April 20, 2021
What is Ayurveda? – an introduction
Have you ever tried golden turmeric latte? Did you know it’s an ayurvedic remedy?
Ayurvedic medicine, commonly referred to as Ayurveda, is an ancient holistic health care system and has been practiced in India for more than 3000 years. Nowadays, it’s present and legal in some European countries, such as Italy, Germany, France, or the UK. It is not legally practiced in the US yet, as it’s considered a type of alternative medicine. Still, many of its principles such as its holistic approach and other practices like yoga, meditation, or massage have taken the western world by storm.
The basics of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that means “knowledge of life”, and it takes an ultimate holistic approach to health care. Some of the fundamental beliefs of Ayurveda are:
- Health and well-being depend on the balance of mind, body, and spirit.
- The main goal is to prevent disease, not fight it.
- Everything in the universe is connected, and so is your body.
- Everyone is made of the five basic elements in the universe: space, air, fire, water, and earth and they make three different life energies: the doshas.
Although it all might sound a bit strange at first glance, other alternative medicines such as Homeopathy have their roots in Ayurveda. Ayurvedic practice guarantees balance through monitoring diet, lifestyle, and the use of herbs.
The life energies or doshas
According to Ayurveda, everyone has a different and particular life energy or dosha. Our dosha is determined at conception, and it remains the same for the rest of our lives, but our life choices and circumstances – diet, physical or psychological stress, weather, seasons, etc.- can have adverse effects on our balance.
By keeping healthy, you will keep the balance. Doshas are unique in each person, they result from a combination of the three doshas, and they control how your body works. Ayurveda believes that an imbalance of your doshas will make you sick.
Let’s find out a bit more about the doshas:
Vata – body movement
- It controls breathing, muscle and tissue movement, and basic body function at the cell level.
- It can be disrupted by: eating too soon after a meal, fear, grief, or staying up too late.
- Out of balance: it can cause anxiety and fear.
- In balance: it promotes creativity and flexibility.
Pitta – metabolic system
- It controls digestion, metabolism, and body temperature.
- It can be disrupted by eating too many spicy foods and long time sun exposure.
- Out of balance: it can cause anger, hatred, and jealousy
- In balance: it promotes understanding and intelligence.
Kapha- body structure
- It controls: bones, muscles, tendons and bodily fluids.
- It can be disrupted by: sleeping during the day or eating too many sweets and salty foods.
- Out of balance: it can cause attachment, greed, and envy.
- In balance: it promotes love, calmness, and forgiveness.
You might be wondering which is your predominant dosha and so are we, if only out of curiosity. There are thousands of online quizzes and articles to help you determine which one you are, but we kind of recommend you asking an ayurvedic practitioner if you want to take it seriously. Keep reading to learn what to expect at an ayurvedic center!
Your first ayurvedic visit
Ayurveda focuses on balancing all areas of your life, and that includes your personal well-being. Following an initial meeting, there will be an examination consisting of three stages:
Dashan or Observation
The practitioner will carry a physical health observation, paying attention to body, skin, face, lips, hair, nails, etc.
Sparha or Touch
They will proceed to palpate parts of the body, also using auscultation and tapping. This is focused mainly on pulse, tongue, nails, and speech.
Prashna or Questions
They will ask a lot of questions regarding health issues or symptoms, as well as mental and psychological conditions and well-being.
It doesn’t sound very different from what a conventional doctor would do nowadays, although conventional medicine would also highlight mental and psychological conditions a bit more.
Ayurvedic diagnosis is a bit different from western medicine, though. They make a diagnosis of the disease but also on the patient. They carry an in-depth examination of each individual, considering them as a whole and focusing on strengthening the body to help recovery and increase prevention.
After a diagnosis is made, the practitioner will recommend a treatment to ensure balance in your doshas. These are a few of the most common ayurvedic treatments:
- Herbs and herbal formulas
Although herbs are an ancient practice in many cultures and are natural, Ayurveda also believes that they can have side effects, so they should not be used as self-medication.
- Panchakarma or “five actions”
This is an invasive treatment that should be done by a qualified ayurvedic practitioner. It involves five different therapies to detoxify the body, including emesis – that’s vomiting in plain English –, enemas, and blood-letting.
- Yoga – we love this one
- Dietary and lifestyle changes
If you think about it, many of the treatments above are very safe, such as yoga or meditation, and they’ve been backed up by science for years.
Is Ayurveda good for you?
The answer is, it depends. It is used by up to 80% of people in India, combined with conventional western medicine or on its own, and it has been regulated since 1971. It’s also practiced in Sri Lanka and Nepal, and it’s also studied at University.
In the US, Ayurveda is not licensed or regulated, and it’s considered alternative medicine. However, there are a few ayurvedic schools in the country. The FDA does not approve ayurvedic products due to toxic metals found in herbal supplements in 2011.
Many scientific studies back Ayurveda, even from the WHO. However, it’s not recommended as a goal to avoid going to the doctor, and it shouldn’t be a self-medication excuse. While some treatments are more than safe – yoga fanatic here – some are not if done by a non-professional or by yourself.
You should always consult with your doctor before proceeding to change your diet or follow complementary health approaches.
Have you ever tried Ayurveda? Let us know in the comments!