Ayurveda is one of the oldest known whole medical models still practiced today. It originated in India more than 3,000 years ago, perhaps as far back as 5,000 years. The name ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit word ayus, meaning life or lifespan, and veda, meaning knowledge. This system works with our prana (our energetic life force) to help us find balance by means of various holistic approaches.
With the resurgence of natural healing modalities, ayurveda is becoming widely recognized and trusted as an invaluable alternative healing option in the US. Although it is fairly new to our culture, it has endured the changes of time in India and has remained one their traditional healthcare systems since its early origins.
Ayurvedic practitioners differ in their levels of education, some hold doctorates in holistic medicine, while others have obtained ayurvedic medicine certifications. There is no licensing required in the US at this time, nor is there a national standard for certification, however, ayurvedic schools are starting to become recognized as educational institutions in some states. Unlike the US, in India, practitioners are required to complete a state-recognized, educational program.
Despite the varying educational backgrounds of practitioners, ayurvedic medicine is united in its approach. Individuals are examined in-depth and holistically in order to properly diagnose and tailor treatments. An assortment of modalities may be used in an individual treatment plan.
The most common modalities of Ayurvedic Medicine include:
Additional modalities may include:
Pranayama - Vedic Breathing
Panchakarma - Purification (via diet, herbal medicine, lifestyle changes, etc.)
Ayurveda holds a primary emphasis on the doshas, the three energetic forces that surge through us: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The combination of these energies provides the framework for our physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral tendencies. By understanding our make-up, our more dominate energetic forces, strengths and weaknesses, we can better understand our unique personal traits and individual needs. When we live our lives according to our personal traits and individual needs, we live healthier lives.
There are numerous quizzes that can be found on-line and in books that can help you identify your dosha type and provide you with healthy tips for your energetic profile. We all have these three doshas within us but one or two will be more dominant. This can be useful in determining the best way to stay balanced such as foods that would work better for your particular blueprint.
Abhyanga is becoming more popularized as ayurveda is reaching the mainstream population. It is a gentle, rhythmic massage using warm oil on the body in a complete treatment, from head to toe. This is an ancient ayurvedic tradition from India that can be used as an indulgent self-care ritual.
Abhyanga is also known for its remarkable benefits for babies, to include bonding the relationship. This was common practice in early ayurveda. Babies would receive daily massages that provided helpful stimulation, fostering healthy growth and development. It has begun to resurface as a beneficial practice and has been introduced to the US.
Benefits for Baby: (For infants at least 4-weeks old)
Assists with appropriate weight gain
Regulates body temperature
Promotes healthy neuromuscular functioning
Strengthens muscles and bones
Aids in brain development
Nourishes the sensory and nervous systems
Benefits for All:
Decreases muscle tightness, lubricates joints
Improves energy, stamina, and physical strength
Increases blood circulation, stimulates internal organs, aids lymphatic system
Promotes the elimination of impurities from the body
Supports healthy skin
Lowers blood pressure
Decreases age-related effects
Promotes oxytocin, the happy hormone
Prevalence of Ayurveda
In India, the majority of the population uses some form of traditional ayurvedic medicine. There, it is recognized nationally with widespread availability of medical schools, and access to numerous clinics and hospitals. This traditional practice remains an instrumental medical model for the Indian culture, which has valued its benefits for millennia. The US culture is only in its early beginnings of integrating this beneficial healthcare system.