‘Ayurveda’ is a combination of the Sanskrit words ayur and veda which mean life and science or knowledge, respectively. Ayurveda and its therapies lead people to live a long and healthy life on the basis of prevention rather than cure.
Many Ayurvedic therapies have been shared by word of mouth until 2,000 years ago when the main texts in Sanskrit – Caraka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and, Ashtanga Sangraha and Ashtanga Hridaya – were written.
Ayurvedic concepts about health and disease are holistic and promote the use of herbal compounds, special diets, massages and other unique health practices. The key concepts are universal interconnectedness among people, their health and the universe; the body’s constitution (prakriti) and life forces (dosha).
Our unique physical and psychological characteristics combine and form prakriti. Our prakriti remains the same throughout our life but our digestion and elimination processes can influence it.
Ayurveda states that everyone is made of a combination of five basic elements:, ether, air, fire, water and earth. These elements combine to form three dosha ie, vata (ether and air), pitta (fire and water) and kapha (water and earth). Each dosha is responsible for different body functions.
We inherit a unique combination of the three dosha but one is usually more dominant. When the balance of our dosha is disturbed, we are at risk of becoming sick.
Vata is the most powerful dosha as it controls the basic body functions like:
- -Blood flow
- -Heart function
- -Waste elimination.
Vata can be disturbed if we do the following:
- -Eat too soon after a previous meal
- -Staying up too late.
People with vata as their main dosha may experience:
- -Heart disease
- -Nervous system disorders
- -Rheumatoid arthritis
- -Skin problems.
Pitta controls body functions such as:
- -Some hormones related to appetite.
Pitta can be disturbed if we do the following:
- -Eat sour or spicy foods
- -Staying out in the sun for too long.
People with pitta as their main dosha may experience:
- -Anger and negative emotions
- -Crohn’s disease
- -Heart disease
- -High blood pressure
Kapha controls body functions such as:
- -Body strength and stability
- -Immune system
- -Muscle growth
Kapha can be disturbed if we do the following:
- -Daytime sleeping
- -Eat after stomach is full
- -Eat foods containing too much salt or water
- -Eat too much of sweet foods.
People with kapha as their main dosha may experience:
- -Nausea after eating
Who is a healthy person?
According to Sushruta, an Ayurvedic practitioner in 1,000 BC, “A person is deemed healthy when his physiognomy (outer appearance) is balanced, his digestion and metabolism are in good working order, his tissue and excretory functions are normal and his soul, mind and senses are in a state of constant inner happiness.”
Ayurveda encourages everyone to aspire to live his or her life in the best possible state – physically and mentally. A healthy life is a balanced life based on the three pillars of body, mind and soul.
When you visit the Ayurvedic practitioner
The Ayurvedic practitioner first examines you by doing the following:
- Observation (Darshan): looks at and observes your eyes, nose, lips, skin, hair and nails.
- Touch (Sparsha): touches, presses down and taps on parts of your body while listening for sounds coming from your organs. Takes your pulse and looks at your nails. Listens to your speech. Laboratory tests are also done.
- Questions (Prashna): asks you about complaints and symptoms.
Information obtained through the examination helps the practitioner determine your dosha type, assess your ailments and come up with a personalized treatment for you. The treatment is focused on making your body stronger so its own energy can help you heal.
Ayurvedic treatments come in a wide variety, and the practitioner will choose one that meets a patient’s needs the best. From a daily routine (dincharya) to a seasonal routine (ritucharya), treatments include shirodhara, diet, massage, panchakarma and herbs and herbal formulas.
- Shirodhara: Medicated oil is dripped on the forehead. The practitioner picks different types of oil and the length of treatment best suited for you. A trained massage therapist does this treatment.
- Diet: Diet is an important part of the treatment, recovery and disease management. Each person is prescribed a diet based on his or her prakriti and dosha. However, the 6 primary tastes ie, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent must be included. Each taste functions differently and works together to improve your health.
- Massage: The practitioner picks the oil, which is then prepared and used by trained massage therapists.
- Panchakarma: This is a detox regimen, which helps remove undigested waste matter in your intestines (ama). This regimen includes massage, steam treatment, induced vomiting (vamana); use of herbal- and oil-based laxatives (virechana) and medicated enema (basti), blood letting and a nasal treatment (nasya). After this detox regimen,
- Herbs and herbal formula: Each herb has its action and effectiveness, which are based on its taste (ras), active potency (virya) and post-digestive effect (vipak). Therefore, the Ayurvedic practitioner must have deep knowledge of herbs and their effect on our physiology, biochemistry and psychology.
When looking for a trained and qualified Ayurvedic practitioner, you need to do some research. In Malaysia, you can contact the Malaysian Association of Traditional Indian Medicine (PEPTIM) at: http://tcm.moh.gov.my or call: 604-262 5875.
-Do visit a trained and qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.
-Ayurvedic therapies cannot replace conventional care so see a doctor first if you have a medical condition.
-Pregnant and nursing women, as well as children, should consult a doctor first before seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner.
-If you are on an Ayurvedic therapy, inform your doctor so your care is coordinated and safe.
1. Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. Available at www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu
2. U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Available at https://nccih.nih.gov
3. WebMD. Available at www.webmd.com