Ayurvedic treatments differ from the majority of conventional cures in its unique approach towards healing. The principle of treating the sick and not the sickness is central to all forms of ayurvedic treatments. Rather than trying to cure a disease in isolatation, ayurveda takes into account an individual in his entirety.
"Samadosha samagnischa samadhatu malakriya Prasanna atma manah swastha itih abhidhiyate."
Having a balanced state of doshas, agni (digestive fire), dhatus (tissues) normal functioning of mala (waste products), cheerful state of atman (soul), sensory organs and mind are the symptoms of healthy life.
Ayurvedic treatments lay emphasis on examining the doshas/prakriti or the natural states of individuals before proceeding. The prakriti or the physical constitution, susceptibility to diseases, mental make-up and lifestyle of an individual is ascertained in accordance to the elemental constitution of the larger prakriti or the universe.
Of course, ayurveda has drawn the most comprehensive picture of human body and the natural world, saying that, the elements of the nature-the Panchamahabhuts: kshit (earth), ap (water), marut(air), tejas (fire), and vyoma (space or ether or akash), are also, the components of human body,which are manifested in three types of physic-kaph (water/earth), pitta (fire), vata (ether/ air).These three types are further recognized by ayurveda as tridoshas or the three faults-vata, pitta and kapha irregularities. The smooth functioning of the body is hampered owing to the imbalances in the three doshas (prakriti) causing all kinds of diseases.
Ayurveda takes into consideration the body, mind and soul of an individual as the unit for diagnosis. Hence, it recognizes negative emotions like anger, fear, insecurity, jealousy and greed as incorrect thinking on the part of an individual. These can directly create an imbalance in the doshas. Sattva, or peaceful equilibrium, rajas, or excessive activity and tamas, or inertia-the three tendencies or gunas of mind influence the imbalances in the three doshas. Hence the mind-body imbalance impairs the creative functioning of man.
Vata, which is identified with the cosmic element of vaayu or air and akash or ether, control all types of movements and is responsible for respiration too. This is the kinetic force in all kinds of biological forms, and controls the body's auto-functions (nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination and heartbeats etc.) therein. In case of an imbalance (vikruti), vata prakriti individuals, who are quick in their mental process and initiation of action, tend to suffer from diseases of the neurological system especially motor functions. The diseases are pronounced during the old age, which is the period of vata (vata kala). The disease mostly affects the lower parts of the body since they are the predominant seats of vata dosha. Also, individuals belonging to this type suffer from angina (hridgraha).
Pitta Prakriti is consists of agni or teja, the element of heat energy. It is responsible for maintenance of body heat and transforming in nature. All types of outside elements an individual takes-in are transformed into inside elements (microcosm) of the body by pitta. It governs the digestion or proper assimilation of physical, mental and emotional elements of a biological entity. Hence, Pitta is responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems, as well as cellular metabolism. The persons of this prakriti are sharp, quick in action and normally possess a very good intellect as well as grasping power. The pitta prakriti persons are prone to diseases of the digestive and metabolic systems. The diseases mostly affect the abdomen i.e. the area between the chest and umbilicus. Also, pitta disorders are pronounced in the middle ages, which is the period of pitta (pitta kala).
Kapha prakriti or dosha consists of prithvi (earth) and jala (water). Jala or ap, is essential for sustenance of life. Prithvi, or earth, is responsible for structure and bulk of the material. Kapha is responsible for body form and structure (fluids, fats, bones and muscles). The kapha prakriti endows the individuals with a good physic and strong perseverance but they are slow in their activities. The cold quality of kapha results in poor appetite as their agni or digestion is poor. In case of an imbalance (vikruti), individuals tend to suffer from the diseases of the respiratory system especially phlegmatic disorders. The diseases normally affect the upper parts of the body i.e. chest and above. The diseases are pronounced during the early ages (childhood), which is the period of kapha (kapha kala). Generally people are a combination of two doshas i.e. dwandvaja prakriti. They possess characteristics of both doshas involved depending on the percentage of the combination. In this case, one is a primary and the other is the secondary dosha. Sometimes people are a combination of all the three imbalances of doshas. But, it is extremely rare to find a balanced state of all the three doshas. Not only the humans but also everything (animals, plants, geographical locations, times of day, seasons and activities performed etc.) in the universe is categorized according to these three doshas. An ayurvedic practitioner formulates a diet plan and recommends herbs for a patient after taking into consideration all these aspects. That's why in ayurveda different people with the same disease sometimes receive different diet and herb plans.
