Today is World Ayurveda Day, also known as Dhanvantari Jayanti or the birth anniversary of the physician of gods, the preceptor of Ayurveda, Lord Dhanvantari. This day is celebrated worldwide by offering prayers to the deity who Lord Dhanvantari, the supreme healer who is seen holding 'shankha' or conch, 'chakra' or disc, 'jalauka' or leech and a the pot of ‘amrita’ or nectar of immortality in his hands. The sound of the conch symbolizes om or vibrational healing, chakra signifies eradication of diseases, leech signifies purification therapies like ‘panchakarma’ and the pot of nectar signifies a healthy happy long life in todays world that can be achieved through Ayurveda.
I found Ayurveda in the year 2000 as an obese teenager trying her last resort to lose weight and balance my hormones, when the conventional medicine had failed me. The Ayurvedic Vaidya who helped me heal, also mentored me to embrace Ayurveda both personally and professionally. I was so fascinated by this common sense science, that I decided to study Ayurveda and dedicate the rest of my life to support peoples health and healing.
Having studied and practiced Ayurveda in 2 diverse cultures- India and Canada, I feel blessed and amazed at how simple Ayurvedic dietary and lifestyle measures can facilitate the healing of people, who have been chronically failed by all other systems. And yet, it breaks my heart to see all the myths and misconceptions floating around Ayurveda, which makes people shy away from its life-changing benefits.
I have often been asked some astounding questions about Ayurveda, and want to take this opportunity of Ayurveda Day, to dispel the myths and bring light to this wonderful science, so more people can embrace it and improve not just their health, but also their life.
Let me get started with the most common myths and notions about Ayurveda that I have encountered in my practice. After busting the myths you will get a clearer picture of what Ayurveda is and what it’s not.
Myth#1 - Ayurveda is a pseudoscience or something thats based on tradition-
Science is defined as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”. Ayurveda is a science, where knowledge is achieved through three different means:
Knowledge learned through authentic sources- texts/teachers known as ‘Aptopadesha’ ,
Knowledge incurred through direct observation known as ‘Pratyaksha’ as well as
Inferences drawn through observational studies known as ‘Anumana’
Myth #2 - Ayurveda is restricted to Herbalism
Ayurveda is much more than herbalism or herbal therapy. It is an entire system of medicine with its own diagnostic tools and criteria as well as treatments protocols; being highly personalized at the same time. Ayurveda does advocate the use of herbs for both prevention and cure, but Ayurveda is definitely not restricted to herbs.
Ayurvedic doctors use food, lifestyle measures, minerals, metals as well as surgical interventions (in some countries) for treatment protocols depending on the individual person and condition.
Myth #3 - Ayurveda advocates a vegan lifestyle.
Ayurveda advocates eating specifically to your dosha type and making sure what you eat is meant to balance your body, mind, senses and spirit. Various properties of all kinds of meats and poultry and animal foods are described in depth in Sutrasthana or the very first section or of all the main texts (Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita as well as Ashtanga Hridaya) for therapeutic purposes.
Also ghee or clarified butter is extensively used in dietary as well as treatment protocols. Thus following Ayurveda does not mean catering to a vegan lifestyle, though a vegan lifestyle can be made to fit into your Ayurvedic lifestyle. In fact you can cater any of the current diets like vegan, paleo, pescatarian towards your Ayurvedic dosha type.
Myth #4 - Ayurveda is suitable only for chronic conditions.
This is one of the biggest myth I have encountered and would love to make a few key points to defend my case.
There are a lot of Ayurvedic medicines that work instantaneously can relieve you of symptoms like pain, diarrhoea etc immediately. Seeing a qualified Ayurvedic physician can help you resolve both your acute as well as chronic health concerns.
Many people turn to Ayurveda after years of trying other forms of medicine and expect instant results. If you have developed a chronic condition due to years of poor diet and lifestyle choices, please be realistic and make sure you give yourself as well as Ayurveda enough time and space to work for you.
#Myth 5: “Ayurvedic diet mostly consists of Indian food or spicy food.”
This is the most ridiculous myth I have ever come across. Ayurveda is more than Indian food and is based personalizing dietary and lifestyle principles to your very being. You can cook any cuisine on the earth based on Ayurvedic principles be it French, American, Mexican, Japanese or even Scandinavian. A ‘Shepherd’s pie’ can work as medicinally as Ayurvedic as a Khichari if given to the right person, considering his/ her dosha type, health condition, georgraphic location etc.
Myth #5 - Ayurveda is not a research-based science.
It’s easy to dismiss Ayurveda as not being a research based science due to its over 5000 year old presence. In fact Ayurveda is very much a research based science and the following evidences will prove that
In attempt to categorize and research body components, body dissection has been thoroughly described in Sushrut Samhita. Yes Sushrut Samhita, an Ayurvedic text on medicine and surgery dated 1st millennium BCE describes body dissections, cataract surgery in addition to other surgeries, in fact.
References to Ancient Ayurvedic Conferences for exchange of knowledge are seen in various texts as known as ‘Sambhasha Parishad’. In these conferences, knowledge was exchanged based on different facts, opinions and discussions.
Myth #6 - Ayurveda is a dated science
“Ayurveda is a 5000 year old science, so doesn’t hold true today.”
Ayurveda is a science based on ancient principles. It’s principles are like algorithm or simple math equations. Just as you can use concepts of basic math for solving different equations, Ayurvedic fundamental principles have stood the test of time even after 5000 years of it’s inception.
Myth #7 - Ayurveda free from side effects.
Hahaha, you wish! If there is an effect, there can always be a side effect. A lot of the side effects seen with Ayurveda are due to self diagnosis and treatment by untrained people. A true Ayurvedic Physician understands of Trisutra Ayurveda or Hetu (Causes), Linga (Signs and symptoms) as well as Aushadh (treatement modalities like herbs, minerals etc), which will minimize your chances of facing side effects of the treatment. If you randomly pick up an Ayurvedic herb to your liking without really knowing its effect, or start a dietary regimen without understanding yourself be ready to be surprised.
Myth #8 - Ayurveda just like Homeopathy or Naturopathy
The common ground between Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy that they are all natural healing systems. Ayurveda is a science in its own, with its own diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and thus is different than homeopathy or naturopathy.
Myth #9 - There is not much difference between an Holistic Health Practitioner and Ayurvedic doctor.
You better be kidding me. The basic foundational course to be an Ayurvedic doctor s a 5 1/2 full time intensive course known as ‘Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery’, which is only taught in few south east asian countries like India or SriLanka.
As Ayurvedic doctors from India, we are trained to become practicing doctors. To graduate from an Ayurvedic University as an Ayurvedic doctor you have to be educated enough to suture wounds, to conduct deliveries, to diagnose and treat various diseases and then you also get registered with the Central Council of Indian Medicine. This means you are a full fledged doctor practicing Ayurvedic medicine.
Myth #10- Ayurveda is for the body, whereas Yoga is more for the mind and spirit.
Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga and there is a definite overlap in the two. But Ayurveda is a complete healing science in itself that considers an individual to be a combination of body, mind, soul as well as the senses. All Ayurvedic treatments consider the mental as well as the emotional make up of the patient along with his/her physical make up.