the traditional form of Indian medicine was developed by ancient sages whose astute observations led to the development of constitutional medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine too has similar origins. Over the past 5000 years the Ayurvedic and chinese traditions have developed sophisticated systems of medicines. The ancients visualized the universe as a constant play of energies, an imbalance of which created discomfort and disease in the body. It was the duty of the vaidya/ (physician) to harmonize this imbalance of the body - mind environment. Ayurveda is an intricate system of healing that originated in India thousands of years ago. This system of medicine stressed on the prevention of body ailments in addition to curing them. Followed by the Dravidians and Aryans alike, Ayurveda has been practised ever since. Ayurveda is more than just a medical system. It is a Science of Life. Ayurveda is a system that helps maintain health in a person by using the inherent principles of nature to bring the individual back into equilibrium with their true self. In essence Ayurveda has been in existence since the beginning of time because nature's laws have always governed us.
Ayurveda[ayur + veda] is considered to be a sub-veda or the branch of knowledge that is concerned with the physical health and happiness on earth, which therefore assumes great significance to human life. Vedic culture was based on the Vedas [four books of knowledge] the origin of which dates back to 40000 years. This is an indication to the age-old roots of Ayurveda. Ancient physicians segmented the universe into different types of manifested energy and attributed the very same energy to food and herbs. Ayurveda or the 'science longevity' is the system of nature cure. It is known to promote positive health, natural beauty and long life. Although rooted in antiquity, Ayurveda is based on universal principles and is a living, growing body of knowledge - as useful today as it was in earlier centuries.
Branches of Ayurveda
Ayurveda has eight specialized branches, namely internal medicine including gynaecology, surgery, the treatment of diseases of the head and neck, toxicology, paediatrics, psychiatry and rejuvenation therapy. In India, Ayurvedic spas can be found all over the country. The most famous Ayurveda Shalas are found in Kerala. Kerala's equable climate, natural abundance of forests (with a wealth of herbs and medicinal plants), and the cool monsoon season (June - November) are best suited for Ayurveda's curative and restorative packages. Kerala is the only State in India, which practises this system of medicine with absolute dedication. Today, it's a unique, indispensable branch of medicine - a complete naturalistic system that depends on the diagnosis of your body's vata, pitta and kapha - to achieve the right balance. Ayurveda believes in the treatment of not just the affected part, but also the individual as a whole. Making it the natural way to refresh yourself, eliminate all toxic imbalances from the body and thus regain resistance and good health.
Monsoon - Time for rejuvenation
Traditional texts reveal that the monsoon is the best season for rejuvenation programmes. The atmosphere remains dust-free and cool, opening the pores of the body to the maximum, making it most receptive to herbal oils and therapy.
The Ancient method of Mediation
The main quality that Ayurveda has drawn from Charaka Samhita is the removing the cause of the illness & not just curing the disease itself. According to Charaka a noted practitioner of Ayurveda India "a physician who fails to enter the body of a patient with the lamp of knowledge & understanding can never cure the diseases. He should first study all the factors, including environment, which influence a patient's disease, and then prescribe medication. Prevention is more important than cure.
Ayurveda believes that human being consists of the five elements, air, water, fire, ether & earth. And the combination of any of these elements exists in each one of us. There are mainly three types of Dosha's or combinations
- Vata -- ether & air, governs the movement, nervous system, circulation, respiration & elimination.
- Pitta -- Fire & water combined governs the metabolism
- Kapha -- water & earth combined governs growth
The system of Ayurveda says that there are unique proportions of the dosha's in each body & the accumulation of any one dosha could cause physical ailments or disorders. Ayurveda suggests lifestyle & nutritional remedial measures and sometimes medicines or massages to reduce the excess of the dosha. This Art of healing has been held in high esteem in India. In mythology Dhanwantari is regarded as the god of medicine & the parishioners were known as Ashwini kumars.
Benefits of Ayurveda
When alternative lifestyles and stressful schedules are talking points in the cosmopolitan circuits, Ayurveda, the art of ancient Indian healing cannot be far behind. The inability of modern allopathy to allay all sicknesses and diseases has made an increasing number of people turn to Ayurveda, which has a cornucopia of ancient secret cures for stubborn diseases. Along with yoga, Ayurveda is the new balm for fevered souls. It uses natural herbs and their oils to treat ailments and ensure a healthy life. Most of the centres for Ayurveda, called Ayurveda Shalas, are in Kerala on the South Coast. This is beach country as well, so bring along your sunscreens and hats. In fact many westerners have made Ayurvedic spas their annual treat, combining a relaxing holiday with cleansing for their bodies.
Say "massage" in the context of an Asian country, and the first thoughts that come flooding in are those of the exotic massage parlours of Pattaya. But an Ayurvedic massage is the real thing. These are serious life-enriching massages, so be prepared to get some energetic flesh pounding from experts. While you soak in the herbs you can watch the beaches of Vizhinjam packed with boats out to sail in the sunset. From the beach you can see their lights strung out like pearls in a necklace from the coast. Look forward to being draped with pieces of linen, dipped in lukewarm herbal oils, all over the body by two to four trained therapists in a special rhythmic way. This goes on continuously for about 60 to 90 minutes per day for a period of 7 to 21 days, and is said to be an effective remedy for rheumatic diseases. It's supposed to be good for your nerves too and should pep up your overall energy levels as well.
Ayurveda believes that the imbalance of fire, air and phlegm causes disease in the human body and tries to correct it majorly through cleaning and massage. Once the balance of humours is restored, the body copes better with external factors like pollution, strain and infections.
Oils and herbs
The herbs used in Ayurveda are indigenous to Kerala's moist climate. The type of oil used for massage differs according to the ailment being treated. It is one of these: camphor, neem, mustard and castor. To these are added various powdered herbs, nuts and the bark of trees. The Ayurvedic practitioner may conduct the massage using the palm of the hand, poultices, and cloth.
Traditionally, Ayurvedic massage is used on trainee Kathakali dancers, and students of kalaraipayattu. The guru massages the student's head and shoulders with his hands, but uses his feet to stretch and flex the student's legs and back, since flexibility is essential to classical dance and martial art.