Ayurveda, which is pronounced (eye-your-vay-da), is an ancient holistic science which was handed down by the great seers of India more than 5,000 years ago. In fact, it’s the oldest documented body of holistic medical knowledge around.
In Sanskrit, Ayurveda literally means ‘The Science of Life and Well-being,” says Sonia Boba, co-founder of Alcanz International, a company that produces a line of authentic Ayurvedic beauty and well-being treatments.
In many ways, Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of medicine. This is because it combines natural therapies with a highly personalized approach to maintaining health. In other words, Ayurveda is not passive; patient participation is required. And unlike Western medicine (no offense to all the M.D.s out there of course), equal emphasis is placed on the body, mind and spirit.
According to the principles of Ayurveda, body, mind and spirit are equally important because nothing exists in isolation. Everything has an effect on our health and well-being, be it our diet, family, work or our relationships. Also the five elements: ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth are also considered since they too affect us. For instance, foods and weather are just two examples of their presence. Furthermore, the way the elements combine can determine your physiologic makeup, says Boba.
And here is where the doshas come in. The five elements combine in pairs to form three dynamic forces or interactions called doshas, which means “that which changes.” They are categorized as vata, pitta and kapha. According to Ayurvedic practitioners, each one of us has a predominant dosha. However the ultimate goal is to maintain a state of balance between the three.
Vata governs the principle of movement and therefore can be seen as the force which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination. It is associated with air, ether, imagination and intuition.
Fire and water combine to form pitta and together they outline the process of metabolism. For instance, the transformation of foods into nutrients in our bodies is an example of a pitta function. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems as well as cellular metabolism.
Here water and earth elements combine to form the Kapha dosha, which is responsible for growth and structure. Kapha also offers protection. For instance, cerebral spinal fluid protects the brain and spinal column and is a type of Kapha found in the body. Also, the mucosal lining of the stomach is another example of the Kapha dosha protecting the tissues.
It’s all about you
So what can Ayurveda do for you? Well, let’s say you’ve decided to seek an ayurvedic practitioner since the array of doctors you’ve visited have been utterly unable to help you with a pesky heath situation. During the consultation, chances are, they won’t be too concerned with your symptoms. Rather, they’ll want to know how you relate internally and externally to your environment. They’ll ask you a cascade of questions: what foods do you like, spicy or bland? How do you combine your foods? Do you eat your emotions? What season is your favorite? How deeply do you sleep? And what do your professional and personal relationships look like.
The practitioner might also check your pulse along with the condition of your skin and hair and even observe your body language.
Once they’ve ascertained your unique make-up, a treatment protocol is designed to help reduce your excessive dosha and specifically address your health challenges. In Ayurveda, herbs, massage, and other products and techniques are also used.
Ayurveda has many important uses. For instance, it encourages the detoxification of the body to maintain optimal health and rejuvenation, says Boba. The ancient Ayurvedic texts recommend that this traditional cleanse or Pancha Karma be performed four times annually or once per season. Ayurveda also increases your energy level, improves your lifestyle, your eating habits and your overall mental and emotional well-being.
Most of all, Ayurveda creates self-understanding. Rather than just putting a band aid on your aches or swallowing a pill, you get to explore the root of a problem from a body, mind, and spirit point of view. Before you seek care from an Ayurvedic practitioner, ask about their training and experience. And take a close look at all aspects of your life so you can be truly candid in your consultation. This will lead you to a healthier way of living quicker. Good luck – and good health!
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