Friday, June 25, 2010

Introduction to Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health and is designed to help people live long, healthy, and well-balanced lives. The term Ayurveda is taken from the Sanskrit words Ayus, meaning life ,and Veda, meaning knowledge. It literary translates to Knowledge of Life hence Ayurveda. It has been practiced in India for at least 5,000 years and is evident in daily life routines . The basic principle of Ayurveda is to prevent and treat illness by maintaining balance in the body, mind, and consciousness through proper drinking, diet, and lifestyle, as well as herbal remedies. The Ayurvedic rishies have understood the energy of water, wind and fire, the limitless vista of earth and space and the qualities of these five elements present withing us. Beauty in Ayurveda has always been associated with the bounty of nature and as a balance of these elements within ourselves. Each person is identified through his or her unique balance and these individual balances are known as Doshas. Dosha literary means fault and these faults lie within us and a long, disease free, healthy life can be achieved if these faults or Doshas are corrected.

It is believed that there are three basic energy types called doshas, present in every person: each person can be only one of these doshas or a combination of two doshas. Its extremely rare for a person to be all three although all three doshas are present in everyone, but the one that is the most predominant is your dosha and the second most dominant is the underlying Dosha. For example a person could be Vata, Vata Pitta or Vata Kapha and so on.. Here are some of the broad properties of some of the Doshas :
VATA -- energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and heartbeat. When vata energy is balanced, there is creativity and vitality. Out of balance, vata produces fear and anxiety. PITTA -- energy that controls the body's metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and temperature. In balance, pitta leads to contentment and intelligence. Out of balance, pitta can cause ulcers and arouse anger.
KAPHA -- energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system. In balance, kapha is expressed as love and forgiveness. Out of balance, kapha leads to insecurity and envy.

From a Western medical perspective, stress relief seems to be one of the ways Ayurveda works to help fight illness. For example, studies have found that transcendental meditation, a component of Maharishi Ayurveda, lowers anxiety. Other studies have found that Ayurveda lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, slows the aging process, and speeds recovery from illness. Many herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine have antioxidant effects, which means that they may help protect against long-term illnesses such as heart disease and arthritis.

Ayurveda focuses on re balancing the doshas. Ayurveda pays special attention to your lifestyle, general health, diet, habits, surroundings and the structure of your hair and condition of your skin. Some common ways of correcting the Doshas are through the following:
* Pranayama -- breathing exercises. Practicing pranayama helps you feel calm.
* Abhyanga -- rubbing the skin with herbal oil to increase blood circulation and draw toxins out of the body through the skin.
* Rasayana -- using mantras (repeated words or phrases) during meditation combined with certain herbs to rejuvenate a person.
* Yoga -- combining pranayama, movement, and meditation. Yoga has been shown to improve circulation and digestion, and to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, anxiety, and chronic pain.
* Pancha karma -- cleansing the body to purify it and reduce cholesterol. Practitioners use methods that cause sweat, bowel movements, and even vomit to cleanse the body of toxins.
* Herbal treatments -- prescribing herbs and specific skincare and haircare items to restore dosha balance.

Ayurvedic beauty is holistic and does not believe in Parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial fragrances, dyes, petroleum based ingredients or synthetics. It derives its knowledge from the laws of nature which state that a person is made of many parts and when a part of our body malfunctions it disrupts all parts and the results show up as itchy, dry sensitive, unbalanced and aging skin.

In my next post I will be explaining more about the type of Doshas and how to tell the type of dosha a person might be.

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