An ancient traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda is considered to be the oldest system of health care, with literature going back 5000 years and an oral tradition that is much older. This healing system has been practiced in daily life in India for more than 5000 years. 'Ayur' means 'Life' and 'Veda' means 'Science'. Thus Ayurveda is the 'Science of Life'. In Ayurveda, health is a state of spiritual and physical attainment. It is a medical, metaphysical healing life science - the mother of all healing arts. The practice of ayurveda is designed to promote human happiness, health and creative growth. It is the science of daily living and this system of knowledge evolved from the sage's practical, philosophical and religious illumination which was rooted in their understanding of the creation. Ayurveda helps the healthy person to maintain health and the diseased person to regain health. The body is made up of Tridoshas (Tri' means 'Three' and 'Doshas' mean 'Humours') - Vata is Air, Pitta is Fire and Kapha is Water. Good health means a normalcy in the Tridoshas, balance of metabolic, systemic and excretory functions, all five senses and in the mind and spirit. There are 7 constitutional doshas and each individual falls into any one of these categories They are
Vata-Pitta-Kapha Vata is predominant in Old age, Pitta in the Middle age and Kapha in Childhood. According to the season, Kapha is predominant early morning, Pitta in the afternoon and Vata late at night. For good health, each person has to maintain the balance of their doshas and not aggravate it and an imbalance in them is the cause of illness. It is thus essential to identify one's body type and follow dietary regimes according to the seasonal regimes to maintain optimum health. Ayurvedic treatment helps to restore this imbalance without any side effects. This helps in several conditions including liver disorders, strokes, bone and muscular diorders, rheumatic and chronic conditions.
The Ayurvedic doctor selects the ayurvedic oils based on your body type which is used in the massage. In addition to the beneficial effects of massage which reduces stress, improves circulation and relaxes taut muscles, these ayurvedic oils have a rejuvenating effect as they also help eliminate impurities. They also reduce hair-loss and dandruff, condition the scalp, and improve sleep and eyesight. This kind of oleation serves as an absolute preventive measure against many ailments related to the Vata dosha.
It is the massage of the legs below the knees which improves circulation to the extremities, is beneficial for diabetics ,muscle cramps,varicose veins increases joint mobility and muscle tightness and is useful in destressing.
Shiro means head and dhara is a steady flow of warm ayurvedic oil which is specially selected by the ayurvedic doctor. Dhara can also be done with other ingredients like buttermilk, but they are specifically chosen as per the condition. Shirodhara involves a continuous stream of oil that is gently swayed on the forehead which completely relaxes the nervous system and calms the mind. It is very beneficial in conditions like hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and psychiatric problems and also is effective for paralysis, senile dementia and other neurological disorders and improves the memory as well.
Finely chopped herbal leaves and herbal powders are warmed in medicated oil and bundled in a poultice which is used for the fomentation massage. In cases of rheumatism and other diseases, fomentation in the affected area brings great relief. Ellakizhi promotes better circulation, relieves stress, and treats osteo-arthritis. It is also ministered to those with spondylosis and sports injuries resulting from soft tissue inflammations and joint pains.
'Pizhi' means 'Squeezing' and 'Chil' means 'Vigorous movement.' It is a procedure of squeezing large quantities of warm medicated oil all over the body with one hand and massaging with the other hand. When administered many times in succession is found to alleviate pains and is very invigorating. This is a unique contribution of Kerala. It has also been proved to be highly effective on its own for treating diseases caused due to vitiation of the Vata humour, especially hemiplegia, paralysis, muscle spasms and other degenerative diseases affecting the muscles. This massage protects you from illnesses and builds up your immunity for a healthy life. It is very useful for rheumatic diseases, sexual weakness, blood pressure, nerve weakness and helps to arrest the ageing process.
NAVARAKIZHI/SHASTIKA SHALI PINDA SWEDA
A bolus of Navara or Shastika rice cooked with milk and herbal decoctions is made into a fist-sized bundle called a kizhi which is used for fomentation. This is done after the application of medicated oil over the whole body and this induces a sweat. It has its proven efficacy and indicated in muscular disorders, neurological anomalies from paralysis to neuralgias, emaciation, and blood related disorders. This in healthy individuals gives a sedation effect, improves blood circulations and metabolism, makes body feels lighter and relaxed. It makes skin soft and gives special luster and glow. It is used not only as part of Panchakarma but also as an effective treatment for many diseases due to Vata disorders. This strengthening formulation helps combat neurological disorders, rheumatism, arthritis, and malnutrition of limbs.
This is the application of herbal preparations in paste over the hairy part of the head for 30 to 60 minutes. Ingredients of the paste vary according to the nature of the ailment. This is helpful in treating sleep disorders, headache, herriplegia, facial paralysis, trigeminal neuralgia, hair falling, premature graying, dandruff, etc.