Effect of Seasons on the Prakriti Types
The condition of human body depends on the continuous interaction between internal and external factors. Environmental factors include the nature of the land, water and various atmospheric phenomena such as temperature, humidity, wind, rain and snow shortly, the seasons and climes. Food and proper digestion of it in our systems is considered vital to maintain a reasonable balance of the three doshas of vata, pitta and kapha. Food is digested by agni (heat/fire) within us just as it is cooked by agni (heat/fire) outside.
According to ayurveda, there is a "stimulus-response" relation between the agni within us and the outside agni-the sun. When the agni outside is strong (i.e. summer) the agni inside us (the digestive energy) is weak and vice-versa. Basing on this principle the Indian food customs (even festival delicacies) and of course, the diet and lifestyle regimen (Dinacharya and Ritucharya) of ayurveda have been adapted to seasonal changes.
Specialized ayurvedic remedies such as panchakarma, marma chikitsa, dhara or following an ayurvedic diet, basically endeavor to restore the harmony of the tridoshas. The purpose of all ayurvedic remedies and herbal medicines is to keep the doshas or the humors in equilibrium, since an imbalance indicates a disease condition. Samsodhana (cleansing process), samsamana (palliative measures) and nidanaparivarjana (treating the causes) are the three main stages through which ayurvedic remedies usually progress.
Of these three remedial phases, samsodhana is considered a prominent process and according to ayurveda, should be administered with full care. Panchakarma is synonymous with this process. In fact, panchakarma is a group of five ayurvedic remedies, all of which are not practiced in all diseases.
Ayurveda recognizes that all living and non-living things are composed of panchamahabhut or five basic elements of the entire creation. One branch of Indian philosophy-Sankhya, states that there are 24 elements in all, of which five are the foundation of the gross world: earth, water, fire, air and ether. According to ayurveda these five elements in different combinations constitute the three body types/doshas-vata (air and ether), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth and water). These two theories are the guiding factors of ayurveda as a therapeutic science.
Ayurveda advises undergoing panchakarma at the seasonal changes to both keep the metabolism strong and keep toxins from accumulating in the body as well as the mind. The process finds the way to the root cause of the problem and corrects the essential balance of mind, body, and emotions. It is considered extremely effective to go through the process of panchakarma prior to any rejuvenation treatment (rasayana/herbal medicines), for it cleanses the body, improves the digestion, the metabolic processes of the body and cleanse the thought process as well.
Basically, panchakarma is meant to make an individual most receptive to the curative process of ayurveda by removing accumulated waste in body and mind.
It is a process of therapeutic vomiting (induced), which helps eliminate the toxic or waste matters from the stomach and thoracic cavity. Kapha dominant diseases like severe skin diseases (psoriasis, urticaria); bronchial asthma, mental disorders etc. are selected for this treatment procedure. This process is not suggested for expecting mothers. Normally eight bouts of emesis are followed. The vomiting is stopped when yellow coloration is seen. Then, dhoomapana-inhalation of medicated fumes-is done through a special process. Finally, certain rules have to be followed called paschatkarma that basically implies strict diet regimen.
The entire treatment takes 15 days, and requires good attention as well as skilled assistance.
This eliminates the toxic or waste matters from the intestine. It also cures pitta or pitta-dominated diseases. Poorvakarma or initial process of cleansing like vamana is suggested here. About 20 purges may be seen in this process depending on the patient's health.
A mild form of virechana without the poorvakarma, is an integral part of ayurvedic therapy. It is also used for prevention of diseases.
The process of vasti or therapeutic enema is resorted to eliminate toxins from colon, and strengthens the tissues. Two kinds of vastis are followed in ayurveda. Snehavasti is the vasti where medicated oils are used. This is not advised in patients suffering from diabetes, anemia, diarrhea, and obesity. Poorvakarma is required here.
