View Full Version : Ayurveda

November 13th, 2008, 02:43 PM
Note: This is a just an explanatory guide to Ayurveda.

What is ayurveda?

Ayurveda, which means "life wisdom" in Sanskrit, is one of the oldest medical systems still in use. Developed in India thousands of years ago and promoted today by alternative-medicine guru Deepak Chopra, whose books are widely available, it is based (in the simplest terms) on the idea that each person's metabolism and personality are influenced by three main doshas, or forces. These are pitta, which regulates digestion; kapha, which controls bodily fluids; and vata, which governs the nervous system. Chronic stress, a poor diet, or lack of sleep, proponents believe, can disturb the balance among your doshas and make you sick. Ayurvedic practitioners claim that you can restore your "doshic balance" and treat illness by cleansing your body of toxins, modifying your diet, taking certain herbal medicines, and practising yoga and meditation. Which therapies will work best for you depends on your constitution, as well as your medical history and current complaints.

What does treatment involve?

Many practitioners offer an informational seminar before the individual consultation (usually about one hour's duration) and subsequent follow-up. The observations the practitioner will make provide information about how an imbalance among your doshas might be affecting your organs and emotions. At the end of the session, your practitioner may recommend that you avoid or favour particular foods, change your sleeping and eating patterns, take certain herbal remedies, or do various yoga, breathing, or meditation exercises.

How does it work?

The theory is that certain foods, herbs, habits, and exercises stimulate or depress your doshas, and the right combination of therapies can bring them back into balance. For example, constipation or PMS may result from an excess of vata, which you can ease by eating warm, salty, creamy foods. If you're overweight or feeling sluggish, you may be told to eat your main meal at noon in order to reduce your kapha. For gallstones, an ayurvedic practitioner may suggest a programme of massage, herbs, and aromatherapy to pacify an overactive pitta. No conclusive research has documented the ability of ayurvedic medicine to cure disease, but meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety by slowing the heart rate and relaxing the mind. Researchers in America are looking at the use of yoga techniques in treating heroin addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How safe is it?

The milder components of ayurveda -- a healthy diet, yoga, meditation -- are safe for most people, but you shouldn't rely on them alone if you suspect you have a serious illness. If you have back, knee, or other physical problems, get the go-ahead from your doctor before trying yoga, since some poses can aggravate injuries. You may also want to check with your doctor before using any herbs, especially if you're already taking prescription medications. Avoid mysterious herbal mixtures; some contain small amounts of poisons or heavy metals like lead and mercury. There is no evidence that purging techniques, including sweat baths, bloodletting with leeches, self-induced vomiting, nasal washes, laxatives, and enemas, will cleanse you of any toxins -- and they may be harmful. Approach these therapies with caution, and avoid them if you're pregnant, nursing, elderly, or suffering from heart disease.

How do I find a qualified practitioner?

Good places to start are your local yoga studio, health-food store, nutrition centre, or the Yellow Pages. Look for a practitioner who has at least three years of experience, doesn't insist on invasive purging techniques, and would send you to a doctor or osteopathic physician in the case of serious illness.