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What is Ayurveda?

What does the word Ayurveda mean?

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word. The word Ayurveda literally means the science of Life. Notice, that Ayurveda is not merely the compendium of ‘Disease’ and its management. Life is a vast and an all encompassing phenomena which includes death. On one end Life is a celebration of birth, growth, child bearing, youth and sexuality; on the other end, life also brings forth disease, decay, aging, and loss of vigor. Ayurveda is that ancient art and science that helps us understand this very ‘life’ with all its different shades and colors; understand how best we can undertake this journey and how we transition through its different phases; for example, from teenage to adulthood to maturity, etc. Following the principles of Ayurveda brings about a profound understanding of the inner ability to have sound body, mind and spirit.

What are the origins of Ayurveda?

Ayurveda originated in the hearts and minds of Indian sages, enlightened seers also known as Rishis thousands of years ago. Evidence supports Ayurveda to be at least 5,000 years old. That is a long time. The fact that Ayurveda is still alive not only in India but all over the world speaks for its power to deliver consistent positive and predictable results. According to the writings of India’s great sages, there never was a time that Ayurveda was not present in this universe in some form or the other. Maybe not in a tangible form like books and active clinics but present in the collective consciousness of this universe as eternal principles of unity between all things of the universe, of unity between man and nature, of the changeable but rhythmic nature of the universe, and of the unity between body and mind and that both are vehicles or tools for the one that is eternal – the spirit. Thus, Ayurveda originates from the creative intelligence behind this universe, the same intelligence that makes a flower bloom, a baby smile and planets revolve around the sun.

What are the basic principles of Ayurveda?

Ayurveda laboratory is the entire universe, its ingredients simply the basic building blocks of this universe itself: the great 5 elements (panch maha bhutas) – Space (Akasha), Air (Vayu), Fire (Tejas), Water (Aap) and Earth (Prithvi). Shake up the 5 elements and you have the recipe for creating this universe in all its entirety and variety. Man is a part and parcel of this universe and can hardly be considered in isolation. The pancha maha bhautik Sharira (body) along with manas (mind) and atman (soul) constitutes you and me, the Purusha (the living, breathing, feeling self) in constant interaction with the outer universe (loka). The self of the person (Purusha) is a continuum of the universal self while the physical body composed of pancha maha bhutas (five great elements) originates from the pancha maha bhautik seed and derives nourishment from food and drinks of similar composition. Hence equilibrium and non antagonism between the internal and external milieu of man is essential for the maintenance of the living body. Since the individual human being is the miniature replica of the universe; the individual (purusha) and the universe (loka) stay in constant interaction with each other and also derive and draw materials from each other in order to maintain their normalcy and homeostasis. This interaction and exchange continues in a normal way such as by breathing the air, eating foods available in nature, etc. So long as this interaction is wholesome and optimum, the man is in optimum health. When this harmonious process breaks down, a disease state starts. Hence in Ayurveda the main principle of treatment will be to restore the harmonious exchange between Purusha (individual) and Loka (universe).

What are the doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha?

In a living being, when the five elements combine to become forces that help a living being ‘live’ then these forces is known as doshas. Air and space combined to form the force of Vata which is responsible for all movement in the body, and it governs mainly all nervous functions. There are 80 kinds of possible disturbances due to Vata. Pain, stiffness, paralysis, and hypertension, heart diseases – all these are caused by Vata. Fire and water combine to form the force of Pitta. Pitta governs mainly enzymes and hormones. Pitta is also responsible for digestion, pigmentation, body temperature, hunger, thirst, sight, courage etc. There are 40 kinds of possible disturbances due to Pitta. Burning sensations, excessive body temperature, blue moles, jaundice, and pharyngitis are examples of disorders caused by Pitta. Water and earth combine to form the force of Kapha. Kapha regulates the other two. Kapha is responsible for the connections of joints, the solid nature of the body and its sustenance, sexual power, strength, patience etc. Among the 20 possible disturbances due to Kapha are anorexia nervosa, laziness, mucus expectoration, hardening of vessels, obesity, suppression of digestive power etc. In Ayurveda, we not only recognize these forces (the Tridoshas) but we also learn to harness them and develop an optimum food and lifestyle program that balances the three doshas. When doshas are in balance the individual is disease free and when in imbalance – disease begins to grow.

What do you mean by Prakriti or Ayurvedic constitution?

Prakriti means innate nature, character, physical constitution or disposition of a person. According to Ayurveda, from birth to death, doshas influence the health status and physical constitution of a man, either positively or negatively. The concentration levels and preponderance of each dosha in an individual is believed to be genetically determined. Therefore, doshas in different permutations and combinations constitute the very nature/disposition of a man. This is known as Prakriti / Sharira Prakriti.

