Ayurveda, “life-knowledge” or Ayurveda medicine, is a system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent more than 5000 years B.C. Globalized and modernized practices derived from Ayurveda traditions are a type of complementary or alternative medicine. In the Western world, Ayurveda therapies and practices (which are manifold) have been integrated in general wellness applications and as well in some cases in medical use.
Balance is emphasized, and suppressing natural urges is considered unhealthy and claimed to lead to illness in Ayurveda, for example, to suppress sneezing is said to potentially give rise to shoulder pain.
However, people are also cautioned to stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure when following nature’s urges. For example, emphasis is placed on moderation of food intake, sleep, and sexual intercourse.
Ayurveda names three elemental substances, the doshas (called Vata, Pitta and Kapha), and states that a balance of the doshas results in health, while imbalance results in disease.
Vata – Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and heartbeat. When vata energy is balanced, there is creativity and vitality. Out of balance, vata produces fear and anxiety.
Pitta – Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and temperature. In balance, pitta leads to contentment and intelligence. Out of balance, pitta can cause ulcers and arouse anger.
Kapha – Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system. In balance, kapha is expressed as love and forgiveness. Out of balance, kapha leads to insecurity and envy.
Ayurveda doctors regard physical existence, mental existence, and personality as a unit, with each element being able to influence the others. This is a holistic approach used during diagnosis and therapy, and is a fundamental aspect of Ayurveda.
One Ayurvedic view is that the doshas are balanced when they are equal to each other, while another view is that each human possesses a unique combination of the doshas which define this person’s temperament and characteristics. In either case, it says that each person should modulate their behavior or environment to increase or decrease the doshas and maintain their natural state.
Ayurveda follows the concept of Dinacharya-daily routine, which says that natural cycles (waking, sleeping, working, meditation etc.) are important for health. Combination of proper Diet, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Panchakarma-Detoxification processes are key elements of treatments.
An initial assessment with an Ayurvedic practitioner may last an hour or longer. The practitioner will ask detailed questions about your health, diet and lifestyle. He or she will listen to your pulse. Unlike mainstream medicine, 12 different pulse points are assessed in Ayurveda.
The Ayurvedic practitioner also examines the tongue; its appearance is believed to provide clues about areas of the body that may be out of balance. The appearance of the skin, lips, nails, and eyes is also observed.
After the assessment, the practitioner will determine an individual’s unique balance of doshas, or metabolic types. One dosha is usually predominant and may be imbalanced, usually due to poor diet and unhealthy habits.
The practitioner also determines your prakuti, also called your constitution or essential nature. From there, the practitioner can create an individualized treatment plan, which often includes diet, exercise, herbs, yoga, meditation, and massage. The treatment plan generally focuses on restoring balance to one particular dosha.
Ayurvedic treatment focuses on rebalancing the doshas. On your first visit, the practitioner will take a detailed medical history, check your pulse, feel your abdomen, examine your tongue, eyes, nails, and skin, and listen to the tone of your voice. The practitioner will also ask you questions about your general health, paying special attention to your lifestyle, diet, habits, and surroundings. The practitioner will then recommend ways to restore your natural dosha balance, which almost always includes changes in lifestyle, especially diet, advice herbal medicine. Practitioners draw from more than 20 types of treatment. Each treatment is about 45-60 mins. The most commonly prescribed include:
Pranayama – Breathing exercises. Practicing pranayama helps you feel calm.
Abhyanga-Rubbing the skin with herbal oil to increase blood circulation and draw toxins out of the body through the skin.
Rasayana – Using mantras (repeated words or phrases) during meditation combined with certain herbs for rejuvenation.
Yoga – Combining pranayama, movement, and meditation. Yoga has been shown to improve circulation and digestion, and to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, anxiety, and chronic pain.
Pancha Karma – Cleansing the body to purify it and reduce cholesterol. Practitioners use methods that cause sweat, bowel movements, and even vomit to cleanse the body of toxins.
Herbal Medicines – Prescribing herbs to restore dosha balance.
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