However, its powerful rejuvenation, revitalisation and purification therapies have been largely reserved for the nobility classes with kings and princes regularly partaking in intensive purification procedures lasting up to forty days. The elaborate procedures and skills required to carry out these treatments have, until recently, prevented large-scale incorporation into mainstream healthcare.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced the world to Transcendental Meditation over forty years ago, has brought together some of India's most highly renowned viadyas (Indian doctors) and scholars. Along with other medical professionals and personal development gurus such as Dr Deepak Chopra, Dr Vasant Lad and Dr David Frawley they have researched and developed this time-honoured tradition, unravelling its eastern mysteries until we have today a unparalleled system of healthcare that is not only more practical for modern western society but is within the reach of a broader strata of society.
Of late Ayurveda's increasing popularity has been due to the interest of health conscious celebrities such as Madonna, George Harrison, Geri Halliwell and Sting. Their practice of yoga, the gentle art of stretching for strength and suppleness and meditation, the art of relaxing and balancing the mind to increase energy and vitality, has been well publicised.
Ayurveda is a natural, simple and practical science and with a basic understanding its tenets comes the effortless ability to keep the body in balance and the mind free from stress and fatigue. The use of herbs, oils, sounds, colours and even gems gently help the body release toxins and impurities that accumulate due to our modern, often hectic lifestyles.
This weakens our bodies and gradually effects our digestion. A colon that is clogged with harmful bacteria and undigested waste matter will fail to adequately digest, assimilate and metabolise food and liquid that we take into it - however wholesome and nutritious it may be.
The primary focus of Ayurveda is to boost and maintain our energy levels through the strengthening and cleansing of this vital and often neglected part of our body. With this internal cleansing comes relief from many persistent chronic health problems such as constipation, diarrhea, backache, arthritis, rheumatism, headaches, skin disorders, flatulence and asthma.
Ayurveda recognises ten distinct body types. What we should eat; where we should live; what our occupation should be; and how we should spend our leisure time are all governed by our own unique body type or constitution.
The main body types are vata, pitta and kapha.
Vata constitutions are generally thin and feel the cold more than the other body types; they are very creative and are good communicators. When out of balance they tend towards constipation, anxiety, fear and over-exhaustion.
Pitta constitutions have average build and strength, a strong digestion and keen intellects. They are also well motivated with excellent leadership qualities but when out of balance are prone to anger, acidity and inflammation.
Kapha constitutions have strong, thickset bodies and are naturally forgiving and compassionate people who gravitate towards the caring professions. When out of balance they tend to put on weight and suffer from lethargy and despondency.
Ayurveda recommends specific measures for maintaining each of the various body types in a state of harmony and balance. However, there are also many general recommendations that apply to all constitutions. A few of these include:
Waking around dawn to infuse vibrancy and energy into the physiology; gentle stretching (yoga) to maintain suppleness; meditation to calm the mind; eating the largest meal at mid-day to obtain maximum nutritional value from the food we eat - this helps keep off excess weight; ensuring the six tastes (sweet, bitter, sour, astringent, salty and pungent) are included in each meal - this helps ensure a balanced intake of vital nutrients and reduces cravings and over-eating; drinking hot water throughout the day to flush impurities from the body; and early nights to ensure good quality sleep.
Even with our hectic schedules, nutritionally poor foods, polluted environment and stressful workplaces we can still ensure a healthy, joyous life by following Ayurvedic guidelines.
Why not start today; eat more organic, wholesome, unprocessed food; reduce the intake of coffee, tea and meat; join a gym; take up yoga or tai chi; frequent the local swimming pool or simply take time out for relaxing strolls in the countryside.
Read inspiring literature, watch less TV and be in bed by 10pm. You could even learn to meditate - it will help you to relax at will give you something to do in the early morning after your early night!
Ayurveda is about following your intuition and being gentle on yourself. It's about moderation and tuning in to the flow of nature but above all it is about being happy and enjoying life to the full.
About the author:Danny Cavanagh
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