What is Ayurvedic viewpoint of human body functioning?

The Universe and human body are made up of five basic elements collectively called Panch Mahabhoota. These are Aakasha (Ether), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Aapa (Water) and Prithvi (Earth). The sixth most essential component of life is Atma (soul) which is responsible for life process. The human body is made up of Doshas (Bio-humours), Dhatu (Body matrix) and Malas (extractable products). Vata, Pitta and Kapha, known as Tridoshas are physiological entities of the body which are responsible for carrying out all the functions of the body. Dhatu are the structural entities of the body. These are Rasa (Plasma), Rakta (Blood cells), Mamsa (Muscular tissue), Meda (Fatty tissue), Asthi (Bony tissues), Majja (Bone marrow) and Shukra (Hormonal and other reproductive fluids). Agni (Metabolic fire) is in thirteen different forms and carries out all the metabolic activities. The waste products of the body which are extractable are produced in the body as by-products of metabolism. These are known as malas which include pureesha (faeces), Sweda (sweat) and Mutra (urine). All bio-transformations within the body occur through Srotases (body channels) which are the sites for action of agni.

How is diagnosis done in Ayurveda?

Diagnostic procedures in Ayurveda are two pronged; one is aimed to establish the stage of pathology and second to decide the mode of treatment to be applied. The former implies examination of the patient and make different investigations to diagnose the disease entity. The second type of examination is to assess the strength and physical status of the individual so that accordingly the type of management required could be planned. For this examination of Prakriti (Body constitution), Saara (Tissue quality), Samhanana (physique), Satva (Mental strength), Satmya (specific adaptability), Aaharashakti (diet intake capacity), Vyayaama shakti (exercise capacity) and vaya (age) is done. Similarly, Ashtavidha Pariksha (Eight-fold examination) is followed for the examination of the patients viz. Nadi Pariksha (Pulse examination), Mutra Pariksha (Urine examination), Mala Pariksha (Stool examination), Jihva Pariksha (Tongue examination), Shabda Pariksha (Voice examination), Sparsh Pariksha (Skin examination), Drik (Eye examination), Akriti (General appearance examination).

Whether Ayurveda has specialties?

There are eight divisions of Ayurvedic therapeutics, namely Kayachikitsa (Internal medicine), Shalya (Surgery), Shalakya (Otorhinolaryngology and Opthalmology), Kaumar Bhritya (Paediatrics, Gynaecology and Obstetrics) Agad tantra (Toxicology), Rasayana (Gerentorology), Vajikaran (Aphrodisiacs) and Bhoot Vidya (Psychiatry). Therefore it is also called as Astanga Ayurveda.

Does Ayurvedic treatment take a long time to heal ailments?

No. This is a common misconception regarding Ayurveda. The question you have to ask yourself is: are you looking for a quick fix or mere suppression of symptoms or are you actually seeking to dissolve the deep rooted cause of the imbalance and rejuvenate deeply? We recommend if you are looking for a quick fix or a quick suppression then Ayurveda is not the right modality for you. But if you are looking to get to the bottom of your imbalance then Ayurveda, in a relatively short time (you will be surprised) will begin to offer its benefits. In reality, the time to heal any imbalance depends on various factors – age, type of disease, degree of imbalance, whether it is acute or chronic, how many doshas, tissues, organs and channels are involved in the disease process. If the disease is newly formed and is with a single dosha and tissue involvement, then Ayurveda can balance this condition very quickly. On the other hand if the condition is formed with the aggravation of two or three doshas, and if more organs and channels are involved, and it has become somewhat chronic then naturally, the treatment takes longer time to restore this imbalance.

Why should Ayurveda be the choice of therapy?

Ayurveda is highly scientific, logical, safe, quick and extremely effective method of healing. It offers long lasting to permanent cure, treating the disease from its roots, for most of the ailments. Ayurveda is the most rational science with respect to its concepts of health, disease and cure. Ayurveda does not treat superficially by just driving away the symptoms but heals the patient from within. Undoubtedly, Ayurveda was the medicine of past and is of the future.

How is Ayurveda a Holistic Medicine?

