What is Ayurveda?
If you are interested in holistic healing modalities, you might have come across the term Ayurveda during your research. Just as you can consider incorporating things like homeopathy, acupuncture, and energy healing like Reiki into your life, you can also consider using Ayurvedic principles to help restore balance to your body and mind, and to help resolve issues, as well as potentially prevent problems before they arise as well.
As with all other options when it comes to taking care of your body, it is really all about doing your research, talking to experts in the field whenever possible, and deciding if a particular path is right for you. Your physician can also be a valuable source of information and insight when it comes to whether or not a specific form of holistic medicine is right for you, and that includes Ayurveda.
Below, we take a look at what Ayurveda is, and we also break down the basics so that you can develop a good foundation when it comes to understanding what this type of medicine is all about, what it has to offer, and more.
What Is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is an ancient form of Indian medicine that is still used today in India and has slowly spread westward where it is used as a form of “alternative medicine.” Over 5,000 years ago, Ayurveda has been classified as the science of eight components, curing diseases, affecting skin, treating children, removing substances that have entered the body (surgery), curing diseases of the eye or ear using sharp instruments, treating mental diseases caused by demonic influences, toxicology, doctrine of elixirs, and doctrine of aphrodisiacs.
The Three Doshas
Ayurveda is a holistic approach to healing that stresses the importance of balance between the three different energy types known as the doshas:
- Vata (air, space and wind)
- Pitta (fire, water and bile)
- Kapha (water, earth and phlegm)
It is believed that every person embodies a unique combination of the doshas, which defines them in terms of personality. More specifically, the doshas represent three different and unique energies that, when in balance, maintain health. And, when imbalance occurs, so does disease.
This is energy that controls bodily functions that control motion, circulation, breathing, and, when balanced, vata creates vitality and creativity, but when imbalanced, fear and anxiety is created.
The elements that are dominant are air and ether. According to Yoga Journal, if vata dominates, you are likely to have a thin body, and you might enjoy being physically and mentally active. Vatas also tend to be creative, original, and flexible. However, they can become ungrounded and flaky when they aren’t in balance. Other traits include feeling dry and cold, so you might find that your skin is dry, and your feet and hands are cold. Plus, when it comes to diet and sleep, you are likely to find that a vata will not usually follow a consistent routine, so problems like a weakened immune system or insomnia might develop.
This is energy that controls the body’s metabolism, digestion, absorption, and temperature. When in balance there will be intelligence and contentment. When an imbalance occurs so does anger and ulcers.
The elements that are dominant are fire and water. Typically, people who have this dosha as the dominant one will be intense, have a strong will, and they might become irritated quite easily. They also tend to have skin that becomes red quickly, and it might also have freckles. Plus, the body tends to be muscular with a medium build. In terms of personality, they can be driven, and they can be great leaders, but they can also become impatient and competitive. Physical ailments might include problems like acne and inflammation.
This energy controls growth, supplies water, and maintains the immune system. In balance, kapha expresses love and forgiveness and when an imbalance occurs so does envy and insecure feelings.
If you are a kapha, you likely have a body that can be strong and athletic. However, you might also find that you struggle a bit with your weight, as this dosha tends to exhibit a slow metabolism, which might prompt you to seek ways to increase metabolism naturally. Also, with this dosha, it is important to keep the body moving to not only keep the energy flowing, but also to keep your weight in check. Water and earth elements dominate, which can be great when it comes to maintaining stability, but this might also lead to complacency and stubbornness.
You Might Be Bi-Doshic or Tri-Doshic
While you might find that you exhibit the qualities of one dosha, in particular, some find that they are a combination of two of the doshas, or all three.
If you are bi-doshic, two of the doshas will be dominant, such as pitta-kapha or vata-pitta. When it comes to balancing more than one dosha, some experts will recommend focusing on the season of the year, as each dosha is associated with a season. So, for example, if the weather is warm, you’d try reducing fiery pitta.
If you are tri-doshic, all three doshas influence you equally. Once again, you can take the season of the year into consideration to figure out which dosha needs to be balanced most.
The focus of Ayurveda is to bring the elements of an individual’s dosha back into balance using herbal remedies, diet, and making lifestyle adjustments. The practice of Ayurvedic medicine begins with a diagnosis based on the 5 senses. Practitioners take a careful analysis that includes your medical history, pulse, feeling of the abdomen, examining the tongue, eyes, nails, skin, and even the tone of your voice. They will also take interest in answers to health, lifestyle, diet and environment to determine ailments.
Some of the most common remedies and treatments include:
- breathing exercises
- herbal oils that can be rubbed into the skin
- cleansing methods, including sweating and vomiting
- prescribing herbal medications
What Can Ayurveda Help With?
Many believe that Ayurveda herbal remedies may help with the following:
- High cholesterol
- High blood sugar
- Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
The Problem with Ayurveda
There aren’t currently any empirical studies due to the lack of clinical trials, which aren’t mandated for herbal products. Some of the health risks that are associated with herbal medicines that have been known to contain toxic metals, such as lead mercury and arsenic. In fact, a study conducted in the 1990s revealed that 41% of Ayurvedic herbal medicines contained arsenic, while 64% contained lead or mercury. In 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that Ayurvedic drugs have been linked to several cases of lead poisoning.
Overall, if you think that Ayurveda might be a good way to restore balance to your body, or if you simply want to give natural remedies a try when it comes to feeling better physically, emotionally, and mentally, it is certainly worth giving it a try. It is best to do your research to figure out what doshas are dominant and imbalanced, and then proceed accordingly to restore balance. Also, if there are Ayurvedic practitioners and experts in your area, they are definitely worth talking to as well so you can get professional guidance.