In discussing the benefits of an Ayurvedic lifestyle and Ayurvedic treatment the question always arises, “Why Ayurveda and not a modern conventional treatment?” I believe that knowledge is power and that whatever we choose needs to be done so based on thoughtful consideration of all choices. Let’s compare the two in the areas of diagnoses, treatment and prevention.
Ayurveda relies heavily on doshic imbalances to diagnose sickness. There is an important interplay and harmony between the three doshas. Ayurvedic doctors and healers as well as those practicing an Ayurvedic lifestyle are tuned into the differences between the doshas and in this way are able to identify changes and imbalances that can lead to sickness. There are other even more subtle interplays that can help diagnose arising illness, such as the five koshas, also called the five sheaths, which are the layers of body. These imbalances are discovered in much the same way as doshic imbalances-by understanding the many levels of the body and mind and listening to the changes.
Conventional medicine relies on a series of symptom being experienced by the patient. The symptoms described are then suited to one disease or another and this knowledge, this diagnoses, is in the hands of the doctor and the doctor alone. Atonement to one’s own body and consideration of its possible illness is not usually encouraged by doctors of modern medicine.
Ayurveda uses a variety of treatments to rebalance the doshas and restore optimal health. Diet, lifestyle changes and herbs are a few of the treatments. Ayurvedic wisdom encourages treatment through the application of the opposite. If the vata is predominant or out of balance, the individual may be experiencing a sense of anxiety and nervousness or a general feeling of being ungrounded. The physical symptoms may be wind in the bowels (vata is wind) bloating and difficulty digesting or constipation. The opposite of vata is kapha. Kapha is earth, it is stability and resistance. Patients experiencing a vata related disorder would pacify the vata in order to bring balance This can be done through an application of that which increases kapha, Unctuous, oily, foods are very grounding. Also, foods and drinks that are warm. In India the food is so varied in taste and healing spices that it is medicine in itself. Indian food includes all the tastes-sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent-which are all so important in keeping a balance of the doshas.
Changing the lifestyle to include more routine and proper sleep help also help pacify vata and the regular intake of specific Ayurvedic herbs
Conventional medicine, the modern medicine we see being practiced today in the west involves to a large degree the prescribing of pharmaceuticals. A sickness is diagnosed for which there exists a pharmaceutical prescription. This medication is used in order to reduce the experience of symptoms or to mask them entirely. And although it may be effective in providing some relief, the medication is in not necessarily designed to restore balance and harmony to the operations of the body, mind and spirit. The medication prescribed is synthetic and often causes a number of varying and sometimes harmful side effects. These side effects can then lead to the necessity for more medication and the patient is kept in a cycle of needing medication and needing a doctor to diagnose the sickness and provide prescriptions for more medication. Ayurveda on the other hand, seeks to empower the individual to tune into his or her own body and learn how to apply the necessary treatments in the form of dietary and lifestyle changes that he or she can manage on his or her own. The treatments offer ways to restore balance and support the body’s ability to heal itself and are therefore more permanent than the quick fix that pharmaceuticals offer.
Ayurvedic science is thousands of years old and was developed by the yogic seers of India in an effort to maintain optimal health in the body so that they could pursue their spiritual goals. Maintaining good health always involves prevention. The individual is taught ways to identify imbalances and correct them. Harmony is restored and Ayurvedic wisdom continues to work when the patient leads an Ayurvedic lifestyle. In other words, once the individual learns more about the doshas and becomes more closely tuned into the differences, he is more capable of identifying an imbalance as soon as it begins and then able to apply the necessary treatment in order to return the doshas into right functioning and ward off any possible future sickness.
Conventional medicine does not necessarily encourage prevention of illness. I believe quite the opposite that modern medicine encourages dependency upon the system itself; the system of diagnoses and the prescribing of medications that bring about a fast relief of symptoms. The doctors in modern medicine are the only ones with “knowledge” enough to understand the illness and so the patient is required to continue treatment and pharmaceutical intervention to feel better. However, modern medicine has made some amazing discoveries and has improved many lives. Ayurveda and conventional medicine do not need to be mutually exclusive. Anyone can adopt an Ayurvedic lifestyle to improve his health and help prevent illness but there may be times when the intervention of a western doctor becomes necessary. The two systems can work together. When the path of Ayurveda is chosen it may be found that a balance is restored to the body and mind and illness is being prevented rather than treated.