14.1 Balancing the Humors - Introduction
Ultimately all treatments involve influencing prana in one way or another. As we have seen throughout this book, prana is the root of all manifestation, and is the basis of the three humors. Through the therapies available in Ayurveda one can maintain, recover, or create pranic harmony in the body. Additionally, with Ayurvedic life-style therapies you can create pranic harmony in your personal environment, and with Ayurvedic psychology you can increase mental peace.
In Ayurveda this pranic harmony is ordinarily perceived as the harmony of the three humors-vata, pitta, and kapha. It can, however, be perceived directly as a balance of the five pranas. The primary concern here is the fundamental knowledge that prana is the foundation of all harmony in the body. This is clearly seen in the three humors by the instability of vata, the humor that relates most directly to prana. Vata is considered to be the cause of most diseases or imbalances in the body. It is also known to empower the other two humors; they would be motionless without vata. Therefore, Ayurvedic treatment often involve vata and always work on the different forms of prana as manifested through the three humors.
It should be noted that Ayurveda considers the use of medicines (i.e., Strong herbal and mineral preparations) and surgery as last ditch efforts to recover health. Normally people today regard taking medicines (in any form) as a normal event if a disease or imbalance occurs. Just look how easy it is to pop an aspirin when you have a headache from overwork. For Ayurveda this attitude is the real illness to be treated. All disease results from ignorance, which now translates as poor decisions regarding your life-style. Poor eating habits, poor mental habits, poor work environment and habits, a lack of spiritual and emotional nourishment -all these are the root causes of disease. Real Ayurvedic treatments must address these factor before herbs, foods, and other therapies, such as massage, are given. It is the basic failure to live in harmony with your nature -whatever your nature is-that results in the need to be treated in the first place. The continual use of medicines, whether herbal or synthetic, is a cop-out because the basic cause-ignorance-is not being confronted and change. With the alleviation of ignorance harmony is achieved for the pranas and their manifestations as the three humors.
Ayurvedic therapies revolve around the use of: food, herbs, and life-style includes very basic things, such as exercising, the appropriate times of the year and day for each activity, and other external factors. Food and herbs as medicine form the basis for life-style therapies. By the same token, life-style therapies provide a solid foundation for food and herbal therapies. All three segment should be addressed for optimum results. Failure to address all three-food, herbs, and life-style-will tend to nullify the good results of the others practiced. I know a woman who religiously takes her herbs and eats very well; however, she fails to exercise regularly, and she smokes cigarettes. The smoking and lack of exercise virtually ful life the positive results of the correct diet and herbs. However, it does keep her body from deteriorating further, as would be the case if she stopped taking herbs and correct food daily.
Before treating-or self-treting-any disease or illness, several things need to be addressed. First, look at the overall condition of person; i.e., Weak or strong, young or old. Second, think about the amount of toxins that the person has in the body. Third, consider the strength of the digestion; can or his or her body assimilate the herbs or food? Fourth, think about the nature of the disease; i.e., Internal cause or external cause, and the humors involved. Fifth, look at the mental disposition of the person; i.e., Which guna or mental quality is predominant at this time, and is the person motivated enough to change bad habits? Is there enough discipline to take the necessary herbs regularly? Self-love?
These questions must be considered before any kind of treatment is started. Failure to account for these factors will result in an ineffective treatment. To achieve effective treatment, these questions must be addressed. The practitioners ability as a healer is directly concerned with his or her capacity to accurately perceive the patients reality at the moment. By the same token, when we treat ourselves, we must be able to honestly address these same questions with sincerity.
Overall health is exactly what it implies-the general picture. This is the plot of the story. It give us the outline of the story, where it began, and where it is going. It gives us the age, sex, and social condition of the patient. With this information, the practitioner can utilize a treatment that will fit the person. For example, I will not recommend an herb that is very costly if know the person has little money. Nor will I treat the very old or very young the same as I would an adult. All these factors must be perceived and accounted for in any therapeutic approach.
Next use tongue diagnosis to determine the current level of toxins. The general rule in Ayurveda is to detoxify before regenerating, otherwise the rejuvenating therapies will only strengthen the toxins, not the body. Therefore, detoxifying methods should be employed , provided the overall strength of the person will permit cleansing therapies. There are many different kinds of detoxification therapies, varying in strength and effectiveness. Obviously, if a person is weak or very ill, strong detox methods should not be used. In this case, the person should be given mild cleansing herbs, such as the triphala formula, that have a gentle action and, like triphala, also help regenerate the body.
