How do you see your body and its role in your health? Do you think of your body as a multitude of individual parts that each have their isolated purpose? Or do you think of your body more like a network of components that are all interconnected with multitudes of ways for those circuits to be altered and manipulated? Might we each have our own “pattern of performance” regarding our particular body’s unique design? Ayurvedic medicine considers this “pattern” of your body. It considers this pattern as one that requires a balance of each of our natures: physical, mental and emotional.
There are at least 10 ways Ayurvedic medicine, which is gaining awareness in the west, can heal your body.
What is Ayurvedic Medicine?
Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian healing philosophy, dates beyond 5,000 years ago. It means “The Science of Life.” Homeopathy and polarity therapy care stems from Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda defines health as “a balance between body, mind, spirit, and social wellbeing” with certain connections to the Universe.
The foundation of Ayurvedic Medicine
The underlying ideology of Ayurvedic medicine holds certain beliefs:
- Everything in the universe is connected and is made up of the 5 elements; space, air, fire, water, and earth.
- You and the environment share a great connection.
- We maintain health through balance. This balance requires us to have a wholesome and effective relationship with the environment.
- Our choices regarding our diet, exercise, profession, and relationships can interrupt that balance in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways.
- Imbalances interrupt harmony and increase the tendency toward disease.
- Humankind ultimately bears responsibility for their choices and actions.
- We may obtain and maintain balance by making choices that balance and promote connection and harmony.
The Philosophy of Ayurveda
Ayurveda’s philosophical stance states that everyone is born with certain unique physical and psychological characteristics or constitutions. They are called prakruti. A person’s core prakruti stays the same their entire life but is under constant manipulation by many daily factors, such as seasonal changes and manner of lifestyle. Ayurveda’s goal is to prevent illness and therefore focuses on keeping your health balanced through daily and seasonal routines.
There are three qualities called doshas, which make up the characteristics of prakruti. They are called: Pitta, Kapha, and Vata. These doshas are believed to be made from two out of the five elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth.
This is made of the elements of space and air, and is associated with movement. It is considered the most influential as it is believed to be the force of movement for Kapha and Pitta. It is what strives to maintain the balance of your breathing, blinking, heart pumping, and how the muscles, tissue, and cells within your body move.
- When Vata is in balance, it promotes creativity, clear thought, and activity.
- When it is out of balance, fear and anxiety are the results.
Composed of water and earth, the Kapha sits in the stomach area. It is associated with nourishing your body with essential fluids: mucous production, lubrication to joints, and water distribution to the entire body. It also keeps the immune system strong.
- In balance, you carry love, physical, mental and emotional endurance, and forgiveness with you.
- Envy, greed, and attachment become your negative side when the balance is not maintained.
Composed of the fire element, it is attributed to the metabolic system: digestion, absorption, and utilization of nutrition and metabolism. It sits in the small intestine, and, due to its associated heat and oiliness, it’s also believed to add shine to one’s hair, eyes, and skin.
- It is claimed to bring a balance between emotion and thought while enhancing comprehension and intelligence.
- The negative shadow of it is anger, hatred, and jealousy.
10 ways Ayurvedic medicine can heal your body
Maintaining balance is how Ayurveda is designed. It is intended to prevent illness, not necessarily “cure” illness. It makes for a great addition to Western medicine that seems to fall short in having established a routine for overall wellbeing.
The Ayurvedic way demands a certain daily routine in an attempt to keep everything balanced. Maintaining that balance requires knowledge of your own constitution, or prakruti, and which dosha you are connected to.
Each dosha requires their individual adjustments in diet, with added or altered routines, to both counter and enhance your natural properties in order to maintain daily balance. Should you become imbalanced, an Ayurvedic practitioner may recommend changes in lifestyle, certain herbs, and possibly a cleansing program called panchakarma.
What are these daily routines which promote wellness and healing?
1. A consistent sleep schedule.
The ayurvedic routine starts early in the morning, preferably before sunrise, and bedtime is precisely at 10 p.m.
2. Start your morning with a glass or cup of warm water and ideally add lemon.
Ayurdevic oral hygiene
3. Attend to oral hygiene.
Oral hygiene for Ayurvedic requires a bit more of a routine than a two-minute brushing.
- Start by scraping the tongue, preferably with a copper scraper. This practice has only been introduced to Western culture in the last decade or so. It has been proven that the majority of the bacteria in your mouth is on your tongue, gums, and inside tissue.
- Gargle with oil. What? Yes, you read that correctly. It is a practice called “oil pulling” in which you put a tablespoon of oil in your mouth. Sesame or coconut oil is what is used. There are now specially made rinses containing herbs for flavor as well.
- Swish it around your mouth, under your tongue, in between your teeth and in every crevice in your mouth you can get to. Do this for 15-20 minutes. That’s a long time first thing in the morning, but for beginners, you are allowed to build up from five minutes. The goal is for the oil to become whitish in color. Then you spit it out in the trash or toilet because our drains don’t like oil.
