cause even more suppressible urges and non-suppressible urges to arise.

Finally the combination of all these imbalances would lead to Dukh-Ayu, a life of disturbed mental and physical state. Each suppressible and non-suppressible urge is related because each action reaches an “equal and opposite reaction” to each other. It is our goal in Ayurveda to keep the urges balanced in order to attain Hit-Ayu, a life of pure balance in body and mind.

Karma and kleshas in Ayurveda

Four Types of Ayus (Life) and Three Karmik Kleshas (Three fold miseries)
By Nandita Gaur, Block 1 Student

Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya |
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya |
Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

A Sanskrit shloka which means

Om, Lead us from Unreality (of Transitory Existence) to the Reality (of the Eternal Self),
Lead us from the Darkness (of Ignorance) to the Light (of Spiritual Knowledge),
Lead us from the Fear of Death to the Knowledge of Immortality.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

This shloka sums it all. Each and every word points to the life that we, as humans should lead. All these words have much deeper meaning than it appears at the surface.

As of now, let’s not talk about the big words or words with deeper meaning but even smaller words like “us” “from” “to” “the”. For example in this prayer they use the word “us”, “lead us” therefore it is not for one individual but it is directed towards the whole mankind, whole society we live in and that is what “Hit-ayu” is; a life with righteous living, truthfulness, living in harmony with nature.

As a result of partial darkness or insufficient spiritual knowledge we are digressing from our real path. Instead to living and aiming to live hit-ayu we are leaning more towards Sukh-ayu; a life with good health, sound body and mind, life with comforts and partial consideration towards nature. There is no harm in living such life but it is slightly self-centered. One just considers self and “I” becomes important aspect of life.

I feel sorry for some unfortunate human forms that are in complete darkness. They might be literate but not educated. What Mark Twain said holds true here, “Never let school interfere your education” There are people who forget their real goal in life. They lead a life of Ahit-ayu; life that is completely selfish, there is no consideration for other life forms or environment. The sad part is that these people don’t even realize that there is something missing.

People who live Sukh-ayu or sometimes ahit-ayu have the choice to change and indulge in hit-ayu but there are some people who are forced to live Dukh-ayu. Opposite of Sukh-ayu is dukh-ayu. It is a life in which people are disturbed on mental and physical levels. It is the result of negative karma that has collected on them over lives. They don’t have a choice but to lead that miserable life without having slightest hint of what action resulted in such loss or pain.

This leads me to think about actions. Our actions decide our course life, so if we live hit-ayu we accumulate good karma and vice versa.

Karma is ones action, which produces good or bad results as per their actions. According to Ayurveda karmic balance is important for ones health and wellness. There are three-fold miseries or sufferings that we as humans have to go through.

1. Adhibhuatika;

These are the result of our material life like money, relations etc.

2. Adhidaivika;

These are the result of the things that are out of our control like floods, earth quakes, Tsunami etc.
3. Adhyatamika;

These are the result of lack of our spiritual enlightenment, absence of self-realization and our ignorance. Sage Patanjali enumerates some miseries in his yoga sutra that are adhyatamika in nature;
Ignorance (avidya) Ego (asmita) Attachment to Pleasure (raga) Aversion to Pain (dvesa) and Fear of Death (abhinivesah)
The miseries that are not in my control I am not going to think about them but ones that are adhyatamika in nature, I plan to take them up one at a time. Having this knowledge about four types of life and our karmic kleshas enforces me to be more vigilant about my actions and that will result in leading more wholesome life

History of Ayurveda

The History and Mythology of Ayurveda
By:Alexis A. Arredondo, Block 1 Student

The origins of Ayurveda are rich in mythology. As a practitioner of the spiritual path, I feel that the word mythology may carry some skeptical connotations. For the purposes of this blog I would like to refer to “mythology” as spiritual origins. What drew me most to this subject was its rather quick overview and its minimal attention to detail in most texts.

We are aware of the Briha Trayi, the big three ancient texts of Ayurveda: Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita & Ashtanga Hridaya. However, we are not truly aware of exactly how and when they were written The third text,Ashtanga Hridaya, has no clear origin story as well. Where did these sacred texts come from and what is their source?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Brahma is the Hindu God of creation. Brahma has four faces, each one representing the four Vedas. The Vedas are written works of ancient india that date around 1500-1200BCE. The Atharva Veda, the book of spells and herbs, was the first text to mention Ayurvedic origins. This is where the source of Ayurveda begins but let us continue from the path of Brahma. Bramha created Ayurveda and passed this knowledge down to his son Daksha, a Prajapati or deity that presides over procreation. Daksha then taught this knowledge to the Ashvins (Ashwini Kumaras), two vedic twin brother Gods that would become the celestial physicians. Not only did this make them doctors to the Gods, but this made them Devas of Ayurveda. The Ashvins are mentioned in the Rig Veda and other sacred texts such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas. Indra, leader of Devas, was then taught Ayurveda by the divine twins.

It is from this point that we begin to see the knowledge of Ayurveda being passed down from the Gods to the living sages, however, this part of Ayurvedic history is also riddled in spiritual origin. The Mahabharata tells the story of an Avatar of Vishnu named Dhanvantari who “emerged from the Milky Ocean while it was being churned for Amrita (nectar).” After his emergence, Vishnu appeared before him and told him that he would have two incarnations. In his second emergence, Dhanvantari would “help the living beings on earth” because “uncommon disease is going to become a common feature” and he must “segregate Ayurveda, the health science, into eight broad categories for an easy applicability.” Vishnu then said that “Brahma thought of all these things beforehand” and facilitated Dhanvantari’s emergence, which could explain the earlier progression of Ayurveda down the path of the Gods. The story continues with a barren king of Kashi, who meditated upon the the God Dhanvantari so that he may bring him a son.

