Natural Health Journals

Ayurveda

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by Linda Weber

WHAT IT IS Ayurveda is a system of natural healing that originated in India 5,000 years ago. Its basic principle is that each of us has a specific mind-body type, known as a dosha, which is influenced by everything we do and experience. Health is maintained by balancing our dosha with our environment and lifestyle, through meditation, diet, herbs, oil massages, and fasting.

HOW IT WORKS An individual’s dosha is made up–to varying degrees–of three doshas (types of energy): vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata energy is characterized as fast and light; pitta is quick and hot: and kapha is slow and heavy. Everything you do–how you eat, sleep, think, exercise, and relate to the world–will either intensify or tame these three energies. You may aggravate pitta, for instance, by eating too many hot spicy foods, or vata by failing to maintain any routine in your life. An excess of a dosha energy can make you vulnerable to illness. To balance, or pacify, a dosha excess, you need to tame the energy that is aggravated. To pacify pitta, for example, you might eat more cooling foods, such as green salads.

YOUR DOSHA Vata individuals are often slender, restless, fast-moving, and have dry skin and hair. When they are out of balance (too much vata energy), they are subject to digestive and nervous disorders. Pittas tend to be of medium-build, intelligent, and organized. Out of balance, they can suffer heartburn, skin rashes, painful cramps, fevers, and acid indigestion. Kaphas are usually big-boned, with oily skin and a liking for sweets. A kapha imbalance is marked by letharg34 sluggishness, or depression.

EVIDENCE Although Ayurveda is said to help prevent and cure many chronic diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, fibroids, and fibromyalgia, studies only document individual Ayurvedic practices. In one, published in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, Ayurvedic purification techniques, including an herbal enema and body massage, reduced free radicals in the blood, improved digestion, energy, and mental health, and reduced symptoms of illness.

CAVEATS Ayurvedic cleansing practices, such as fastings, should never be done without an Ayurvedic doctor’s supervision. They can cause electrolyte imbalances, severe dehydration, heart palpitations, or heart failure if not carefully monitored. Emergencies, such as heart attacks, strokes, or punctured veins, should be treated conventionally.

SEEKING A PRACTITIONER Call the Ayurvedic Institute at 505-291-9698 or the Chopra Center for Well Being at 619551-7119 for information.

RELATED ARTICLE: FATIGUE FREE

IN AUGUST 1995, Marie-Jeanne Dane, a high school teacher in Charlottesville, Va., went to an Ayurvedic physician for the pain she had suffered for 10 years and which doctors hadn’t been able to relieve.

“I felt fatigued all the time and had painful bumps in the muscles of my arms and legs. Everything hurt–and I was bloated and I burped a lot.”

Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., who practices at the Maharishi Vedic Medical Center in Rockville, Md., diagnosed Dane with fibromyalgia and determined that she had a vata imbalance. Lonsdorf prescribed a daily head-to-toe massage with herbs that pacify vata, daily meditation, yoga, and herbal preparations. She also recommended that Dane go on a vegetarian diet and avoid foods that aggravate vata.

“Two or three months later, I was a little less tired and burping less,” says Dane. She then underwent a series of “purifications” that included ingesting clarified butter, herbs, and castor oil: full-body massages; herbal steam baths; and enemas.

“The bumps in my muscles became smaller and I felt the best I had in 10 or 15 years,” the 51year-old Dane recalls. A year and a half after her first visit to Lonsdorf, all her symptoms disappeared. Today, she’s symptom-free.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group