Rasayana Therapies in Ayurveda are essential to the quality and quantity of our lives.
In preparing for a lecture I am giving on rasayana therapies (rejuvenation therapies) and traditional preparation of herbal chyavanprash, I have been reflecting on what rasayana means to our current culture. While much of the material I am researching is directly from the ancient text of Ayurveda, including Charaka Samhita and the Ashtanga Hydram, we can relate rejuvenation therapy and techniques to our current world. Much like anything from Ayurveda, we can benefit from this ancient healing modality in our everyday lives.
Rasayana (rasa meaning juice, nectar, essence & ayana meaning path) literally means “the path of juice”. A rasayana can be any herb, therapy, or substance that deeply nourishes our tissues. While tonics in Ayurveda are building and nourishing, rasayanas go even deeper, nourishing the ojas (vitality) of our whole being and balancing pineal gland secretions that have a direct impact on the length, quality, and health of our lives. Some might say that Ayurveda as a medical science was founded on the desire of ancient people from Vedic times to promote longevity, a main goal of rasayana therapy throughout time.
While herbal medicine is important in rejuvenation therapies, meditation and pranayama medicine (breathing exercises) are key components. To increase the quality and quantity of life, one must take to heart the power of personal integrity in mind and action to keep ojas strong and our tissues nourished. Typically, rasayana herbs and formulations are given after cleansing measures have already been taken, however meditation and pranayama can happen at any stage of therapy to receive benefits.
Vaghbhat says that “Those who speak the truth, who never become angry, who lead a spiritually pure life and are always serene are considered to be rejuvenated daily.” We can call this “behavioral rasayana”. Dravya rasayanas are typically substances that are nourishing, grounding, heavy, and oily; however the substance can take any shape or form and depends on the state of health of the patient and their doshas involved, more specifically the qualities (gunas) from the doshas that need to be balanced. For example, some kapha rasyanas are heating, light, and pungent.
Chyavanprash, a famous rasayana, is a type of avaleha (or sweet paste). In our class, we will make a batch of chyavanprash, blending together available herbs that are from the traditional recipe of Charaka, boiling amla fruit, the catalyst for this nutritive jam, frying the fruit in ghee and oil and making a past with bamboo extract, ghee, honey, and saffron, all ingredients Charaka describes that prolonged the great sage Chyavan’s life in ancient times.
Here are some accessible rasayana chikitsas you can practice in your day to day life to promote health and longevity:
1) The power of positive thinking. The more we shift our thoughts for the positive we are actually increasing our vitality. Think of the qualities of thought. Anger is heating, sharp, and light. Contentment and peace is cooling, calming, and soft. These qualities affect our cellular metabolism and influence our whole bodily digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients and energy.
2) Shirodhara treatments. Shirodhara is when a stream of oil is continuously poured over your third eye, deeply nourishing the nervous system and promoting cellular repair. As both a purifying and rejuvenating therapy, shirodhara targets the central nervous system, decreasing stress and fatigue.
3) Foods and herbs. Some of my personal favorite rasayana herbs are: brahmi, ashwagandha, pippali, amalaki, and aloe. Ghee and honey are also rejuvenating substances. It is best to work with a practitioner to discover what herbs would be appropriate for your dosha, however, things that soothes your soul and body can certainly be a potent rasayana! We know our bodies best.
Our culture is so hyper focused on success and productivity that in many ways we forgotten the value of rejuvenation therapy. So the next time you are sitting quietly outside, or taking a deep breath before moving forward with your day, or perhaps resting on the couch, remember you are taking part in an ancient form of healing that is replenishing for your body and mind!