What is Ayurveda? And Why Do It?

It isn’t uncommon to see media coverage on lifestyle choices and their health implications in our modern society. Nor is it uncommon these days for people to seek out alternative therapies for treatment of these ailments, from osteopathy through to naturopathy, and everything else in between.  In Australia we saw an emergence of chiropractic treatment over 100 years ago, but did you know that Ayurvedic medicine has been practicised for over 6000 years?

Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine native to India that we now categorise as an alternative or complimentary treatment.  In a nut shell, it is best described as a food and lifestyle guide to keep healthy people healthy and lead those not so healthy towards improved health and wellbeing.

The name in itself spells out life knowledge with ayu being “life” and veda meaning the “knowledge of” in Sanskrit. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, “ayu” is comprised of four essential parts: body, mind, soul and the senses. And as such Ayurvedic medicine bases it’s principles on balancing these elements.

The Ayurvedic belief is that disease arises from imbalances in the three basic energy types called DOSHAS. According to Ayurveda, there are three types of doshas, present in every person and everyone has a unique energy pattern that is related to a specific combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. The three categories of DOSHAS are;

  • VATA: the energy that regulates body movement, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and heart beat.
  • PITTA: the energy that governs metabolism including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and body temperature.
  • KAPHA: the energy that controls growth and supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.

It is believed in Ayurvedic practises that factors such as stress, unhealthy diet, weather and problems in relationships and are responsible for creating such imbalances, and will therefore be expressed as disease in the body.

Why do Ayurveda?

It can use a variety of complementary therapies to help what I like to call the never ending search towards a healthy balanced lifestyle. Those of you already on the search for a balanced body, mind and soul may have practised some of the most commonly used ayurvedic recommendations which include yoga, massage, acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditation and dietary changes.

Ayurveda practitioners believe their approach is effective in treating a range of disorders, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Digestive problems
  • Eczema
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stress

Are there any side effects to Ayurveda treatment?  

Ayurveda therapist’s asses cases on an individual basis, and as such the course of treatment can vary greatly. It is important to remember though that;

  • Herbal medicines can be as potent as pharmaceutical drugs and should be treated with the same caution and respect. The belief that herbs are safe and harmless may encourage inappropriate use or overdose.
  • Complementary medicines such as herbs can be bought without prescription. However, they may still have side effects, interact with other drugs or treatments, or contain harmful ingredients not shown on the label. So it is important to tell your doctor about the ayurvedic treatments you are having.
  • Most complementary medicines have not been tested on pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers or children and may be harmful.
  • Before buying or taking a complementary medicine, check the label for an ‘AUST L’ (listed) or ‘AUST R’ (registered) code. This means they meet Australian safety standards designed to protect your health.

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