Dhanvantari was so pleased that he granted the king any favor to which the king replied “Oh God, if you are so pleased, then become a reputed son of mine.” Dhanvantari granted his wish and was reborn Divodasa Dhanvantari, future king of Kashi.

According to the Vedas, the Saptarishis were favored and protected by the Gods. Amongst these seven sages were two known Ayurvedic founders; Bharadwaj and Kashyapa. According to the Charaka Samhita, these are the same rishis of the Vedas who went to the Himalayan mountains to attain the knowledge of Ayurveda. The Atharva Veda does mention a council of rishis assembled with Indra as noted in the following verse:

“Let me receive the brilliance
and the wisdom of those seated here together;
and among these people assembled here
may me the most illustrious, Indra!”
-Atharva Veda (7.12.3)

They may indeed have been part of this council, which explains where Kashyapa learned the ways of Ayurveda, however I offer another theory. Kashyapa was a “wish born” son (or in some scriptures, grandson) of Brahma. He was also married to the thirteen daughters of Daksha, the deity of procreation. Scriptures state that Kashyapa had many children, some of them Devas and Avatars. Therefore, Kashyapa has a link to the first two Gods of Ayurvedic knowledge, possibly even the Ashvins as they were the celestial physicians. This is all speculation but Kashyapa would eventually write the Kashyapa Samhita, a collection of Ayurvedic pediatrics, gynecology and obstetrics.

Bharadwaj himself attained the knowledge of Ayurveda from Indra, when he performed rigorous penance to learn the knowledge of the Vedas. Indra told Bharadwaj that he already knew more vedic knowledge than the Devas themselves, and told him to pray to Shiva for blessings. After blessings were bestowed upon him by Shiva, Bharadwaj was approached by two kings to help aid in a battle against the Vaarshika demons. One of those kings was Divodasa Dhanvantari. According to the Mahabharata, Dhanvantari would learn the ways of Ayurveda from Bharadwaj as well as fulfill Brahma and Vishnu’s wishes to segregate Ayurveda into the eight branches we have today.

Dhanvantari is now known as the the Divine Father of Ayurveda while Bharadwaj became known as the human Father of Ayurveda.

Now we can see the parts the Gods had to play in order for the knowledge of Brahma to be passed from the Heavens to the Earth. Let us explore how this knowledge was formed into written word. We have some origins on the three Founders of Ayurveda; Dhanvantari, Bharadwaj and Kashyapa. Kashyapa’s origins seem to end here with the Kashyapa Samhita being written around 6th century BC. Dhanvantari and Bharadwaj’s teachings would eventually be divided into two schools; Dhanvantari School of Surgery (9-6th century BC) and Atreya School of Physicians-“Vaidyas” (8-6th century BC). Atreya was a student of Bharadwaj and founded the school of Vaidyas. According to the Charaka Samhita, Atreya’s six disciples were asked to compose a written work and Agnivesha wrote the best one. These writings and teachings were composed into a text entitled the Agnivesha tantra.

This is where the history becomes obscure as legend states that the Agnivesha Tantra was lost. Acharya Charak is said to have found the tantra in 1st century AD, but other resources say it was simply revised by him. The spiritual origin states that Charak found the Agnivesha Tantra incomplete, with 40 chapters missing.

Charak then went into deep meditation and Lord Shiva appeared to him, revealing the missing chapters so that Charak could complete the work. This spiritual aspect could also be supported by the blessings of Shiva that were received by Bharadwaj himself, however there is no way to no for certain that the chapters were indeed lost. Charak completed the Charaka Samhita in the 1st century AD and it would become one of the Briha Trayi currently referenced in Ayurveda today. Sushrut was a disciple and surgeon of Dhanvantari. Sushrut wrote down the teachings of surgery in Sushruta Samhita, the second of the Briha Trayi, around the 5-4th century BC. Vaghbata was a disciple of Charak and studied the teachings of the Sushruta Samhita (possibly even the Kashyapa Samhita).

In 8th century AD, Vaghbata would write a collection of his works into the Ashtanga Hridaya. In essence, this work borrows from the first classic texts and would eventually find its place amongst them as the third of the Briha Trayi.

In conclusion, through further research into the spiritual origins and history of Ayurveda, we are able to see a greater influence of the Gods as well as a closer connection to the rishis of Ayurveda and their influence on the Briha Trayi. There is a basic tree graph showing a simple linear path of the origins and history of Ayurveda. I can’t help feel that this graph could be updated as the influence of the Gods and the influence of the rishi’s teachings are anything but linear. After my research I conclude that the graph should be similar to this:

REFERENCES:

Books/Articles

Panda, H; Handbook On Ayurvedic Medicines With Formulae, Processes And Their Uses,
2004, p10 ISBN 978-81-86623-63-3

Sadashiva Tirtha, S; The Ayurveda Encyclopedia: Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention, & Longevity, 1996 p3,4,5 ISBN 978-81-319-03094

Dash, R.K.S.B; Caraka Samhita 2002 p17,18,23,24 ISBN 81-7080-012-9

Srikantha Arunachala, Treatise on Ayurveda Vijitha Yapa Publications, p. 3

Meulenbeld, G. Jan (1999–2002). History of Indian Medical Literature IA. Groningen: Egbert Forsten.

Web Sources

Atharva Veda Sri Aurobindo Kapali Shastry Institutue of Vedic Culture
http://libraryofyoga.com/bitstream/123456789/1065/2/Atharva_Veda.pdf

Rahmani, R (2008) Sages of India, Retrieved from:
https://sagesofindia.wordpress.com/about/

Mahabarata http://mahabharata-resources.org/harivamsa/hv_1_29.html

“Brahma” - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. 2015-04-19.

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