I have been waiting to do this for some time now. There's this remarkable new book, Jeevani (Ayurveda for Women) written by Dr P.L.T. Girija, who also runs a clinic in Chennai where she proves daily how an understanding of the holistic theory of health promoted by Ayurveda can free people, especially women and their own unique set of problems, from dis-ease.
I do not read many books nowadays, maybe one a year. Dr Girija's book falls in that unique category. I also hand it out as a present to women who might benefit from its reading, instead of giving them gifts which they find useless and then pass on to others.
Though the book is for women, Girija has included two critical chapters in which she discusses the reasons why Ayurveda works, the inner logic of its theories, and how the therapies she prescribes (and which you can follow) work, specially in chronic cases.
The theory of Ayurveda is based on the same principles which we see governing the functioning of the universe, as known now to us. “In nature, there are three vital forces, wind, heat and cold, which sustain life when they are in balance, and cause upheavals when their equilibrium is disturbed.” (Climate change is nothing but an extraordinary example of this imbalance of the three factors.) In this sense, she writes, the human body is a microuniverse. As far as the body is concerned, Ayurveda talks in terms of vata or vayu (wind), pitta (fire/heat) and kapha (water/cold). If these three are in balance, there is lack of illness, hence no dis-ease.
These three factors are also referred to as doshas because of their capacity to cause illness. If even one deviates from its normal state, illness results. Imbalance can be caused by improper diet (internal) or injury and weather (external). “An aggravated dosha can be brought back to its normal state by diet, medicine and regimen whose qualities are opposed to the qualities of the dosha.”
The physical body is made up of seven dhatus (including bone, flesh, blood), which are its basic building blocks. These are the areas in which the disease manifests itself. “The exact manner in which the doshas vitiate the dhatus determines the exact nature of the disease, as well as its treatment.” Thus, the theory takes care of new diseases as well. Dr Girija takes the case of chikungunya. After her treatment, the joint pains and fever associated with the illness disappeared in 3-4 days, while patients who used allopathy (antibiotics, painkillers and steroids) suffered the pains for several months, including being incapacitated.
Dr Girija often illustrates her insights with specific examples of the kind given above.
Naturally, there are separate chapters on food, the six tastes identified in Ayurveda (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent) which must figure in your food everyday, the predominant one changing from season to season. Girija observes that this information about specific foods, their individual qualities (as “hot” or “cold”) and their association with medicine, was really part of the general medical lore possessed by even the most common households in India, especially women. Now it needs to be resuscitated. Many people want to return to these theories which work, since modern medicine has become poisonous, expensive and scary.
Therefore, this book is really timely and all husbands may be asked to present their wives with a copy on their next birthday or wedding anniversary.