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How Ayurveda Can Help You

Updated on June 7, 2010

Ayurveda is a form of traditional medicine that originates from India and is often practiced as a type of alternative medicine elsewhere. It is one of the oldest types of medicine in the world. In the Western world, it is seen as a form of complementary medicine, especially in relation to the herbs, massage and yoga aspects of Ayurveda. These are often practiced as individual complementary medicines in their own right. The basic aim of Ayurveda is to ensure that healthy individuals remain healthy, while helping individuals who do not have good health to overcome these problems. Statistics from 2007 estimated that up to 200,000 Americans had used Ayurvedic treatments over the preceding year. Generally speaking, Ayurvedic medicine is predominantly popular in Indian and the Asian subcontinent.

What Does Ayurveda Involve?

The underlying basis of Ayurveda is to realign the mind, spirit and body so that general health and well-being can be achieved. According to the basic principles of Ayurveda, the human body is made up of five components: ether (space), fire, air, water and earth. These can combine to produce various different bodily functions. For example, if ether and air combine, this produces the all-important "vata dosha" (which controls movements, and has an effect on basic cell processes such as nerve impulses, excretion, and the respiratory and circulatory systems). "Vata dosha" can be upset by stress, grief, late nights, and even eating dry fruit or failing to digest food before eating another meal. Individuals who have excessive "vata dosha" could find themselves susceptible to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions, neurological conditions, heart disease, anxiety and insomnia.

If fire and water combine, this produces "pitta dosha" (which controls the metabolism, hormones, and the digestive system. Individuals with excessive "pitta dosha" may find themselves susceptible to indigestion, heart disease, high blood pressure and conditions affecting the digestive system. In addition, anger is a common personality trait for individuals with an imbalance of this particular "dosha" type. An imbalance of "pitta dosha" is often caused by eating rich foods, tiredness and excessive exposure to the sun.

If water and earth combine, this produces "kapha dosha" (which controls growth). Too much of this type of "dosha" is likely to cause sickness after meals. An imbalance of "pitta dosha" is created by greed, sleeping in the daytime and consuming too many sweet and salty foods. An excess of "pitta dosha" can make an individual susceptible to diabetes, cancer, obesity and conditions affecting the respiratory system.

If any of these "dosha" become excessive, Ayurveda techniques will bring them back into equilibrium. Ayurveda is a highly individual form of medicine in which individuals are given personal recommendations to help them achieve the desired balance between mind and body. These recommendations often include making dietary and lifestyle changes. The balance between mind and body will often involve aligning the "true" self with nature to allow an equilibrium to evolve.

If the body contains too many toxins, a cleansing process known as "Pancha Karma) is recommended to counteract this. This often involves using warm massage oil and sweating techniques in advance of the cleansing taking place so that the areas in question are fully ready for the elimination of toxins. This is particularly important to ensure that the tissue underneath the skin is not damaged by the elimination of toxins. Eliminating toxins can take various forms including: "therapeutic vomiting" to get rid of toxins from the stomach and thyroid areas; "purging" toxins from the small intestine; "therapeutic enema" of toxins from the colon; and nose drops to eliminate toxins from the head and sinuses. After the toxins have been eliminated, a special diet is followed to make sure that new toxins do not enter the body in these specific areas.


Arranging a Consultation with an Ayurveda Practitioner

If you want to start practicing Ayurveda, it is best to book a consultation with an Ayurveda practitioner as it is easy to run into problems when practicing on your own. It is important to receive some expert guidance when it comes to practicing Ayurveda techniques as they can be quite dangerous if you do not really know what you are doing. This is especially true for those who are new to the practice of Ayurveda. 

At the initial consultation, your Ayurveda practitioner will ask some questions about your general health, diet and lifestyle so that he or she can build up an accurate picture of the type of Ayurveda techniques that will benefit you the most. He or she is also likely to take your pulse in twelve different areas and examine your tongue, skin, eyes and lips as this is believed to offer a good idea of the overall state of your body and health and the areas in which your "dosha" may be too excessive. It is likely for this assessment to indicate that one particular "dosha" is dominant in your body. This initial consultation is likely to last around one hour. If you use any other forms of conventional or alternative medicine, discuss this with your Ayurveda practitioner as it can have an effect on the Ayurvedic treatment plan that he or she draws up for you.

What To Expect From an Ayurvedic Treatment Plan

Once your Ayurveda practitioner has determined which "dosha" are experiencing an imbalance in your body, the subsequent Ayurvedic treatment plan can take several different forms. This may involve changing your diet to alter the balance of "dosha" in your body as certain foods can encourage this to multiply excessively and create an imbalance. A typical Ayurvedic treatment plan will involve eliminating toxins and impurities from the body, using techniques such as massage, yoga and herbs to treat existing health problems, using herbs and tonics to increase your immunity and protect against future health problems, and improving the harmony between your mind and body. 

Considerations

As with most forms of alternative medicine, Ayurveda is not without its criticisms. Health professionals warn that it should not be used instead of conventional medicine, especially in relation to treating serious health problems. Pregnant women should not embark on Ayurvedic treatments during pregnancy as many of the treatments have not been tested in Western medicine and could be dangerous for unborn babies. This is also the case for women who are breast-feeding as herbs and tonics can be transferred to babies through breast milk. 

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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Well, that is fascinating and interesting. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. Super hub.

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