Ayurvedic medicine or Ayurveda literally translates to ‘science of life’. It is a 5,000 year old Indian healing system that views health and wellbeing as a fine balance of mind, body and soul working in harmony with the universe.
According to Ayurveda, the natural balance of mind, body and soul can be disrupted by internal stimuli such as food, age or a physical injury or an external stimulus such as the weather or seasonal change. Ayurveda promotes the maintenance of wellbeing to prevent illness or disease rather than being viewed as a cure or treatment.
Ayurveda is predominantly about energy forces and followers believe that we are made of combinations of the following five elements; space, air, fire, water and earth.
Of these energy forces there are three combinations that form our personality and physique. The combinations or ‘doshas’ are:
- Vata dosha – space and air or wind – responsible for basic body functions in relations to respiration, circulation, cell division.
- Pitta dosha – fire and water – responsible for digestion, metabolism, the sense of taste.
- Kapha dosha – water and earth – responsible for immunity, strength, growth of muscles, and weight.
Each individual has all three of these forces present in differing proportions, with one or two showing dominance. Your unique make-up is known as your ‘prakriti’, which remains unchanged throughout your life, but is influenced by your diet. Human traits shown in each dosha have positive and negative characteristics and are as follows:
- Vata – If Vata is dominant then the character is likely to be energetic and creative. The negative side of this is if there is imbalance then the individual tends to suffer from anxiety, insomnia, constipation and difficulty with concentration.
- Pitta – Pitta dominant individuals tend to be friendly, have good self discipline, and natural leadership skills. If this balance is disrupted then they can become compulsive, ill-tempered and experience digestive problems and inflammation.
- Kapha – Kapha dominance leads to a character which is kind and gentle. When imbalanced the individual may feel lethargic and be prone to gain weight and suffer sinus problems.
The principle aim of Ayurveda
The principal aim of Ayurveda is to firstly identify the person’s natural balance, then to find where and how that balance is disrupted, and finally to suggest remedies to re-establish equilibrium.
Ayurveda believes that most imbalances are cause by undigested food or ‘ama’ and one of the main treatments ‘Panchakarma’ deals with cleansing the system to remove ama.
Panchakarma interventions use diet, herbs, enemas, blood cleansing, aromatherapy, massage, music and meditation to cleanse the system, maintain equilibrium and aid re-balance.
A series of questions are used to establish the dominant element or force in your nature and your unique mix of dosha and work out how food digestion and elimination can influence your prakriti.
The questions will cover your diet, lifestyle, medical history and how well you recover from illness. The practitioner will also check your weight, take a urine and stool sample, check your pulse, examine your eyes, teeth, tongue and skin.
Make sure that you tell your practitioner if you are taking any medication or supplements before any treatment to avoid possible reactions. You should also check the source of the medicines and herbs that your practitioner uses as some sourced from India may contain lead, mercury or arsenic, which are highly toxic.
How to find an Ayurvedic practitioner
When choosing your Ayurvedic practitioner, be sure to check that they have adequate training and experience. As a benchmark, in India, an Ayurvedic practitioner will have received at least five years training and hold a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) or Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (DEMS) degree.
Find a spa or health centre offering Ayurveda treatments.
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