Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ayurvedic Treatments

Ayurveda is a part of the Indian system of Yoga. This ancient science deals with the healing of the human body and mind to achieve optimum balance between the body, mind and consciousness. It has been developed and refined by ancient Indian seers and practitioners. The system tries to fix various imbalances in the body and uses herbs and natural products to treat the body. The concept and system was developed to aid a human being towards spiritual progress and rejuvenation. Now a days , it is used primarily as a way to heal the body and reduce stress. This system is used in conjunction with the ancient Indian system of Yoga Asanas and breathing exercises to gain optimum results.

Basic principals and philosophy of Ayurveda

Human body is made up of five principles Viz. Air ( Akasa), Vital Force ( Vayu), Minerals, Acids, Alkalies etc ( Tejas) , Water ( Jala) and Organic substances and Earthy matter not specified elsewhere( Prithvi). Any part of the body , howsoever minute is a combination of all of these principles.

In Ayurveda , combination of these principles are classified into three : Vayu – Vata- Mayu or Pitta- Valasa – Kapha.

The First is a combination of Air and Vital Force, The second is Minerals , acids and alkalies and the third is a combination of Water and Organic matter . These three Mega Divisions ( Tridhatus) build and sustain all parts of the body. One Dhatu (Mega Division) may be more active in one part of the body compared to the other. Ayurveda recognizes this difference and balance which keeps the body healthy.

When these Mega divisions ( Dhatus ) are displaced or in imbalance due to factors like food, age, various daily activities , time and place , they cause disease . In Ayurvedic terms they cause Impurities ( Malas).

There are three kinds of impurities in Ayurveda :

Vata – Excessively vitiated gasses

Pitta – Fluids of gall bladder and accumulated wastes.

Slesma – Phlegm or mucus in the mouth, throat and a few other impurities like albumen in the urine.

I shall now give the basic line of treatment in Ayurveda without going into detail regarding the herbs or the process. That is best left to a trained Ayurveda doctor. However it is important to understand the basis premise of the treatment so I make an effort here.

Disease in the initial stages is treated by alleviation. The imbalances are treated by pacifying them without eliminating them from the body. When the disease is very pronounced, there is no recourse except to eliminate the same from the body . In this case the Ayurveda doctor will try to find the source of the problem (imbalance) and eliminate this source to get a balance in the human body.

The Pacification of the imbalance can be undertaken by the Ayurveda doctor after studying the pulse of the patient. He looks for intensity, pattern, kind of throbbing and other complex variations to understand where the possible cause of the problem can be . The treatment is with a combination of natural herbs and minerals ingested or inhaled and Yoga Asanas ( body postures ) . The herbs and minerals are normally not processed as per modern medicine but comparatively raw. These heavy minerals and herbs can be effective in fixing some common ailments but should be taken under supervision or can cause damage to internal organs. Careful monitoring by a trained person can give lasting benefits.

The Elimination of the imbalance (versus pacification) to get to the root of the problem causing the disease is a complex process. The ‘ Panchkarma’ treatment is a specialized tool in Ayurveda employed for the purpose of ‘Elimination’. As the name suggests it comprises of five basic steps:

Vamana- Emesis

Virechana- Purgation

Vasti - Enema

Nasya- Enrhine therapy, and

Rakta Moksha- Bloodletting

This treatment works on the principle of removing deep seated toxins from the body causing imbalance and is recommended 3 times a year – at the turn of spring , autumn and winter. A healthy person is recommended this treatment once a year to rejuvenate and revitalize the body by bringing into balance various constituents.

The process is threefold:

Preparatory procedures : Internal Oleation and Lubrication with various herbal oils and Clarified butter taken orally. External lubrication with massages, oil gargles, Oiling of the ear canal etc etc . Therapeutic heat to induce perspiration and removing impurities through sweat glands.

Main Treatment : consists of Emesis ( therapeutic cleaning of the upper orifice of the alimentary canal) , Purgation ( Removal of waste from lower orifice) , Enema ( Therapeutic cleaning of the large intestine and bladder via medicated enema), Nasal application of ayurvedic medicines and Blood letting.

The above is an overview of the treatment. The popular treatments under Panchkarma include:

Virechanam : Purging and purification. Removal of waste accumulated in intestines.

Snanam : Special medicated herbal bath.

Snehanam : Application of oil internally ( orally ).

Avagahaswedam: Controlled sweating through medicated water.

Ooshmasswedam: Steam bath. Steam from water, sand , dust and more.

Tapaswedam : Dry sweating by rubbing body with heated stone etc.

And various other kinds of specialized sweating procedures.

Dhara : Pouring of medicated oils continuously on the forehead. It relaxes the body and fixes neurological imbalances.

Kaya Seka : Full body massage with herbal medicated oils .

Patra Pinda Sweda : The whole body is made to perspire by application of herbal medicated packs .

Udvarthana : A herbal powder massage for obesity and skin ailments .

Kati Basti : Fixes back pains and spinal problems.

Shirobasti / Sirovasti : Treatment with herbal medicated oil kept on the forehead. This is an effective treatment for disorders connected with the brain.

Tarpana : Specialized eye care to relax and rejuvenate the eyes.

Post Treatment

A set of post treatment diet and exercises are recommended to keep the body fit and rejuvenated. The doctor recommends certain foods and herbs to keep the body fit throughout the year.

Ayurveda hence helps to promote health, prevent disease, rejuvenate body cells, reduce stress, cure diseases and regain health and vigor. It is supposed to be a complete treatment versus the modern medicine which only treats a specific problem to the detriment of the rest of the body.

I have given an overview of the whole process a patient will normally undergo in Ayurvedic treatments. This should help a person prepare mentally before approaching an Ayurveda clinic or doctor. I recommend every one read and understand the basic principles of Ayurveda to get a better understanding of the training and specializations of various clinics. More information will mean better understanding and better effective treatment.

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