A linen bag filled with churna (medicated powder) is used for fomentation, the duration of which varies according to disease conditions. This is effective for ailments due to Vata and Kapha disorders as it produces a therapeutic sweat, which relieves neurological disorders, rheumatism and arthritis.
This is a special Ayurvedic treatment to set right the degenerative changes in the retina and lens of the eyes, to strengthen the optic nerve, ciliary muscles, and to correct the refractive errors in diabetic retinopathy, etc.
It involves holding warm ayurvedic oils on the affected areas, that help immensely in cases of lower back problems, cervical problems, arthritic knees and in cases of hypertension and cardiac related conditions. Kati Vasti This is a special ayurvedic treatment for lower backache or sciatica of different etiology. Warm ayurvedic oil is held on affected area on the lumbosacral region. Greva Vasti This is a special ayurvedic treatment for different kinds of neck complaints including cervical spondylitis, I.V. disc prolapses, arthrosis, etc. Janu Vasti This is a special ayurvedic treatment for the knee joint conditions like arthritis, tendon injuries, sprain, etc. Hrud Vasti This is a special ayurvedic treatment for a variety of heart diseases including angina pectoris.
Ayurveda, from time immemorial focussed on anti-aging and rejuvenation programmes to prevent disease process and to maintain an optimum healthy state. This is recommended for anyone above the age of 40 for 14-21 days anually and any one above 60 years for 21 days anually. This programme consists of different Panchakarma and other special Ayurvedic programmes based on the person's health and body constitution. An elaborate description of this process of revitalization has been described in the classical texts. According to Charaka, this miraculous change can be brought about if one goes through a prescribed 6-month course of rejuvenation. But this rigorous and disciplined process of classical Ayurvedic rejuvenation is virtually impossible in modern times. The Ayurvedic Rejuvenatory treatment practised today is called Panchakarma.
Panchakarma therapy is performed in 3 stages:
- Purvakarma - preparatory procedures that help the body discard the toxins present in the stomach and tissues and help facilitate the toxins to move to the alimentary canal.
- Pradhanakarma - main treatment which is designed as per each individual's needs
- Paschatkarma - post treatment care includes the diet regimen and the other dos and don'ts. 'Pancha' means 'five' and 'karma' means 'action.' This five-fold purification therapy aims at correcting the imbalance of the doshas - Vata, Pitta, Kapha in order to maintain their inherent equilibrium. During each season of the year, one or more of the doshas accumulate, which causes an imbalance and makes the body prone to illness. It involves five cleansing procedures:
- VAMANA - inducing vomiting specially for kapha related illnesses like asthma, coughs, chronic colds, psoriasis, acne, arthritis, diabetes and other kapha disorders. This is a painless, drug-induced emetic process.
- VIRECHANA - inducing purgation specially for elimination of Pita related toxins from the body. Here, drugs that stimulate bowel movements are induced for the expulsion of excess Pita.
- NASYA - nasal cleansing by the application of medical oils or powders. The nostrils are considered the Doorway to the Brain and nasal application of oils is helpful in conditions like allergic sinusitis, migraines and epilepsy. If the Nasya therapy has been carried out effectively, Kapha related toxins from the paranasal sinuses are eliminated and the region nourished. Due to this, the patient feels great relief in the head and clarity of the sense organs. Breathing becomes completely unobstructed which gives sound sleep at night. Olfactory improvement is also felt. Nasya is excellent for chronic sinusitis, headaches, throat diseases, chronic colds, chest congestion, epilepsy, catarrh, migraine, voice constraint, eye diseases and cervical spondilitis.
- VASTI - medicated enema is particularly good for alleviating excess Vata. Vasti's effects are directly felt in the colon, the prime abode of the Vata. With the application of a series of purifying and nourishing Vastis, the morbid doshas and other toxins trapped for long in the tissues are eliminated. This restores the equilibrium of the humours. Vasti is good for spleen disorders, colic, calculus, kidney stones and many other diseases due to a Vata disorder. It helps in chronic constipation, low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, sciatica, various neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, dystrophy and atrophy of nerves and muscles. - Sneha Vasti - enema using medicated oil which remains in the colon and rectum for a short period of time to absorb the toxins and eliminate them out of the body.
- NIROOHA VASTI - enema using a special combination of herbal decoctions, paste, powders and oils. It has an effect on the nervous system to help eliminate the imbalances in Vata.
- RAKTHAMOKSHANA - to remove impurities from the blood through leech therapy or other methods. This 5-fold treatment during Panchakarma has not only been intended for elimination of disease-causing toxins but also to replenish the tissues with nourishment. This is why it is often termed as Rejuvenation Therapy. This therapy also combats neurological ailments like paralysis, arthritis, rheumatism, dermatological problems, and mental disorders.