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Ancient Indian Ayurvedic Medicine

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 2 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
Ayurveda Ayurvedic Medicine Prakruti

Are you looking for an approach to health that can incorporate your mind, body and the environment you live in? Do you feel that your attitudes to life can significantly affect your health? Would you prefer preventative and prescriptive healthcare with a natural approach? Then Ayurvedic medicine might be just what you're looking for. The Ayurvedic approach is the traditional medicine of India. Ayurveda is based on two Sanskrit roots: ayu meaning life and veda meaning knowledge or science. The Indian knowledge of life involves the promotion and maintenance of harmonious relationships, not only between the body and the mind but also the body and the environment.

Know Your Prakruti

Ayurveda uses a system of examination and analysis that is performed almost entirely by observation, in order to ascertain your original nature and its current imbalances. The examination assesses your type of mind/body system, or prakruti and how this relates to the symptoms you are presenting. Vedic philosophy also defines three different types of human temperament. These classify different psychological and moral dispositions as well as their specific tendencies towards environmental conditions. These are defined as:

People with dominant satvic qualities are said to be spiritual, loving, compassionate, empathetic and pure minded. They are honest and have good manners and conduct. They work hard mentally without getting fatigued, and only need a few hours sleep each night. They are respectful and in balance intellectually and emotionally.

People with predominant rajasic qualities are aggressive, egotistic and arrogant. They tend to be self-centred, like to have control over others and are subject to stress. Though they are hard workers they are disorganized and lack structure in their lives. They are calm and patient only as long as their own desires are being fulfilled. They are often fickle friends, jealous and over-ambitious.

People in whom tamasic qualities are dominant are often depressed, they tend to over sleep and are less intelligent. They are easily tired by mental or physical work. They like to indulge in physical pleasures, and may cause other people harm through their own self-interest. They are greedy and possessive of their friends and material objects.

Are Your Doshas Unbalanced?

Once your individual prakruti has been recognized, the Ayurvedic practitioner assesses your personal balance of three fundamental, universal energies. These energies, also known as 'doshas' are; vata (light and airy), pitta (fiery and ambitious) and kapha (heavier and calmer). Illness and disease are considered to be a matter of imbalance in the doshas. If one or more of these universal energies are out of sync then symptoms will manifest. Though different people may be suffering similar symptoms, according to Ayurveda, the causes will vary depending on the person and their lifestyle. As all disease is rooted in consciousness, diagnosis is determined based on which of your doshas are unbalanced and to what degree. However, the cause of the disease is not necessarily inside your body, but may be related to your lifestyle or recent trauma. In order to obtain permanent relief, the cause must be eliminated. Treatment is therefore aimed at restoring harmony to the mind/body system within its environment.

Symptoms of disharmonised doshas vary from joint pains, dry skin, tremors, weight-loss, to stuff muscles when vata is excessive. Factors that may over stimulate this dosha are said to be; exposure to excessive light or noise, poor diet, over work or drug use. Increased pitta can manifest as hyperacidity, skin disease, fever, ulcers or liver disorders. Excessive intake of tea, coffee or alcohol, smoking, over-exposure to heat and sun may throw your pitta off course. If you are suffering from a cough, chest infection, or asthma, then it's probably your kapha that is unbalanced. Contributory factors in this case might be excessive amounts of sugar or refined food, too much sleep or too little exercise.

Your Personal Treatment Plan

Once your imbalance has been diagnosed you will be given a health and diet plan aimed specifically at correcting your doshas. The first major step to healing is to detoxify the body, removing all impurities before effective treatment begins. This usually involves a series of full body, deep muscle massages with aromatic oils. You will also receive recommendations for a healthy lifestyle based on your personal needs.

Ayurvedic recommendations for maintaining balanced doshas focus mainly on general guidelines for what and how to eat and balancing sleep and exercise. The suggestions include:

  • eat fresh food
  • make sure food is sufficiently cooked
  • leave at least four hours between meals
  • have water in small quantities with meals but not for one hour before or after
  • average six-hour sleep each night
  • exercise regularly, each day

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