Ayurveda

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Ayurveda is a Hindu system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. It is found primarily as naturopathic and homeopathic medicine and is an ancient medical treatise on the art of healing and prolonging life.  


In Sanskrit, ayur means life or living, and veda means knowledge, so Ayurveda has been defined as the "knowledge of living" or the "science of longevity." 


Ayurvedic medicine utilizes diet, detoxification and purification techniques, herbal and mineral remedies, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and massage therapy as holistic healing methods. Ayurvedic medicine is known to be the oldest surviving healing system. According to the original texts, the goal of Ayurveda is prevention as well as promotion of the body's own capacity for maintenance and balance. Ayurvedic treatment is non-invasive and non-toxic, so it can be used safely as an alternative therapy or along-side conventional therapies. Ayurvedic physicians claim that their methods can also help stress-related, metabolic, and chronic conditions. Ayurveda has been used to treat acne, allergies, asthma, anxiety, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, colds, colitis, constipation, depression, diabetes, flu, heart disease, hypertension, immune problems, inflammation, insomnia, nervous disorders, obesity, skin problems, and ulcers.

 


Ayurvedic physicians seek to discover the roots of a disease before it gets so advanced that more radical treatments are necessary.


 

Thus, Ayurveda seems to be limited in treating severely advanced conditions, traumatic injuries, acute pain, and conditions and injuries requiring invasive surgery. Ayurvedic techniques have also been used alongside chemotherapy and surgery to assist patients in recovery and healing. So, to understand Ayurvedic treatment, it is necessary to have an idea how the Ayurvedic system views the body. The basic life force in the body is prana, which is also found in the elements and is similar to the Chinese notion of chi. In Ayurveda, there are five basic elements that contain prana: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These elements interact and are further organized in the human body as three main categories or basic physiological principles in the body that govern all bodily functions known as the doshas.

 


The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each person has a unique blend of the three doshas, known as the person's prakriti, which is why Ayurvedic treatment is always individualized.


 

In Ayurveda, disease is viewed as a state of imbalance in one or more of a person's doshas, and an Ayurvedic physician strives to adjust and balance them, using a variety of techniques. The vata dosha is associated with air and ether, and in the body promotes movement and lightness. Vata people are generally thin and light physically, dry-skinned, and very energetic and mentally restless. When vata is out of balance, there are often nervous problems, hyperactivity, sleeplessness, lower back pains, and headaches. Pitta is associated with fire and water. In the body, it is responsible for metabolism and digestion. Pitta characteristics are medium-built bodies, fair skin, strong digestion, and good mental concentration. Pitta imbalances show up as anger and aggression and stress-related conditions like gastritis, ulcers, liver problems, and hypertension. The kapha dosha is associated with water and earth. People characterized as kapha are generally large or heavy with more oily complexions. They tend to be slow, calm, and peaceful. Kapha disorders manifest emotionally as greed and possessiveness, and physically as obesity, fatigue, bronchitis, and sinus problems.

 

Treatment:

Ayurvedic treatment seeks to re-establish balance and harmony in the body's systems. Usually the first method of treatment involves some sort of detoxification and cleansing of the body, in the belief that accumulated toxins must be removed before any other methods of treatment will be effective. After purification, Ayurvedic physicians use herbal and mineral remedies to balance the body as well. Ayurvedic medicine contains a vast knowledge of the use of herbs for specific health problems. Ayurvedic medicine also emphasizes how people live their lives from day to day, believing that proper lifestyles and routines accentuate balance, rest, diet, and prevention.

 


Ayurveda recommends yoga to build strength and health, and also advises massage therapy and self-massage as ways of increasing circulation and reducing stress. Yogic breathing techniques and meditation are also part of a healthy Ayurvedic regimen, to reduce stress and improve mental energy.


 

Of all treatments, though, diet is one of the most basic and widely used therapy in the Ayurvedic system. An Ayurvedic diet can be a very well planned and individualized regimen. According to Ayurveda, there are six basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Certain tastes and foods can either calm or aggravate a particular dosha. For instance, sweet, sour, and salty decrease vata problems and increase kapha. Sour, salty, and pungent can increase pitta. After an Ayurvedic physician determines a person's dosha profile, they will recommend a specific diet to correct imbalances and increase health.

 


The Ayurvedic diet emphasizes primarily vegetarian foods of high quality and freshness, tailored to the season and time of day.


 

Cooling foods are eaten in the summer and heating ones in the winter, always within a person's dosha requirements. In daily routine, the heaviest meal of the day should be lunch, and dinner should eaten well before bedtime, to allow for complete digestion. Also, eating meals in a calm manner with proper chewing and state of mind is important, as is combining foods properly and avoiding overeating.

 

Whew! That is a lot of information, but now you know a great deal about Ayurveda, it's roots, treatments options, and how it applies to you and your life!