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Ayurveda is a system of natural medicine originating in India over 5000 years ago. The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit word Ayur (life) and Veda (knowledge) and roughly translates to the ‘science of life’. Ayurveda seeks to maintain balance between the mind and body.
When stress, diet and the environment disturb this balance, Ayurvedic practitioners work to restore inner harmony. As a non-symptomatic form of medicine, you don’t have to be unwell to observe Ayurveda or to see an Ayurvedic practitioner. Ayurveda is both preventative and curative in nature.
Ayurveda believes that at the time of birth, your unique ‘prakruti’ is determined. Prakruti is your constitution, it’s what makes you, you! Your ‘prakruti’ consists of the balance of three life energies or ‘doshas’ – Kapha, Pitta and Vata. These doshas influence our physiological and psychological tendencies. Each dosha creates balance and works in harmony with the other doshas.
Typically, one or two doshas are present as more dominant in us. For example, you may be Pitta dominant. Meanwhile, I may have dual constitution of Vata-Kapha where both are equally dominant. There are an infinite number of ways in which doshas can balance in each of us. This is what makes each of us so unique!
Ayurveda works on the basic principles of balance in the body and mind and believes that most conditions arise from an imbalance in the body or mind.
When our mind-body connection is in balance, we are at peak health and wellbeing. However, when this connection is disturbed, there is an imbalance (‘vikruti‘). As a result of this disruption, symptoms specific to that imbalance will manifest. Ayurvedic practitioners address the cause of this vikruti. In doing so, they develop a bespoke treatment plan, which takes your symptoms and prakruti into consideration.
This includes an analysis of your dominant dosha(s) with the goal of restoring harmony to your body. Common examples of conditions that present themselves when there is a Kapha, Vata or Pitta imbalance are below:
Moreover, understanding the attributes of each dosha helps predict and avoid the possible disorders that might arise.
|Ruling elements||Space and Air||Fire and Water||Earth and Water|
|Physical traits||Thin, agile frame, loses weight easily, walks fast||Medium build, reddish skin or hair, fine hair, fair or freckled skin||Solid or sturdy frame, large eyes, thick shiny hair|
|Personality traits||Quick thinking, creative, expressive, dry skin, feet, and hands get cold easily||Intelligent, short-tempered, driven, ambitious, intense, feel warm or overheated easily||Calm nature, loyal, prefer routine and habit, can be stubborn or resistant to change|
|Typical ailments||Constipation, anxiety-related disorders, fatigue or insomnia||Acidity or heartburn, rashes, inflammation-related disorders||Depression, weight gain, sinus problems, colds|
Ayurveda is not a one-size-fits-all system. It is highly customisable and takes into consideration; the constitution, lifestyle, medical history, mental traits, and location of the patient. These are some of the most popular ayurvedic treatments given in ayurvedic clinics:
Abhyangam: This is a system of massage that comes from Kerala in India. It uses herbal oils and specific strokes that aim at increasing circulation and eliminate toxins.
Shirodhara: This treatment involves warm oil being poured onto the forehead in a slow, continuous stream, to stimulate the hypothalamus. It induces sleep and lowers stress levels.
Kizhi (bolus) massage: Small pouches of hot herbal powders or sand are used to knead the body at specific points. This is used to alleviate muscular pain and reduce stress levels.
Nasya or nasyam treatment: Nasal treatments are used to relieve migraines, sinusitis, allergies, and to open breathing passages. It involves administering lukewarm water into the nostrils to flush out the nasal cavity.
Panchakarma: This is a system of five different types of therapy that are given to remove toxins, soothe and rejuvenate the tissue, and restore the body’s balance. It involves:
Panchakarma is usually done over a few days in sessions, so that your body has time to get accustomed to the changes. Panchakarma can be somewhat intense for a beginner, so do check with your local practitioner before signing up for it.
In India, the country of its origin, Ayurveda is naturally a prevalent system of medicine. It is recognised by the Indian Medical Council, the body responsible for establishing standards for medical education in the country. Practitioners attend institutionalised training and certification courses, and are licensed to set up and run their own practices.
In the United States of America, Ayurvedic practitioners cannot be licensed, nor are there any country-wide standards for Ayurvedic training, while in the United Kingdom, there are no statutory regulations for Ayurveda.
In Australia however, Ayurveda has a wide following and a certain standing. Ayurvedic medicines are classified as ‘complementary medicines’, meaning it must be licensed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and must adhere to the standards of other pharmaceuticals.
Unlike most common medicine that treats symptoms, Ayurveda focuses on preserving one’s health. It offers solutions that can be a part of your day – like moderate exercise, meditation, dietary control, massage, etc – that work towards a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Ayurveda is a 360-degree system of wellness. Ayurvedic centres prescribe treatments based on multiple factors, such as the patient’s constitution and mind, as well as their current lifestyle. This well-rounded approach is what makes it a holistic lifestyle approach that isn’t reserved just for when you’re ill.
And although its origins are from a very different time, Ayurveda has even more relevance today. To the overworked, anxious, overstimulated person of modern society, Ayurveda teaches fitness of the body and mind, and encourages balance and moderation. Ayurvedic treatments like massage, yoga, and meditation give us time to slow down, to set aside some time for self-care, and to refocus our scattered energies.