For kashaya vasti, honey, rock salt, sneham (oils), paste of medicines are required and mixed one by one in the above order. This concoction is taken in an empty stomach. After the process the patient is allowed to take a bath.
Diseases like hemiplegia, and disease due to vata are treated by this process. Medicines are selected as per disease and stage.
Nasya (Nasal Application of Herbal Medicines)
Nasya is instillation of medicine through nose. It is an important procedure of ayurveda for the treatment of sirorogas or diseases affecting head area. Nasya helps cleanse the head and sinuses. The process is contraindicated in various psychological diseases, asthma and cough.
Here, the patient is to inhale lightly warmed oil. Warmed oil is massaged in the patient's neck, shoulder, palm, face and sole before and after the process of nasya. Different timings are indicated for different dosha types. Morning time is prescribed for kapha diseases, noon in pitta diseases and evening in vata diseases.
Susruta gave stress to Raktamoksha (blood-letting) as one of the panchakarma, taking two of the vastis as a single karma (here, procedure). The process of letting out the vitiated blood is termed raktamoksha. In this procedure localized impurity or poison from the blood is removed through various methods. Often leech is used to suck out the impure blood from the affected area. Blood-letting is also done to eliminate toxins from the blood stream causing various chronic skin disorders like urticaria, eczema, scabies and leucoderma etc. The method was also effectively used to cure enlarged liver and spleen.
There are steps to be followed before doing panchakarma called poorvakarma. One is snehana or oleation where medicated oils are applied internally and externally. Another process called swedana or sudation is actually classified into four types to induce sweating. The purpose of poorvakarma is to liquefy and guide the provoked doshas to the mainstream to facilitate the sodhana or cleansing.
Following a strict ayurvedic diet also forms part of the ayurvedic treatment method. Ayurveda emphasizes that the diet we take has a close influence on our mind and body. According to ayurveda, the mind has three possible states (tri-gunas) that are related to the three states of our physical constitution or the three-dosha types. Sattva, or peaceful equilibrium, rajas, or excessive activity and tamas, or inertia-the three tendencies or gunas of mind influence the imbalances in the three doshas. Specific dietary adjustments serves to maintain the balance of specific doshas and thus entail perfect health. Appropriate diet can be used to remove or neutralize toxins in the body, also.
Ayurveda suggests eating food until one's appetite is satisfied. When ill, one should eat only light food, and then normal food in small quantities, until half the appetite is fulfilled. One important rule in ayurveda is never to combine contradictory foods in terms of their qualities. Some of the commonly followed rules on food habits according to ayurveda are as below:
- Keeping high-protein or high-fat food items in separate meals from lighter foods such as starches and vegetables.
- Not mixing milk with yogurt.
- Not eating cooked foods and raw foods at the same meal since they require different types of digestion.
- Avoiding drinking milk while eating radishes, tomatoes, meat, fish, eggs, citrus fruits.
- Eating fresh fruit separately from other meals (except the cooked fruits).
- Some specific vegetables and grains are forbidden in some specific days of a month. Diet is to be compatible with changing seasons.
Practice of yoga is an integral method in ayurveda, which is applied to keep both the body and mind healthy and relaxed. It is recommended for cure as well as for prevention of various ailments. Different yogasanas are prescribed for different dosha based ailments. The lifestyle regimens mentioned in yoga are integral to ayurvedic treatment. Meditation is often recommended to maintain balance or peace in the thinking process. Meditation removes any disturbances in the balance of the three mental states of sattva, rajas and tamas.
Recommendation of gems to avoid any imminent problem is associated with Jyotish Shastra (astrology). Ayurveda applies Jyotish Shastra (astrology) to ascertain the imminent diseases an individual is going to suffer as well as to ascertain what type of gems would be beneficial for him. Ayurveda prescribes nine precious gemstones to be used externally and internally as well. Apart from recommending wearing gems, the rasayana branch of ayurveda, also, recommends calxes of various gemstones (bhasma) as internal medicine.
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