Then, rinse your mouth with water.
Oil pulling can also be performed a bit later in the routine, and you can do it while you shower. Given the time it takes, that does make sense. Either way, oral maintenance is done prior to eating breakfast.
Here is some additional information on oil pulling:
- Heathline published a number of studies that point to “oil pulling” being as effective as mouthwashes intended to cut bacteria. These studies also point to reducing bad breath, preventing cavities, reducing inflammation, improving gum health, and possibly aiding in whitening your teeth.
- There does seem to be some disagreement as to if one should brush before or after. Some dentists state it should be done before, as oil pulling cleans the palate, stimulates digestion, and leaves healthy bacteria in your mouth. Other dentists state one should brush after to rid the oil coating your mouth.
- Depending upon your choice on when to do the “oil pulling,” brushing your teeth is also on the list. Ayurvedic chooses natural paste or powder as opposed to commercial toothpaste.
Ayurvedic centering and grounding routine
4. Practice grounding and centering.
Ayurveda prefers the practice of grounding and centering yourself outdoors, about the time of the sunrise. This is not only to take in Vitamin D from the sun’s rays but also to attune yourself with the outdoors and because sunshine is good for your overall sense of mental wellbeing.
Exercise can consist of 10-15 minutes of yoga, a 15-30-minute brisk walk, or other form of exercise.
6. Nose breathing.
Nose breathing, or pranayama as it is called, is a practice of breathing by alternating which nostril the air is breathed through. This is practiced for 5-10 minutes.
- Sit cross-legged with your back straight for easy breathing. Take a number of full deep breaths and then exhale slowly.
- Bend the tips of your first two fingers, the index, and middle finger, toward the palm adjacent to the base of the thumb. Keep your remaining two fingers upright.
- You will use the thumb to close the right nostril. Now breathe through your left nostril, deep into your stomach. Slowly exhale the breath up the left side of your body.
- As the breath from the left nostril is concluding, use your ring and pinky finger to simultaneously close the left nostril while releasing your thumb from the right. Breathe in deep to your stomach again, releasing the breath up the right side of your body.
- Repeat this pattern multiple times imagining the breath flowing easily up around the crown of your head, down to your pelvis and back up in an endless loop.
7. Meditate daily.
Spend 5-15 minutes in meditation or silence.
8. Practice self-massage.
This is also called the daily abhyanga and is done just before entering the shower or while in the shower. Not only is this good for the surface of your skin, but it also promotes circulation. Sesame oil, olive oil or coconut oil is recommended.
- Quiet your mind and be willing to let your senses focus on the massage.
- Heat some oil to a slightly warm temperature.
- Place oil on your fingertips and palms. Start with your scalp. Massage vigorously, preferably with your palm. Spend more time here than the rest of your body.
- Then, in order, massage your face and outer ears, neck, arms, hands, fingers, chest and stomach, back and spine, legs, feet. Circular motions are usually best using an open hand. With your legs, go back and forth over the long bones, but circular over the joints.
- This should take about 10-20 minutes. It is best if you can do the full 20 minutes out of the shower, but even a brief one in the shower is more beneficial than not at all.
9. Be mindful at mealtime and attentive of size.
- Breakfasts are small but filling enough to make it through to lunch.
- Lunch is to be eaten in a peaceful environment where you can be mindful of the flavors and textures. This is to be the biggest meal of your day.
- Following your lunch, you should briefly lie on your left side. This is probably related to your spleen and liver since they’re on the left side of the body, which produces the bile for digestion. This short rest would allow your body to easily produce bile for quicker digestion.
- Further digestion is facilitated with a short, relaxed walk of about 5-10 minutes.
- Dinner should be eaten early and should be a light meal. This is associated with the practice of intermittent fasting which studies are showing promote weight loss, balance blood sugar, and aid in healthy digestion.
- After dinner, the centering and grounding routine of exercise, breathing, and meditation should be done before going to bed at 10 p.m.
10. Practice toxin removal or rebalance.
Panchakarma is a practice performed at a spa or clinic for 5-21 days. It is a 5-step process to purify and re-balance your being. Prior to doing a panchakarma, you should clean the gut one week before. It is claimed to be the ultimate way to cleanse, purify, and find enlightenment.
Ayurvedic medicine has been getting a lot more attention, both by scientists and the general public. Many of its traditional methods are very similar to highly recommended practices for anyone, from both a medically proven position and an alternative awareness point of view.
Whether its other treatments or methodology are truly effective has yet to be determined by science. However, more studies are showing validity, from some of the various herb uses to the mental wellbeing that sunshine brings and the potential benefits of intermittent fasting.
Ayurveda may be ancient, but its wisdom greatly compliments the Western scientific method. These are only 10 ways Ayurvedic medicine can heal your body. There is so much more to this practice.
Did this article pique your curiosity about Ayurvedic Medicine? If so, continue your journey of investigation and see how you can implement some of this amazing practice into your life.