If you are feeling out of sorts, you are probably not the only one. The stresses of everyday life (yes, even in Bali), or something as simple as seasonal changes, can play havoc with our body constitution. Instead of turning to run-of-the-mill Western medical treatments, why not try a healing practice that has withstood the test of time – Ayurveda. Certified by the World Health Organization as the oldest comprehensive healthcare system, Ayurveda originated in India some 5000 years ago and was transplanted to Indonesia 3000 years later, along with the Hindu religion.
Mithun Rama Raju Indukuru, an Ayurveda physician at the Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat and Spa, who grew up in Hyderabad in a family from a long line of Ayurvedic practitioners, says that the word Ayurveda translates to life knowledge – Ayu means life and Veda means knowledge in Sanskrit. “Ayurveda and its health principles are deeply rooted in ancient wisdom. It is great to see that this ancient system of medicine is becoming increasingly more popular in Bali,” he adds.
According to Ayurveda, a person is made up of doshas, or a body energy that is composed of five elements: air, water, fire, earth and space. There are three doshas: the vata dosha (air and space), the pitta dosha (fire and water) and the kapha dosha (water and earth). Each person is born with a unique mixture of doshas that controls their physical, mental and emotional state. As such, Raju says, a treatment that is beneficial to one person may not necessarily be right for another, even if they are showing the same symptoms. “While some treatments are clearly beneficial to all, Ayurveda is all about the individual – there are no one-size-fits all remedies in Ayurveda.”
An Ayurvedic treatment, or panchakarma, begins with a consultation during which a physician determines a person’s dosha type, and any imbalances in energy flows between the mind, body and soul. Ayurvedic physicians diagnose imbalances by examining the pulse, and looking at the person’s physical characteristics such as the skin, tongue, eyes, and body build for any abnormalities. Some of the disorders that are commonly treated with Ayurvedic medicine include anxiety, depression, hypertension, inflammation, skin problems, ulcers and even diabetes.
Following a physical examination, an Ayurvedic practitioner prescribes a treatment plan to address any imbalances in the patient’s dosha composition through detoxifying the body and relaxing the mind. The prescribed therapies can include abhyanga, a full-body massage with a copious amount of warm oil to liquefy toxins and recharge the mind; and shirodhara where warm oil is poured in a stream over the forehead to soothe the body and relax the mind. “I prescribe all kinds of herbal oil treatments at my practice in Bali except vamana (induced vomiting) and rakta mokshana (bloodletting). The treatments help reduce stress in the body, and assist in the elimination of mental and physical toxins that accumulate in our bodies due to our lifestyles,” Raju says.
Diet is a very important part of Ayurveda, as the digestive systems is believed to be one of the root causes of any negative symptoms. According to Ayurveda, there are six main ‘tastes’ that need to be balanced in order to realign the doshas. These include: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each one can increase or decrease the presence of a certain dosha in the body. Hence, if an Ayurvedic physician finds an imbalance of doshas during a diagnosis, he or she will recommend increasing or decreasing the consumption of certain foods. “As doshas fluctuate everyday due to our activities and the food we consume, we must understand how to balance digestive fire, how to nourish the tissues, and how to eliminate toxins from our bodies,” Raju says. “One should select food according to their Ayurvedic body type, the seasons and the changing climate.”
Ayurvedic medicine focuses on how each individual can live in harmony with the flow of their natural body composition. Hence, it is crucial that each person undergoing panchakarma fully participates in the treatment, and takes responsibility for incorporating any prescribed lifestyle changes into their daily routine. “Ayurveda is not just about treating the condition,” Raju says. “It is about achieving optimal health through lasting lifestyle changes.”
Interesting Facts about Ayurveda
Ayurveda has been documented in the Vedas, ancient Indian scriptures considered to be one of the oldest surviving texts in the world.
Ayurveda has eight branches, including: internal medicine; surgery; pediatrics; ear, throat and nose; rejuvenation; psychiatry; toxicology and aphrodisiacs.
Ayurvedic physicians typically complete five years of training.
The vata dosha is characterized by slim build, the pitta dosha by medium build and the kapha dosha by strong build.
Often used in Ayurvedic diet, ghee-or clarified butter-promotes weight loss, reduces cholesterol, decreases inflammation and boosts the immune system.
In the days gone by, hundred-year-old ghee was believed to cure nervous disorders. Many Indian families would pass ghee down from generation to generation.
While many Ayurvedic practitioners today advocate a vegetarian diet, Ayurveda is not a vegetarian philosophy. There are ancient texts that describe different ways of preparing meat.
Traditionally, Ayurveda has used the practice of bloodletting through the use of leeches or needles to treat skin- or blood-related disorders.
Ayurvedic texts written between 3,500 and 1,800 BC mention the first functioning artificial limb. The story is that the warrior Queen Vishpala was fitted with an iron prosthetic after she lost her leg in battle.
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