What can a 5000-year-old system of Indian traditional medicine offer in the age of telesurgery, face transplants, and artificial organs? A lot more than you think. You may have heard of vegetarian cooking, herbal teas, and oil massage. But the most profound aspect of ayurveda is a different mode of interpreting the human body and the natural world we live in.
Ayurveda analyzes physical imbalances based on the five elements and the three doshas. Everything is made of the same elements in nature: space, air, fire, water, and earth. They are more obvious in the environment, but they are also located in the body. The three doshas, vata, pitta, and kapha, are also made up of those five elements and they govern the functioning of the body.
The main method of examination in ayurveda is pulse diagnosis. An ayurvedic physician may also look at your tongue as well as your eyes to determine the state of your health. From this, he can determine your ayurvedic constitution, which is some type of combination of the three doshas. He can also detect which of these doshas is in and out of balance and what foods and herbs are the best to correct them. Based on the principle of similars and opposites, he aims to reduce the doshas that are overactive and strengthen the ones that are weak.
From time to time, we all experience heat in our bodies. The burning feeling in your stomach after you ate that curry, your anger rising when traffic is not moving due to a slow driver, the hot and dizzy feeling in your head after spending too much time in the sun. Ayurveda approaches these imbalances by offering to cool down pitta dosha, which is responsible for heat.
This may not seem as sophisticated as the impressive list of chemicals listed on your blood work. And it cannot replace a regular physical checkup. But it can offer a different, more organic way to interpret the body and its signals. Ayurveda focuses on the prevention, detection, and correction of physical imbalances before they manifest into full-blown diseases, thus offering a complementary approach to modern medicine.