Ayurveda is often referred to as the mother of all healing and is one of the oldest alternative medicine systems in the world. Far more a lifestyle than a diet, a famous Ayurvedic saying is, “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; “When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda – Ayur (life) Veda (knowledge).
Ayurveda originated thousands of years ago in India, when people were more dependent on their environment, then what we are today. Although the Ayurvedic tradition has evolved over the years and is now integrated with other traditional practices like yoga, it has always been an integral part of the healthcare system in India, and it’s said to be used by more than 90% of the country’s population in one form or another.
The basis of Ayurvedic medicine is not to cure diseases, however, it is a user’s manual of how to get the most out of life, by balancing our body, mind, senses and spirit. With an emphasis on prevention and the maintenance of health through close attention to balance in one’s life.
What are the Doshas?
Ayurvedic philosophy stems from the idea that everything in the Universe is based on five core elements; ether, air, fire, water and earth. The elements are known as the five building blocks of life. We are all made up of these five building blocks and they help explain why food and herbs have an effect on us. Furthermore, the elements form the three life forces called the doshas. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the doshas control how your body works and we all inherit a unique mix of them. The three doshas can be categorised into:
VATA – ether and air element:
Vata is the energy associated with movement. It governs breathing, tissue movement and pulsation of the heart. If in balance it can promote creativity and flexibility. When out of balance it can increase fearfulness, anxiety, insomnia and bloat in the stomach. A strong presence of Vata can typically be recognized by fast-talking, fast thinking and someone who is always on the go, with lots of movement and energy.
PITTA – fire and water:
Pitta is the energy associated with the body’s metabolic system. It governs digestion, nutrition, metabolism and body temperature. If in balance it can promote understanding and intelligence. If out of balance it can lead to anger, hatred and jealousy. A strong presence of Pitta can be described as a fiery, direct, enthusiastic and “passionate about life” personality. Also known to be over-achievers and competitive individuals.
KAPHA – water and earth:
Kapha is the energy associated with the body’s structure — bones, muscles, tendons. It supplies the water for all bodily parts and systems, lubricates joints, moisturizes the skin, and maintains immunity. In balance, Kapha is expressed as love, calmness and forgiveness. Out of balance, it can lead to attachment, greed and envy.
Usually, one dosha will be more prevalent than the others. For most people, around 80% of the population, 1 or 2 tend to dominate. For the remaining 20%, either 1 are prevalent or in the very rare occasion, all 3 are in perfect balance. This is referred to as tri-dosha and people who inherit this tend to have good health and general good mental wellbeing.
The principles of the Doshas can be related to the basic biology of the body, and it is believed that your chances of getting sick – and the health issues you develop in life – are linked to the balance of your doshas. Ayurvedic medicine is all about working to the best of our doshas, once we understand them and minimise potential imbalance.
“There is something very humbling about Ayurveda: and accepting who we are. Our doshas are determined at the point of conception. And we can’t change that, we have to be true to ourselves”.
What are some of the benefits of Ayurvedic treatments?
A study done at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Massachusetts reported that doing yoga significantly reduced signs of stress and anxiety. The study also revealed that yoga may aid in lowering sympathetic activity in the autonomic nervous system, more commonly known as our bodies fight or flight response.
Ayurvedic therapists use essential oils for the treatment of a wide range of issues. In 2010 The Institute of Indigenous Medicine at the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka successfully used essential oils to balance hormonal levels during one of their studies.
Ayurvedic medicine recognises that “most disease begins in the gut,” and many of its practices are aimed at balancing gut health. If you are dealing with indigestion, bloating, and other symptoms of poor digestion Ayurvedic treatments can help aide your symptoms
Aids Weight Loss.
A healthy diet plan prescribed by an Ayurvedic therapist can benefit you by detoxifying your body, removing excess fat from tissues and reducing cholesterol levels.
Studies have shown that the use of Ayurvedic herbs like Brahmi can improve cognitive skills and stimulate the mind to improve memory and concentration.
What does a typical Ayurvedic treatment look like?
An Ayurvedic therapist will use various techniques for assessing your health, and carefully evaluate the signs and symptoms of illness, especially in relation to the origin and cause of an imbalance.
- The therapist will evaluate your physical health by observing movements, body contour, the colour of your skin and eyes, facial lines and ridges, the shape of your nose, and qualities of your lips, hair, and nails.
- The therapist uses physical touch by pressing down on certain parts of your body, tapping and listening for sounds made by your internal organs. There is a special focus on your pulse, tongue, nails, and speech.
- The therapist will then have a conversation with you about any symptoms or problems you may have, underlying mental and physical conditions as well as the duration of discomfort or issues.
After the assessment, the therapist will create a treatment plan specially designed for you. Taking into consideration all of the aspects listed above. Potential treatments can be one or a combination of herbs and herbal formulas, panchakarma, diet and nutrition, ayurvedic massage and Shirodhara.
How do I find a therapist that suits me?
The Ayurvedic Professionals Association (APA) provide a list of members who have completed training in Ayurveda. From spring 2021 you can find Ayurvedic therapists in your area by visiting our website. Search and book your next treatment directly through our online marketplace.