The concept of disease in Ayurveda is that disease is a total affection of mind and body, the disturbance of the whole organism. Individual organs are not the cause of illness but disturbance at the inner level (disturbance of the life force, the vital energy of the body) is the cause of illness. Therefore Ayurveda does not believe in giving different medicines for different afflicted parts of body but rather give constitutional remedy after detoxification, which will cover the disturbance of the whole person. Ayurveda treats the patient as a whole and not just the disease. Medical philosophy is coming more and more to the conclusion that the mere treatment of symptoms and organs can only help temporarily and that it is the healing power of the body as whole that has to be enhanced. Ayurveda believes in holistic, totalistic and individualistic approach

Is Ayurveda Ideal for Infants and Children?

Yes, most of the children ailments like Cold, Cough, Fever, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Dysentery, Colic, Tonsillitis, Bronchitis, Asthma, Measles, Chickenpox, Mumps, Dentition problems, etc., could be very effectively and quickly treated with Ayurveda without producing any side effects whatsoever. Unlike antibiotics and other such medicines, Ayurvedic remedies do not hamper digestion, or lower body's resistance. They neither cause any allergies nor cause any damage even if taken over a long period. Besides, Ayurveda is effective also in temperament and behavioral problems seen commonly in children like irritability, obstinacy, temper-tantrums, fears, phobias, destructiveness, thumb- sucking, nail biting and bed-wetting as well as in mentally & physically backward children.

Is Ayurveda a better substitute to Antibiotics?

Ayurveda is an effective alternate to antibiotics in infectious diseases, producing no toxic side effects and bringing about rapid recovery. Ayurveda has definite treatment for most of the infectious disease such as Sinusitis, Tonsillitis, Bronchitis, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Meningitis, Otitis media (pus from ear), Gastroenteritis (vomiting-diarrhea), Dysentery, Urinary Infections, etc.

Does Ayurveda offer treatment for viral infections?

Viral infections such as common cold, influenza, measles, Chickenpox, mumps, viral hepatitis (jaundice), viral meningitis etc. are very well treated with Ayurveda. Allopathic system has no curative treatment for viral diseases except infusing antibiotics under the pretext of preventing secondary bacterial infection.

Does Ayurveda have an answer to Allergic diseases?

In modern life infections have diminished and various allergic disorders have grown rampant. Ayurveda offers very effective treatment in all allergic diseases such as various skin diseases like Urticaria, Eczema, Contact Dermatitis, as well as gives unbelievably miraculous results in Asthmatic Bronchitis.

Can one take Ayurveda Medicine with modern medicines?

If not indicated otherwise by the attending physician, Ayurveda Medicines can generally be taken along with allopathic medicines. Moreover, Ayurveda Medicines are used as adjuvant to allopathic medicines in most of chronic and degenerative diseases.

Does Ayurveda advocate vegetarianism?

The classical texts describe three types of diets- saatvik, rajasik and tamasik, the saatvik diet consists of leafy vegetable, fresh fruits, milk, curd, butter, honey and so on. The rajasik diet consists of hot and pungent foods meat, beans and so on. This is suitable only for those who engage in heavy physical work. A tamasik diet includes fermented and highly spiced foods, curd, wines and so on and is considered harmful to health. According to Ayurveda, a saatvik diet, moderate physical exercise and regular practice of yoga help one to maintain good health.

Why are most ayurvedic treatments time consuming?

Toxins (amam) that accumulate in the human body take a long time to manifest as some disease, in the meantime, our body and mind get somewhat habituated to them. Removals of these at one go. Like the surgical removal of a tumor, is practically impossible besides, it would also go against the wisdom of the body according to which the immune system works. This is why a comparatively lengthy purvakarma – pradhanakarma – paschatkarma mode of therapy has been designed for the elimination of disease causing factors.

What are the kinds of restrictions associated with ayurvedic treatment?

Pathya is the term to denote the diet regimen that forms and integral part of most treatments. For the proper assimilation of drugs as well as food the patient is advised to follow a new daily routine while undergoing treatment. A diet that might cause the opposite effect of the drug taken is to be avoided and that which increases the potency of the drug. To be followed. Since the drug-diet interaction is considered a significant factor, the physician decides on a suitable pathya after considering various factors like the nature of the illness, the constitution of the patient, his tolerance to various regimens and so on.

What is Shirodhara?

Shirodhara is a method during which warm oil is applied on the patient’s forehead for 15 to 40 minutes from a specialized vessel which is suspended above the head of the reclining patient. The application of oil on that place promotes not only a deep relaxation and thus regeneration of the organism, but also helps to cure approximately 80 illnesses such as headache and migraine, insomnia, memory loss or concentration failure, depressive state and other mental complaints.

Why try Ayurveda?

