The word Ayurveda is from Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. It literally means “Knowledge of life”. The underlying concept in the practice of Ayurveda principles is that one is in charge of his own life and healing. Simply put, this concept offers a philosophy where prevention of needless agonies in life is in the hands of the individual himself, in like manner that long and healthy life is also his sole responsibility.
Ayurveda is also known as the mother of all medical systems. It has undergone research, development and refinement by practitioners over the past 5000 years, originating in India. Currently undergoing a world wide revival as individuals are seeking more and more alternative medical approaches to prevention and treatment, Ayurveda employs the application of nutritional counseling, herbal medications, exercise, meditation and other therapies. It is a total patient oriented system rather than the traditional Western Medicine disease oriented system
Interestingly, many of the scientifically supported health prevention that is currently recommended have been practiced by Ayurveda practitioners for centuries. They believe that individuals should rise with the sun, followed by meditation and exercise. Exercise is done in the morning before bathing and the intensity is dependent upon the body type. Ideally individuals should exercise at ½ their capacity with the preferred method being yoga
When done with the exercise, the next thing to do is to clean the tongue with a special instrument meant to freshen the mouth and to stimulate the digestive enzymes. Before taking a bath, the nasal passages are kept moist by applying and massaging it with sesame oil. This shall be followed with a hot bath to reduce fatigue, clean the body and also to stimulate the desire for food.
There are also recommended diet plans for a variety of illnesses and constitutions, likewise, alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs must be avoided.
There are three distinct body types with their own strengths and challenges as defined by practitioners of Ayurveda, they are as follows: 1. The Vata is described as usually thin, coarse curly hair, head and eyes are small, and have trouble gaining weight. 2. Another is the Pitta illustrated as medium built, height and bone structure. They will have soft skin that is warm to the touch that will bald or gray early. They like sweet, bitter foods such as candy, green salad and bananas. They may be assertive and aggressive, highly organized and intelligent. They tend to be teachers, doctors and lawyers.
3. And lastly, the Kapha which is labeled as someone with a large bone, one who is not tall but are the foundation of their society. They have a tendency toward being overweight. Hair is thick and wavy. They have small appetites and eat slowly – but are big snackers. They aren’t very active people and prefer repetitious jobs. They are compassionate, forgiving and loving, often becoming social workers, nurses and clergy.
It is important to remember that not one person will be just one body type but rather a combination of the three. In Ayurveda, once the body type is identified, a special diet can be planned and created to meet the specific needs of the person based on the predetermined body type.
Practitioners also believe that there are three different tastes that should be enjoyed in the diet – sweet, sour, salty, pungent (onion), bitter, astringent (apples). Herbs and spices are incorporated into the cooking and diet to improve overall health and well being as well as make the food more palatable – without an over use of salt. Antioxidants are mixed into the diet to prevent disease, which are based in inflammation, such as cancer, diabetes and stroke.
Accordingly, the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center for Complementary and AlternativeMedicine release the results of a survey in the United States in 2004. The result depicted that 4/10 of 1% of all people who responded (31,000) had used Ayruveda in the past. This may not be a big percentage but this is definitely counting.
Initially, when deciding to use Ayurveda, a baseline assessment lasting for about an hour is conducted. An in-depth history is taken about your health, diet and lifestyle. Unlike traditional Western medicine, practitioners will approach a physical examination in a different manner. For instance, 12 different pulse points are assessed rather than the three standard ones during an initial evaluation with the Western medical practitioner
The Ayurveda practitioner will also examine the tongue because they believe it provides clues about areas of the body that may be out of balance. The appearance of the skin, lips, nails and eyes will also be observed, looking for organ systems or areas of the body which are believed to be out of balance.
After this in-depth history and assessment the practitioner will discuss the individual’s unique balance of body types and make recommendations regarding their diet and any potentially unhealthy habits which they may be practicing. From there the practitioner will create an individualized treatment plan that will include diet, exercise, herbs, yoga, meditation and massage. All of these treatments are aimed at restoring balance to the specific body type which the individual possesses.
When used for preventive medicine, these practices fall well within the range of traditional Western medicine. However, always take into consideration that these practices have not had any empirical study yet to support that it can actually cure major illnesses. Hence, Ayurveda is considered by medical practitioners as part of adjunct therapy to treat diseases and not as a sole treatment for any disease entity unless proven otherwise.