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Ayurveda

Definition Elements Basic Principles Diagnosis and Therapy Heart Health

DEFINITION Ayurveda is defined as a science of life, "ayu" meaning life and "veda" meaning science. "Ayu" (life) is a combination of four things in the ayurvedic tradition: mind, body, spirit/soul, and senses. Ayurveda thus deals with not only medical science or science of the body, but also with the spiritual, intellectual, ethical, and social life of individuals - a truly comprehensive approach to healthy living and the preservation of good health. It is the balance of these "elements" which determines a person's physical and emotional well-being. Ayurveda

had its origins as an alternative healing system some 4,000 years ago along the Indus River valley in what is now Pakistan (1). Many believe that this knowledge was taught by the gods, and emerged into a human consciousness. It is said to be the oldest system of natural healing on earth, and its teachings are the origins for many of the traditions taught today in modern medicine. Today, there are several Ayurvedic colleges in India, and other schools and clinics are rapidly evolving in parts of Europe and the U.S. as public awareness increases and more people are seeking to develop and maintain total wellness. Much of the expansion of Ayurveda in the U.S. has centered around the followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yoga who has founded an approach called Maharishi Ayur-Ved, which incorporates Transcendental Meditation as part of its array of practices (2). There are

many other independent practitioners around the U.S. as well. Dr. Deepak Chopra was formerly chief of staff of endocrinology at New England Memorial Hospital in Stoneham, Massachusetts, and has become a leading figure in the promotion of Ayurvedic medicine. ELEMENTS In Ayurveda, there are nine elements (dravya): fire, air, water, earth, space, spirit, mind, time, and direction. These elements are further divided into groups. The panch mahabhoota is composed of fire, air, water, earth and space. This group is then further divided into three doshas (subsets): vata (air and space), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth and water) (3). The three doshas are the primary governing influences that determine the states of the mind-body constitution.

The objective of Ayurveda is to create and maintain equilibrium of the body elements.

The Three Doshas


I. Vata Dosha: Description: Action: Location in the body: If in balance: If out of balance: a combination of space and air; it is present and influential where there are spaces in which things can move. drying, cooling, agitating, and moving mainly colon, but some in hips, thighs, ears, and bones. mental alertness, abundance of creative energy, sound sleep, strong immune system and orderly functioning of body system. anxiety, insomnia, chronic tiredness, depression and weakened immune system.

II. Pitta Dosha: Description: Action: Location in the body: If in balance: If out of balance: a combination of fire and water, it is present in the body as moistures, oils, and fluids of the digestive system and blood. to heat, digest, and influence chemical and metabolic transformation. mainly small intestine, but some in eyes, stomach, blood, lymph nodes, and perspiration. vitality, goal setting inclination, good problem solving skills, decisiveness, boldness and courage, and a bright complexion. excessive body heat, digestive problems, hostile or angry tendencies, and mental confusion.

III. Kapha Dosha: Description: Action: Location in the body: If in balance: If out of balance: a combination of earth and water, it is present in the body as moisture and dense substance. it holds things together, provides nourishment, and support, and makes up the mass of a body's tissues and its lubricating aspects. mainly stomach, but also in lymph nodes and fat cells. strong immune system, serenity, rational thinking, endurance, and adaptability. nausea, lethargy, chills, coughing, mucus discharges, and breathing difficulties (4).

BASIC PRINCIPLES Ayurvedic traditions believe that right living contributes to a healthy and long life. It says that the soul has four urges to be fulfilled: 1. to live in harmony with nature 2. to have life-enhancing desires easily fulfilled to effectively accomplish life's purposes 3. to be fully functional and receptive to life and have needs spontaneously met without strain 4. to experience authentic spiritual growth that results in the illumination of mind and consciousness. For each of these there are specific regimens and practices that will lead to attainment. The key is to not limit oneself by thinking that it is difficult to live effectively. Allow time to learn and experience the results of applying what is learned. While learning and applying various practical procedures for mind-body balance, believers say that it is important to remember that spiritual awareness is the

primary determining factor in the process. When spiritually awake people are inclined to live constructively, that is, they do what is most benefi-cial. Deficiency in spiritual awareness can result in mental confusion, irrational thinking, moodiness, and emotionalism. These factors can contribute to discomfort, weaken the body's immune system, and unsettle the actions of the three doshas. An individual should perceive his or her body for what it is: a vehicle through which to express and experience life. Balance is not achieved by focusing on only one area. Other areas to be mindful of are uses of available energy, food choices, and sleep. DIAGNOSIS AND THERAPY When there is continual spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical imbalance, healing is needed. An Ayurvedic evaluation may begin by having the patient complete a questionnaire. By evaluating the patient's responses, the Ayurvedic practitioner can determine that person's dominant dosha, or constitution

