An introduction to Ayurveda

Whether you are feeling ‘under the weather’ or would like to improve your health to increase energy and vitality it is worth having a look at what Ayurvedic medicine has to offer. Even if you do not wish to pursue Ayurvedic treatment it is interesting to see how this branch of medicine understands the progress of illness.

Originating in India over 4,000 years ago it is one of the world’s oldest health care methods. It works on the principle that all things in the universe are one and that if the body and mind are in harmony with nature then good health will prevail. Fatigue and stress have become accepted as part of modern day living but are often precursors for more serious conditions such as coronary heart disease and cancer.

Although the pharmaceutical industry has manufactured a pill for almost every ailment, the body has its own natural defence mechanisms. Unless compromised, our immune system is very effective at dealing with unwelcome invaders; our bones heal without pharmaceutical intervention as do cuts, bruises and other physical traumas. We accept this as normal.  This said, our bodies need to be healthy and in balance for self healing to be effective.

Ayurveda aims to balance the body, mind and soul to prevent illness and promote well being. A variety of techniques are used to achieve this: diet and the use of plants along with exercise and meditation. This holistic treatment is having a resurgence in the field of complimentary and alternative medicine with an emphasis on prevention of illness. It also stresses the importance of personal responsibility for healthy living and gives advice on methods of achieving this.

yoga meditation

Each person is considered individual, with a unique mind-body type. Three life forces, known as doshas control the activities of the body and each person has a unique combination of the three doshas, with one being prominent. When these three forces are in balance there is good health. A disturbance of one of these forces produces imbalance and possibly disease.

A NOTE OF CAUTION: If Ayurvedic treatment is to be used for an established illness or disease it is important to use it under the guidance of a reputable practitioner and with the consent of a Medical Practitioner. Remedies are complex and some treatments can be toxic. They are often regulated as dietary supplements which do not have to undergo the rigorous safety and efficacy standards required for conventional medicines. Proven conventional treatments provided by your General Practitioner, or a hospital doctor, should NEVER be replaced with unproven complimentary and alternative treatments.

An Ayurvedic practitioner considers there to be six stages in the course of an illness and in the western world we generally wait for stage four to arrive before seeking medical treatment.

6 Stages of Illness 

  1. Accumulation: This is the consequence of taking unhealthy substances into the body or permitting negative feelings such as anger or anxiety to have power over our daily lives.
  2. Aggravation: If over long periods the body and the mind are neglected, effects being to show in the form of tiredness, poor digestion or general irritation.
  3. Spreading: Harmful toxins spread through the body leading to an increase in symptoms. This may lead to depression, significant disruption to the digestive system or disruption to sleep among other things.
  4. Localisation: There may now be an accumulation, leading to a more pronounced effect, in a particular tissue or organ and a visit to the doctor is often necessary at this point.
  5. Manifestation: Symptoms are more distinct and a diagnosis is made and treatment prescribed.
  6. Complications: If left untreated there may be a secondary disease, a chronic condition or possibly even death.

 

The following 6 categories show how you can take personal responsibility for good health:

1  .Follow a sensible diet. There is a plethora of information regarding what constitutes a sensible diet. Lean meats, fish, pulses, fruits and vegetables are the recommendations. Plenty of water or herbal tea is also advised. There is a growing body of evidence to show that an excess of processed foods is causing ill health so these foods should be avoided.

2.  Use relaxation techniques to prevent and reduce stress. Transcendental Meditation is a method used in Ayurvedic treatments which has proven to reduce stress, calm the body and improve sleep and digestion. If time is limited and meditation cannot be fitted into the daily schedule, then look into mindfulness. This can be used in everyday activities.

3.  Make the best of life’s ups and downs. There are obviously situations when this is not appropriate. It would be foolish to even suggest making the most of a serious illness or the death of a loved one. There are many times though when smaller issues take over, causing misery. Dwelling on these has a serious effect on health if prolonged.

4.  Cultivate harmonious personal relationships. It is worth working at relationships both at home and at work. Being nice to someone unpleasant often brings surprising and positive results. To begin with it takes some effort but the response could lead to a more pleasant environment for everyone.

5.  Watch your thoughts and practice right thinking. Regurgitating last week’s arguments or remaining anxious about some future event is detrimental to both physical and mental health. The mind can only occupy one thought at a time so if the thought is a negative or nasty one then change it!

6.  Regular sleep and exercise. Sleep provides rest giving the body time to repair and heal any damage sustained during the day. The benefits of exercise are well documented.

Following all of the above methods need not take any extra time from a busy schedule. Exercise and mindfulness can be incorporated into the daily routine with very little disruption – there does not have to be a formal time set aside for these activities. Thoughts have a great effect on the well being of the body, so watch them whenever possible. Prevention of disease keeps the mind and body healthy and ready to cope with the more substantial traumas when they appear.

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