The history of Ayurveda goes back 5,000 years. At present there are more and more physicians from all over the world who are interested in it and who have adapted this medicinal system to our western society. Ayurveda and ayurvedic treatment techniques have been proven effective in many clinical studies. Ayurveda should be the first choice in case of chronic (drawn-out) illness, which cannot be treated in a satisfactory manner by conventional medicine. Ayurveda aims not only to treat the sick person, but also to prevent illness in healthy people, who can get ill due to stress, family problems and so on. Therefore it is not possible to call Ayurveda, the science of life, merely as alternative medicine.

Can Ayurveda help me lose weight?

Can Ayurveda really cure cancer?

Remember that Ayurveda does not claim to ‘cure’ diseases, but to restore balance to the body, mind and spirit complex. Cancer is another such condition; a tri dosha imbalance at the cellular level. Ayurveda recommends herbal treatments, dietary changes and divine (mantra, gem, etc.) therapy to help treat cancer. It is recommended that cancer patients check with their physician or primary health care provider prior to starting Ayurvedic treatments.

Can Ayurveda help chronic pain?

Yes, absolutely. Personalized herbs, specific dietary modifications, specialized oils and massages have proven to be very effective in pain management, without side effects or drug dependency. Illnesses such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or pain due to falls, trauma or repetitive stress – all such conditions are highly amenable to Ayurvedic therapies. Before you start or stop all adjunct therapies check with your physician or primary health care provider.

Can Ayurveda help with depression and other mental conditions?

Yes. While antidepressant and other drugs are both critical and often life-saving; a person suffering from depression may or may not live life optimally and may drag through life – without experiencing daily abundance, joy and unbridled enthusiasm. Certain Ayurvedic herbs, specialized massages and mind/body therapies (such as Panchakarma, Shirodhara, meditation, Yoga, etc.) are time-tested, gentle mind-balancing tools with no side effects. One can continue taking the antidepressants (and remain in touch with their MD regarding the drugs, dosage etc.) while at the same time, simultaneously work in the Ayurvedic field can be done. Ayurvedic therapy enhances and expedites recovery and people feel the ‘joy of being alive’ and not merely the numbing of anxiety.

Can Ayurveda help me prevent acute and chronic diseases?

Please remember that Ayurveda does not claim to treat, prevent or cure diseases, but only to restore balance to the physiology. When balance is restored, many diseases and disorders are often automatically prevented or health is restored. This is the beauty of the Ayurvedic lifestyle and food choices.

Do I have to follow a certain religion to incorporate Ayurvedic principles into my life?

No. Ayurvedic principles are universal, and anybody can incorporate them into his or her daily life. There is no need to become religious to adopt the principles of Ayurveda. It is a rational science that celebrates universal principles. While deeply spiritual in subject (in the sense of matters of the mind and spirit are addressed in Ayurveda), it is not a Hindu religious practice, nor does it advocate a particular religion or deity.

Do I have to be a vegetarian to follow an Ayurvedic lifestyle?

No not at all. Ayurveda recommends foods that are ideal for your body and mind; not per any specific dietary protocol. While Ayurveda sings the praises of a healthy seasonal, vegetarian diet, it similarly prescribes meats of several animals, fishes and birds. What you eat will depend on which food serves your health and energy needs best. With respect to what you can digest, your Ayurvedic practitioner will offer guidance and recommendations in this area.

How effective is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a very effective health and wellness system that is being recognized more and more in the West. It is one of the primary healthcare systems in India, and it has been used for thousands of years to treat all sorts of ailments and disorders. The Ayurvedic path has been for thousands of years. Today, Ayurveda is popular all over the world. Hospitals and clinics offer it, news reports share it, researchers examine it, governments host it and people love it. Ayurveda has stood the test of time; and regardless of the political or legal climate – people continue to practice it, from little clinics in India to large spas all over the world. The word is out today – ‘Try Ayurveda, it works.’   Its full effectiveness will depend on various considerations, including the age and state of health of the individual, how much effort they are willing to put into making the necessary changes toward better health, and how compliant they are with taking their formulas and following the recommended guidelines. Since an Ayurvedic regimen is very individualized, its results will depend on individual factors as well, and on follow-up treatments, since adjustments and close supervision are necessary to obtain optimal results.

Is there an equivalent procedure to Panchakarma in modern medicine?

How are the Panchakarma procedures different from other therapies?

Panchakarma procedures are bio-cleansing (shodhana) procedures which help to expel accumulated toxins from the body whereas other therapies are palliative in nature (relieving pain without dealing with the cause of the condition). Diseases cured by Panchakarma therapies may never recur.

Is Panchakarma advisable for any particular disease or imbalance?