(Vata, Pitta, or Kapha).(1) The practitioner then proceeds by taking a detailed history, but the focus is not on disease, rather on achieving "rebalance". He or she relies on observation, not laboratory tests. The Ayurvedic practitioner performs a traditional medical examination as well, including the assessment of pulse, body temperature skin, eyes, tongue and

The most effective approach to total wellness is a life management program that provides thoughtful attention to spiritual, psychological, and physical wellness

An Ayurvedic treatment plan generally includes a wide array of holistic therapies: * Diet * Exercise including yoga * Stress-management techniques including meditation and massage * Herbal therapy

other physiological systems. Psychological and behavioral characteristics are also evaluated. This is done to determine the therapeutic regimen needed to restore balanced wholeness. Once an evaluation is complete and a diagnosis has been determined, a treatment plan is prescribed. Ayurvedic practitioners embrace a wide variety of alternative therapies. These may include diet

therapy, exercise including yoga, stress-management techniques including meditation and massage, and herbal therapy. Ayurvedic herbal preparations typically include whole plant products and a single preparation may contain ten to twenty different herbs. The intent of these ayurvedic preparations is to restore balance of the doshas, therefore herbs are classified based upon their effect on the doshas, or on their therapeutic effects (3). The aim of this set of therapies is not merely to suppress symptoms, but to remove underlying causes so that healing is complete and permanent. An Ayurvedic assessment and personspecific plan begins with the initial consultation described above followed by a few shorter follow-up visits. In total, these visits may cost a few hundred dollars, however the prescribed herbal Study participants treated for six months with Maharishi Amrit Kalash 4 and 5 (MAK-4 and MAK-5) demonstrated a significant reduction in chest pain events

remedies may cost an additional $50 to $100 per month. These evaluations and treatment are not typically covered by health insurance.

In those treated, there was an 8, 16, and 22% drop in total cholesterol at the end of the fourth, eighth, and sixteenth weeks, respectively. Over the same time HEART HEALTH intervals, triglycerides Little research is available in dropped by 7, 17, and the U.S. with regard to the 27% respectively and healing power of Ayurvedic HDL, the "good" cholesmedicine for heart disease terol, rose by 36% at the and conditions. One study end of sixteen weeks. In performed in India examined this same study, LDL, the the healing power of two "bad" cholesterol, fell sigAyurvedic tonics in the reduc- nificantly. As with most, tion of chest pain (angina) these studies were not attributed to the heart (5). performed within the U.S. These tonics, Maharishi Amrit and many have been critiKalash 4 and 5 (MAK-4, cized for flaws within their MAK-5), both contain a large methods. Those conductnumber of ingredients. In this ed in the U.S. have been study, those actively treated criticized as well. Many for six months showed a siginvolved are said to have a nificant reduction in chest vested interest in the prodpain events from 8.87 to 3.3 ucts studied and therefore episodes per month. In addithe information provided is tion, 5 of 11 participants had not felt to be without bias. a drop in blood pressure. For now, more studies are Other components of needed to better clarify the Ayurvedic Medicine have role of Ayurvedic medicine demonstrated benefit in in the prevention and treatreducing the risk factors asso- ment of heart disease and ciated with the development its related conditions. of coronary heart disease. For instance, yoga has been shown to lower blood presCertainly it is an intriguing sure. Herbal preparations practice, which embraces supported by Ayurvedic prac- the mind, body, and spirit titioners may lower cholessupported by a holistic phiterol. For instance, guggal is losophy, and may play an the crude gum of Boswellia increasing role in attaining serrata. Its effects on serum cardiovascular health. lipids were studied in 40 people with high blood lipids (6).

REFERENCES 1. Castleman, M. Blended Medicine: The Best Choices in Healing. Rodale. St. Martin's Press. 2000(1st ed) 2. Pelletier KR. The best alternative medicine. Simon & Schuster. New York, NY. 2000 3. Davis, Roy E. An Easy Guide to Ayurveda: the natural way to wholeness. B. Jain Publishers, New Delhi: 1996. 4. Vaidya, Kanojia. Learn Ayurveda Through Basic Principles. Suraj Ayurvedic Centre, New Delhi: 1999. 5. Dogra J. Indigenous free radical scavenger MAK 4 and 5 in angina pectoris. Is it only a placebo? Journal of the Association of Physicians of India 1994;42(6):466-7 6. Verma SK, et al. Effect of Commiphora mukul (gum guggulu) in patients of hyperlipidemia with special reference to HDL-cholesterol. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 1988;87:356-360