The Holistic Medicine of Ayurveda

written by The WellBeing Team

Be prepared. The holistic medicine of Ayurveda can change your life. It’s regarded as ancient holistic medicine the oldest health system yet its current revival reflects a passionate movement toward creating harmony across our world.

With the emphasis on prevention rather than cure, ayurveda’s holistic approach to health is widely being embraced by leading doctors and healers from around the world. In India where ayurveda originates, health centres and spas are flourishing with many people coming to study this ancient medicinal system so they can integrate it into their practices.

The beauty of ayurveda is its sole purpose is to encourage all of us to live with inspiration. The ayurvedic way is based on the philosophy that one should be encouraged to find ease in all areas of life including physical health, spiritual outlook, mental state, career, and financial, social and family factors. Many of the ayurvedic doctors I spent time with in India say ayurveda is based on a deep communing with nature – “positive thoughts create positive molecules”.

Ayurveda is translated as “science of life”. The story of this branch of holistic medicine goes that 6000 years ago 52 Indian rishis travelled to the Himalayas to deepen their understanding of wellness. They spent time in meditation with the aim of acquiring the wisdom of life, and the inspiration they received was translated in Sanskrit texts and has evolved ever since. As with yoga, the understanding ayurveda is a lifelong journey. By integrating the principles of ayurveda into your life, you are making an affirmation of long-term wellbeing and inner bliss.

Disease is temporary

Ayurveda holistic medicine practitioners consider illness simply a phase in one’s life rather than a problem. It can be considered a wonderful opportunity to rebalance, learn and grow. True wellness, according to ayurveda, is defined as a state of equilibrium of the doshas (the three principles that maintain and control the body, which are vata, kapha and pita), dhathus (bodily functions), malas (any contaminates in the body) and angi (digestive fire or energy) together with the sense of wellbeing in the mind, physical body and soul. It’s not simply about being well in the body but also having a healthy outlook on life and a focus or career path that is of service to others.

Ayurveda is based on the tridosha concept involving vatha, pitha and kapha. Though all the doshas are present and functioning together everywhere in the body, their locations are broadly described into three according to their predominance. The tridoshas not only refer to the main vital functions of human organs but are also present in each and every cell and move through the lymph channels. It is believed that diseases occur when there is disorder in the balance — for perfect health there should be equilibrium between these tridoshas.

Ayurveda holistic medicine diagnosis

Normally a consultation with an ayurvedic holistic medicine doctor will take 1-2 hours of careful diagnosis. They will look at all aspects of you so they can establish your dosha that will help them determine the potential of your health. Part of the diagnosis includes actual treatment and part is lifestyle consultation.

There are three main methods in the diagnosis process, including:
Darsana pareeksha- observation of the patient’s physical body such as eyes, general behaviour, bowel function, speech and quality and colour of skin and hair.

Prasna pareeksha – questioning of past and current history of health, lifestyle, eating habits and mental and emotional characteristics with particular focus on digestion, as this is considered the root of all disease.
Sparsana parkeesha – through touch such as pulse diagnosis, one of the most profound ways to check the standard of your health.

The aim of the consultation is for the physician to understand the cause of any imbalances and then design a detailed tailored program.

Ayurveda holistic medicine treatments

Be prepared to journey into a world of calm in experiencing ayurveda holisitic medicine treatments. The doctor’s ultimate aim is for you to learn how to rebalance your physical and mental self so you retain a sense of responsibility and inner strength. Treatments are given according to your needs and the menu includes various medications, applications, philosophy, yoga and meditation.

Dr C A Ramen from Somatheeram Ayurveda Center in Kerala says many people travelling to India from the West carry the signs of deep stress. “In my experience so many people come here complaining of predominantly vata diseases such as sleeplessness, headaches, arthritis, osteopathy, rheumatism, paralysis, neurological, nerve and stress problems and others like multiple sclerosis. Through ayurveda treatments we completely calm the mind so people leave here with a renewed sense of purpose and health.”

In a traditional ayurveda centre or spa in India, the herbs and oils will be organic and freshly prepared. Great care is taken in the diagnosis session to ensure each person receives their own personal medications and oils for the therapists to use throughout their program. A typical program includes daily yoga and meditation, a personalised ayurvedic meal plan, 2-3 hours of treatments, medications and herbs and plenty of rest. Some places combine astrology, music and other creative options to expand the mind and increase awareness.

In ayurveda there are two styles of holistic medicine treatments:
Sodhana chikilsa – purification therapy to eliminate the internal causes of any disease. It involves elimination through the body’s excretory system, internal medicines to induce vomiting and purgation, herbal medicines administered through the nostril and anus and blood-letting therapy to drain impure blood out of the body. There is also great emphasis placed on removing emotional toxins and thoughts that often lead to imbalances in the first place.
Shamana chikilsa – alleviating therapy normally follows sodhana therapy and is less dramatic. Herbal medicines are used internally and externally to rebalance the body and improve the immune system.

Prime holistic medicine treatments in ayurveda

Ideally, it’s recommended that you complete a full course of ayurvedic treatments to help prevent or cure your health problem. There are hundreds of treatments to experience and below are the prime ayurvedic treatments you will find at most centres.

Pancha karma

Pancha “five” and karma “action” is a five-step process to completely detoxify and renew the mental and physical body. It’s believed that a 21- to 28-day pancha karma will keep you “bouncing around at 75” and increase your life span and appetite for life. Before pancha karma, one has to prepare carefully with medicines and oil preparations, sweating processes, medicated herbal and steam baths and other preparations known as pre-operative, operative and post-operative procedures.

