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Ayurveda or the “science of life” originated in the 10th century BC, but its current form took shape between the 5th century BC and the 5th century AD. Ayurvedic philosophy is attached to sacred texts of the Vedas, and based on the theory of Panchmahabhutas — all objects and living bodies are composed of the five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and sky. These elements also represent Tridoshas in human body – vata, pitta, kapha. Ether represents the sky. Similarly, there is a fundamental harmony between the environment and individuals, which is perceived as a macrocosm and microcosm relationship. As such, acting on one influences the other.
Ayurveda is not only a system of medicine, but also a way of living. It is used to both prevent and cure diseases. It encompasses a wide range of techniques to treat illness and encourage general wellbeing, including:
• Acupuncture, also called marmachikitsa
• Daily and seasonal routine
Unlike the animals, humans live in a more complicated nature where they are perpetually exposed to environment change: weather, society and economy, lifestyle, diet, work, financial status, emotions and relationships. Any of these external changes can easily tip the balance and jeopardize the individual’s state of mind, body and soul. Hence, the meaning of Ayurveda; two Sanskrit words: Ayu which means life and Veda which means the knowledge of. To know about life is Ayurveda and according to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, "ayu" is comprised of four essential parts: the combination of mind, body, senses and the soul. With Ayurveda healing, the purpose is not just to bring remedy to an ailment but also to bring harmony.
In Ayurveda, when the body dosha balance of vata-pitta-Kapha is agitated or in disorder, or if any of these types are accumulated, the individual may become unwell. Doshas and toxins accumulate in the body as a result of an improper diet and lifestyle. The seasonal accumulation of doshas is also described in Ayurveda. Panchkarma, a purifying therapy to enhance the metabolic process through food and herbal medicines, is used in treatment of chronic diseases as well as seasonal imbalance of the tridoshas. It restores the balance of the doshas and flushes out the accumulated toxins from the body.
A set of preliminary detoxification and (toxin) reducing methods are followed for a period of a week or more. These are known as the ‘PurvaKarma’ which consists of the following steps;
• Snehan (oleation therapy): These are of two types
o Internal Snehan where ghee (clarified butter) is used. This helps in pushing the impurities so that their elimination becomes easy
o External Snehan comprises of different kinds of massage. Medicated oils like sesame oil are used
• Swedan (sweating): sweating is done shortly after the massage. This is done in a sweat box or with the steam of diaphoretic herbs like camphor or eucalyptus
Panchkarma: The five steps are as follows:
• Vaman or the use of emetics – artificial vomiting is induced using herbs like, strong teas of locorice, salt, calamus. It is usually indicated for people and disorders of ‘Kapha’ (phlegm)
• Virechan or the use of laxatives – A strong purgative like senna or rhubarb is given. It is normally used to eliminate high Pitta(fire) from its site in the small intestines
• Basti or the use of medicated enemas – cleaning enemas are used primarily to dispel high Vata (air) from the colon
• Nasya or the use of nasal administration – medicinal oils or herbal mixtures are inhaled or used as drops (mixed with oils or ghee) to clear the congestion in the sinuses. It is also good for balancing the ‘prana vata’
• Rakta Mokshana or the use of bloodletting – this is not much in use these a day’s except in oriental systems of medicine
Paschatkarma: The use of Panchkarma therapies puts a lot of strain on the body and the digestive fire becomes weak. Paschatkarma is the set of therapies used to regain the vigour and vitality of the body. These include:
• Samsarjan karma-a special diet and life style prescribed for about two weeks. In this therapy the digestive power and strength of the person is restored by starting a light diet and gradually moving towards a heavy diet
• Shamana: Treatment is given for the main condition for which the panchkarma was undertaken
• Rasayan: It is a special form of therapy, used to tone up the various systems of the body. This is best done after the panchkarma
Ayurveda recommends that everyone needs the Panchkarma. Ideally it should be done three times a year, at the turn of spring, fall and winter. In Ayurveda healing, each condition comes with not only medication and herbal formulas, but also other measures like special diets, exercise, yoga, relaxation therapies like massages, tea and healing paste, among others, to provide healing. Together with medicinal treatment, changing your daily routine can help you improve health and live harmoniously in your surrounding with nature. The human body is always resilient, working to restore balance and complete health so the natural process of healing recommended in Ayurveda will support the body and bring benefits in keeping you in the pink of health and your life in harmony.