What is Ayurveda?
History: Ayurveda is a vast body of ancient wisdom, developed over 5,000 years and is the oldest and still the most sophisticated mind-body health system.
Ayurveda translated means science of life and regards health as the foundation of happiness and fulfilling our purpose in life.
Ayurveda works to identify the underlying causes of disease, rather than treating an isolated set of symptoms as is typical of the disease-centered approach in conventional medicine. Ayurveda treats the whole person, considering all aspects of their life, history, environment, relationships, work, food and lifestyle.
Treatment: An Ayurvedic approach uses a range of diagnostic methods to identify which “dosha” is imbalanced and then prescribes a unique treatment plan for the individual, involving diet and lifestyle changes, manual therapies, and herbs taken orally or applied to the skin. The treatment period depends on the pathogenesis of the disease but typically between 1-6 months. In practice, many patients report being able to manage their own health following treatment and no longer need to rely on conventional medicines.
Theory: Each individual has a unique "prakruti" or constitution made up of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, a similar notion to DNA, and by correcting the imbalance, Ayurveda can restore health according to the individual's own constitution. In this way there is no “one size fits all” treatment in Ayurveda, and there are as many different ways to lead a healthy life as there are individuals in the world.
The effects of food and herbs: If you have eaten say, a chilli con carne, you are likely to feel a bit hot and sweat a little. In the same way, all foods (and any ingested substances) have an effect on our body at a subtle and less easily perceptible level. The nutritional qualities of foods are therefore only a part of the picture of how foods affect our health. Ayurveda understands these qualities and uses them to create balance and restore health for the individual, according to a person's unique constitution. In this way, contrary to popular wisdom, a diet that may create health for one person may create ill-health for another.
Digestion - your body's own system for preventing disease: Fundamental to Ayurvedic treatment is restoring the strength of your body's digestive system - your mechanism for absorbing nutrients and expelling toxins or waste. Ayurveda does this by prescribing foods that are suited to your body's own “digestive power” and by using herbs to strengthen your body's digestion processes.
The Doshas: The dosha are derived from the elements and express the different qualities that govern all processes of the mind, body and consciousness, from the production of tissue, involved in growth, to breaking down of food for the body to absorb nutrients to psychological states such as calm or anxiety. When the Dosha’s are balanced they maintain a person's health and when out of balance they contribute to disease
Vata - Ether, Air
Pitta - Earth and Fire
Kapha - Earth, Water
There are 5 subtypes of each Dosha each of which relates to a bodily function such circulation of oxygen around the body, or the assimilation of nutrients, and also have a primary site within the body. There are 20 attributes of the three Doshas taken together, such as dense, oily, hot, dry etc, which can also be related to our environment, food, lifestyles. The Doshas move from one part of the body to another via 13 different channels of circulation, the largest of which is the gastrointestinal tract, reflecting the importance of our digestive system.
If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda please visit the Ayurveda Institute UK.
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