Ayurveda – Science or Fiction?

Shirodhara: Just lay down and let the pouring warm oil over your forehead put you into a deep meditative state. Shirodhara is a form of Ayurveda therapy which helps ease your nervous system and gives feelings of pleasure and relaxation (see the image above). 

We humans have a fascination with the binary-thinking: girl-boy, good-bad, right-wrong etc. We love to simplify things and make comparisons. One of the things we like to compare the most is the East and the West. But what about the similarities? Ayurveda and psychoanalysis, for example, are both very similar in nature, the former developing in the East and the latter in the West.

It is easy to see the results of modern medicine, thus very easy to believe that it indeed works. Modern medicine focuses on treating a symptom. The elimination of the symptom is a clear confirmation of the treatment’s success. It saved many lives with its’ laser-sharp focus. It is rather aggressive and fights fire with fire. The varying degrees of negative side effects on your body are considered collateral damage or civilian casualties in the war. Nevertheless, it’s a risk we are all willing to take if it means it will restore our health in return.

East meets West

The effectiveness of Ayurveda – on the other hand – a „whole-body“ healing system developed in India during the Vedic Period, is often in question. According to its practitioners, in order to restore your health, there needs to be harmony within yourself, which should manifest itself as harmony with your surroundings. This is how you prevent illnesses and how you help your body to heal itself.

The word „Ayurveda“ itself means „life science“. It claims to eradicate the negative influences you received throughout your life, starting from your babyhood. The removal of these, eliminate the mental blocks that prevent you from living the life you are meant to live. It helps you to understand yourself better, to see yourself within the context you are living. Still, when it comes to measuring the outcomes, it doesn’t quite offer the same transparency and clarity as modern medicine.

Psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud in Vienna in the early 1890s, follows similar patterns and faces the same obstacles. Instead of trying to find a quick fix for symptoms like psychotropic drugs, psychoanalysts want to delve into the unconscious. They want to explore childhood memories and find the root cause of the problem and heal the psyche for good. To achieve this, one needs to spend hours with a therapist. usually over a couple of years. Similar to Ayurveda, its effectiveness is difficult to measure. The results are hard to quantify and it is deemed incompatible with the modern neuroscience. For these reasons, psychoanalysis struggles to survive in the psychiatric science and practice. Its relevance is under investigation.

The unmeasurable

Both methods believe that we shouldn’t treat a symptom, but the cause of the symptom. Similarly, both methods are significantly difficult to examine and to verify, making them unfavourable. In contemporary capitalist societies where processes like tax audit are a part of life, the measurable and the quantifiable may seem attractive at first, hence the tendency to being content with modern scientific systems. This isn’t saying that modern methods can’t help, but what if what you could make use of the bigger picture as well? Ayurveda and psychoanalysis may help you see your problems under a different light. And the East and the West can be similar as well, after all.

Image credits: Pixabay

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About Zeynep Ercan

Coming from the city where two continents meet, Zeynep has a passion for bridging cultures. As a social and cultural anthropology student she is looking for ways to understand the world around her better (and hopes to leave it a better place).

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