Panchakarma is used to treat those diseases, which are chronic, metabolic, degenerative, non- infectious or stress-related in origin. Panchakarma has been used to treat allergies, asthma, arthritis, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, colitis, high cholesterol, depression, diabetes, digestive disorders, heart disease, hypertension, immune problems, chronic inflammation, insomnia, nervous disorders, obesity, skin problems, chronic ulcers etc. However, Panchakarma is limited in treating traumatic injuries, infections and conditions which requires immediate surgery or invasive procedures.

Can a normal person do Panchakarma?

Yes, Panchakarma is a detoxification treatment. However, Ayurvedic physician is best person to decide if Panchakarma is required for patient or not.

Does Panchakarma have any restrictions about age & gender?

Is Panchakarma painful?

Because it is a procedure for cleansing the body, a kind of tiredness may be experienced by the patient. However, most patients enjoy it. Sometimes patients may have an aversion to some procedures. For example, some patients are advised to drink 200 ml of medicated bitter ghee which at times is difficult. Sometimes a mild headache or tiredness may arise during interal oleation in high doses. Otherwise, in general, Panchakarma procedures are painless.

Are there any side effects of Panchakarma? After how many days can we feel the benefits of it?

For scientific and authentic procedures, there are no side effects.  There is a list of Do’s and Don’ts in Panchakarma, which has to be followed strictly. If the patient does not follow the instructions, then he or she may face problems or unpleasant effects. If the procedure goes smoothly, then patients do not have to suffer. The benefits of Panchakarma are long lasting.

Are there any precautions to be followed post Panchakarma process?

Does Panchakarma therapies upsets mood?

Sometimes, yes. This is completely normal and a good sign. Panchakarma works to detoxify the seven tissue layers in the body (dhatus). The seven layers are: o Rasa(plasma) – connected with immune system,  Joy, faith. o Rakta(blood) – connected with passion, invigoration. o Mamsa (skin,muscle) – connected with discernment, uprightness. o Medas (fat) - connected with ability to love and be loved. o Asthi (bone) – connected with confidence, how we carry ourselves into the world. o Majja (nervous system, bone marrow)- connected with clarity of mind. o Shukra(reproductive tissues & fluids) – connected with creativity. Each of the dhatus has a connection with an emotional and mental component as well. As the body gets detoxified, one may feel extra tired or emotionally vulnerable. This is a natural cleansing reaction. Allow these feelings to rise up and out.

Can Panchakarma be done at home?

Panchakarma is a very special Ayurvedic operation requiring proper guidance from a highly trained and skillful Ayurvedic practitioner. This should not be undertaken with information from an article, book or even from content of this website. One should consult with an Ayurvedic physician and Panchakarma expert. Panchakarma is done individually for each person with their specific constitution and specific disorder in mind, thus it requires close observation and supervision. Panchakarma may seem simple, but it begins a process that brings about significant shifts in body, mind and spirit.

Are all the Panchakarma procedures needed for each patient?

It is very important to understand that human body cannot bear two cleansing processes at the same time or immediately one after the other. Generally few days of interval is given between two Panchakarma treatments. That means say after Vaman, minimum 7 days of rest and light diet is given before starting purgation or any other treatment. The duration for each procedure of Panchakarma therapy varies according to the choice of the attending physician. However the general duration for Panchakarma treatment range from 3-4 days up to maximum 60 days.  But it is important to notice that there is no pre decided package for Panchakarma treatments as every individual needs different and unique set of treatments for his/her health condition.

What dietary and lifestyle regime should I follow before and after Panchakarma procedures?

The most important point is to eat only a non fat diet during this time. Preferably, eat only khichadi for all of your meals. If you are having issues with your blood sugar, you can add steamed vegetables. Do your best to avoid snacking. Specific dietary regimen for a specific period is recommended after Panchakarma procedures. The recommendations may vary depending on the Doshic predominance and the type of Panchakarma procedure carried out. However, the following instructions should be followed like including usage of warm water, maintaining celibacy and avoidance of sitting / standing / walking for prolonged period, strenuous traveling, riding on animals, sleeping during the daytime, speaking loud, suppressing natural urges e.g. passing of stools, urine, etc., exposing to breeze, consuming cold food items, over exposure to sun light, smoke and dust, taking food at unusual times, taking incompatible food, etc.

Can I receive treatment during the days of menstrual flow?

It’s not recommended during monthly cycle of women.

Does Panchakarma offer instant relief in my conditions?

Generally not! Panchakarma relieves the body of its toxins and the effects begin to show up gradually; although one finds the lightness and relief in muscular stiffness.

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