Description: The pancha karma sequence involves emesis therapy (treatment by emetics), purgation, errhine therapy, soothing enemata and cleansing enemata.

Shashtika pinda sweda

Description: This is a process where part of or the whole body is made to perspire by the application of certain medicinal puddings in muslin cloth. Before application you are massaged with oil over your head and body according to your condition. Then you are required to sit on the table while being gently massaged with the puddings by two therapists working in synchronicity.

Abhayanga

Description: This is known as the traditional ayurvedic massage in which you are anointed with lukewarm oil according to your dosha and the climate. Careful attention is taken to heal your head, ears and feet. The purpose is to stimulate the internal organs and increase blood circulation.

Pizhicil (oil bath)

Description: This nurturing treatment involves lukewarm herbal oils squeezed through cloth and dripped over your body by 2-4 therapists working in synchronicity. It’s almost like a shirodhara for the whole body. The treatment begins and ends with you sitting, and in between you will lie down flat in a wooden basin. During the treatment a paste prepared with medicated oil and powder is applied to the centre of your head The purpose is to induce perspiration.

Sirodhara

Description: Sira means “head” and dhara is the continual flow of liquid.
In this treatment you lie down comfortably and have herbal oils and medicated milks poured over your forehead. An amazing experience, particularly if you love to worry or stress. A wide-mouthed earthen vessel with a hole at the bottom is hung about two inches above the patient’s forehead. A thread hangs from the hole and the oil flows along it. The prescribed liquid is then poured into the vessel and in a stream on the upper forehead to soothe six vital marma points that activate related organs and nerves.

  • Length of treatment: Around 40 minutes.
  • Benefits: Especially beneficial for disturbances in the nerves, insomnia, loss of memory, headaches, mental tension and certain skin diseases. It’s also excellent for strengthening and calming the mind.

Shiro-vasti

Description: This is a deep treatment for calming the mind, in which medicated oil remains on the head for a prescribed period. Specific herbal oils are poured into a cap fitted on the head. You are required to sit in a chair with oil anointed over your body and the cap fitted onto your head. The lukewarm oil is poured into the tall cap.

  • Length of treatment: This treatment is normally around 40 minutes and may be given over seven or more days until mucous discharges from your mouth, eyes and nose, which are the signs of completion. This is normally followed by a back, hip and head and neck massage and often a hot water bath.
  • Benefits: This treatment is beneficial in preventing neurological and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimers and cerebral stroke. Also recommended for facial paralysis, dryness of nostrils, mouth and throat, insomnia, severe headaches and other head diseases.

Marmas

According to the ayurvedic texts, we each have 107 marma points in our bodies where the muscles and nerves meet and are directly linked to the brain. Keeping these points clean and balanced is said to ensure a long and happy life. Regular exercise such as swimming and yoga will stimulate the marma points and help keep them toned and activated. Make it your discipline to give yourself a foot massages with sesame oil 3-5 minutes per day. Naturally, a regular and energising diet in which you chew 30-50 times per mouthful is also beneficial.

Ayurveda holistic medicine at home

It’s also easy to bring ayurveda into your daily lifestyle. There’s an old yogic saying that “discipline brings freedom” and this term can be applied to ayurveda. Here’s a simple routine to deepen your practice:

  • Begin the day with gratitude. Wake up before sunrise and ask yourself what are the most inspirational things and thoughts you can do today.
  • Clean your body of toxins accumulated overnight through the liver, kidneys and stomach. These toxins are the mucous formed on your tongue and in the nose, sleep in the eyes and wax in the ear, which if not washed away properly will go back into the body. Clean these areas of the body well and invest in a tongue scraper available at most healthfood stores.
  • Anoint your body with sesame oil and massage into the whole body. This not only stimulates and nourishes but when massaged into the head will improve circulation in the brain. Step into a shower or bath and rinse.
  • Yoga asanas are next. You may be off to your yoga class or simply do some stretches at home. It’s a great way to start the day with absolute vitality.

  • Work – your opportunity to contribute positively to the world.
  • Remember to chew your food carefully throughout the day. In places like India and Bali, not much conversation will happen over meals; rather mealtime is regarded as a sacred time to digest the food gratefully and contemplate.
  • In the evening, eat a light dinner no later than 7pm.
  • Relax. Take a foot bath and/or massage a few drops of sesame oil into the soles of your feet and crown of your head to induce a good night’s sleep.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night to maintain further regularity in your daily routine. Before 10pm is highly recommended.
  • If you are looking for a health system that will keep your focus on your purpose and your mind, body and spirit vital, consider ayurveda. There are excellent seven-, 14-, 21- and 28-day programs to experience, particularly if you have specific problems, and here in Australia we are blessed with many quality centres.

Rama Prasad of Ayurveda Elements, Sydney, recommends the following websites to find out more about ayurveda: www.ayurvedic-remedies.com.au, www.avpayurveda.org, www.ayurveda.com, www.sushakti.com and www.avpayurveda.com. Treatments available at his centre include shirodhara, dehadhara, abhayanga. He also runs one-year ayurveda courses and rejuvenation trips to Southern India.

Judy Chapman recommends the following ayurveda health centres in India to experience ayurvedic treatments: www.somatheeram.com, www.suryasamudra.com, www.soukya.com, www.anandaspa.com and www.ayurgram.com


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