The ability to digest food and herbs should be determined before prescribing any food or herbal therapies. Remember, Ayurveda states that it is the ability to assimilate what we ingest that determines the digestive strength. If the assimilation level is low, then herbs that improve or promote assimilation should be given. This is actually a question of agni; when agni is low it must be raised, when it is too high, it must be lowered. Attention must be given to make sure the preparation is digestible by the person. Vata persons will have difficulty digesting dry, powders, so oily or wet vehicles must be used to transport the herbs. Pitta persons are normally okay with any kind of preparation provided their agni is strong; if not, add trikutu to the formula. Kapha people are best with warmer and dryer compounds that have hing or trikutu added to stimulate digestion.
The nature of the disease is importance because, from an Ayurvedic point of view, it tells us which humors are involved, and the tissue level affected. It is not really necessary to know the name of the imbalance. To call a cold, a cold, is not therapeutically important. Neither is the Ayurvedic classification that it is an imbalance of kapha, generated by one of the three humors. These kinds of classifications can either be detrimental to the healing process of a person, or they can help in the healing process. If someone tells me that I have a benign tumor and not cancer. Thus, classifying the humoral imbalance is, in my opinion, more helpful than attaching a name to the actual symptoms. Although, in any serious illness (like the example) a qualified doctor should monitor all therapies and the health of the person. Perhaps it may be appropriate not to give any name whatsoever to disturbances. It is after all the nature of the mind to classify and create division where none exist.
The nature of the imbalance can be determined by the diagnostic methods described in chapter 9. It important for the practitioner to know the root cause of the humoral imbalance, because all Ayurvedic therapies depend on knowing which humors imbalance. Balancing the humors or prana is the actual basis of Ayurvedic treatments. In the following section, we will look at how to balance each humor in a general setting. The most complete Ayurvedic approach to individual diseases and treatments can be found in Ayurvedic. I recommend this book as a household reference manul and to everyone interested in the actual Ayurvedic application to specific diseases.
The last, but not least, factor to address before commencing any treatment is the mental state of the person. Failur to consider this aspect will nullify an otherwise correct treatment in North India, where I lived for several years. Many of Westerners who lived there, to hear the teaching of Sri Poonjaji, became sick with intestinal problems. This is a common problem in India, more people die there of amebic dysentery than any other disease. Many people went to see an old, reputedly good, Ayurvedic doctor with little or no results. Now this man was a fifth generation Ayurvedic doctor and was in his 80s. He obviously had plenty of experience and expertise; why then did his treatment fail?
A young American man cured 80 percent of these people of their intestinal problems by following Ayurvedic precept, formulations, and herbal energetic. Why did a newcomer, with only several years of experience, cure so many people when a far more experienced doctor achieved a mere 1 or 2 percent? The answer lies in not addressing the mental and psychological position of the patients. The younger man understood well the people he was treating; he was one of them. The other, more experienced doctor could not relate psychologically- he did not even try-to the people he treating. This created a problem in both his diagnosis and prescribed medication, which then resulted in a failed treatment.
Ayurveda is a complete approach to healing. Failure to account for the mental and psychological state of yourself (or your client) will tend to nullify the results from the more physical treatments. In fact this aspect is so important than a good doctor can heal people using any medical system. It is his or her ability to heal , or harmonize, the mental qualities of a person that actually result in stimulating the healing process, regardless of the medical system used.
Ultimately, it is the pranic field of the practitioner that influences the healing process of the patient. Healing cannot happen without this positive pranic exchange from the healer to healed. This is the secret of Yogic healing; the Yogis (or healers) pranic field calms and harmonizes the pranic field of the person treated. The pranic field includes both the mental and physical state. The exchange of prana result in a total healing. Without addressing the mental and psychological aspects, Ayurveda is not Ayuveda, it is just another symptomatic method of medical treatment.
In brief, the constitution of the person must be determined first. Then the overall physical health of the person and the manifestations of the humoral imbalance is determined. The amount of toxins in the digestive strength must also be addressed. Finally, the mental and emotional state of the person is surmised. When all this information is processed, the actual treatment can be determined. You ability to process this information will determine your effectiveness in achieving results