What is it?

Ayurveda is most certainly the most ancient of all medical systems. It has its origins in India, and is still the most important form of medicine in the Indian subcontinent; its philosophies are also gaining ground in the West. Despite its antiquity, there are relatively few practitioners, particularly in the UK, due in part to the very length training and the huge complexity of its philosophy and teaching. Classical Ayurvedic training is conducted in Sanskrit. Most Ayurvedic practitioners tend to be orthodox doctors as well.

The word 'Ayurveda' comes from Sanskrit and means 'the science of life', the whole aim of Ayurveda is prevention. The ancient texts say that the human lifespan should be around 100 years, and that all those years should be lived in total health, both physical and mental, therefore the Ayurvedic practitioner is looking to balance the body and mind, find health problems before they occur or arrest them before they do any real harm. It is a complete philosophical and spiritual system, which has over thousands of years become subtle, sophisticated and highly complex. However, the basic tenets are reasonably easy to understand and have changed little over the centuries.

The five elements - ether, air, fire, water and earth are the foundations on which the Ayurvedic interpretation of all matter and life is based, they are not to be interpreted literally however, each represents qualities and different types of force and energy, as well as some form of physical manifestation. The elements do not act in isolation - three different combinations of the elements, called tridosha, are what form the basis for diagnosis, treatment, cure and health maintenance in Ayurvedic medicine. Each individual's constitution is determined by the state of their parents' doshas at the time of conception, and upon birth a person has the levels of the three doshas that is right for them. Life and all its forces can cause the doshas to become unbalanced which can lead to ill health.

Each of the three doshas has a role to play in the body:

  • VATHA is the driving force, it relates mainly to the nervous system and the body's energy center.
  • PITTA is fire, it relates to the metabolism, digestion, enzymes, acid and bile.
  • KAPHA is related to Water in the mucous membranes, phlegm, moisture, fat and lymphatics.

What to expect

There is no typical Ayurvedic session - even the methods of diagnosis may vary from practitioner to practitioner. The basic diagnosis is known as the three-point diagnosis and involves detailed observation of your appearance, examination by touch, and a detailed questionnaire about your life and health. After diagnosis comes treatment, and the range of treatments is vast, however, you will be given guidelines for healthy living and instructed in the diet, which will soothe and correct imbalances in your body type. You may be prescribed a course of purification to eliminate toxins from the body and to energize the body's elimination mechanisms. Herbal preparations may be prescribed. A host of other healing techniques including massage, exercise, breathing and meditation may be used.

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