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Ayurveda - What is it and where does it come from?
The roots of Ayurveda - the science of life - lie in India and Sri Lanka and go back well over five thousand years. More than three thousand five hundred years old are the Vedic scriptures in which the health rules of Ayurveda were first laid down in writing. The medical knowledge of Ayurvedic teaching is summarised in these "holy books". Eight independent medical fields are described there:
- internal medicine
- Gynaecology and paediatrics
- ENT and ophthalmology
- Mental diseases
- Health promotion and revitalisation
- Sexual Medicine
In India all diseases are still treated with Ayurveda. Traditionally, the prevention of possible diseases is an essential part of Ayurveda medicine. Often the treatment takes place in parallel or in combination with conventional medicine. On the other hand, the health and spiritual teachings of Ayurveda are increasingly integrated into alternative healing methods in Europe, adapted to the needs of Western patients.
Ayurvedic therapists never treat just one symptom, but always the whole person. They see the patient in his individuality on all levels of body, mind and soul. Not only the current state of health and the personal constitution play a role, but the Ayurvedic therapist will always include the geographical and cultural conditions in his diagnosis and therapy. In this way the Ayurvedic teachings can be adapted to the respective regional conditions and individual treatment concepts can be developed. From an Ayurvedic point of view, a person is healthy when he or she feels alive, awake and balanced. From a physiological point of view, all life forces on a physical and mental level work together optimally. Digestion and metabolism function smoothly and any suitable food can be digested and utilised.
What is the significance of the doshas in Ayurvedic medicine?
At the centre of Ayurvedic medicine is the teaching of the three Doshas:
- Pitta and
which determine the characteristics and thus the constitution type of a person. Their qualities are determined by the mixing ratio of
- air and
determined. These basic elements control all processes and behaviour both in nature and in the human organism. The relationship of the proportions of Vata, Pitta and Kapha to each other makes up the human being or constitutional type (Prakriti). The constitution explains the strength of a person and his weaknesses, his readiness for illness and the interaction between psyche and body. "Dosha" literally means "error" translated from Sanskrit. If the doshas become unbalanced (i.e. there is a deficiency or surplus of several doshas), toxins and waste products can accumulate in the tissues, the so-called ama.
Vata - the movement principle
Vata is composed of the elements space and air. Its properties are light, dry, subtle and fast. It controls all arbitrary and involuntary movements and is responsible for our nervous system. On a mental level it provides creativity and perception. In the life cycle Vata stands for age. In nature Vata is experienced as cold, dry winter weather.
People in whom Vata dosha dominates are enthusiastic, creative and curious. Vatas are often very sensitive and tend to brood. This often results in sleep disorders and they tend to have irregular digestion. Vata types are often visually rather delicate and delicate, especially with regard to facial features, hands and feet.
Pitta - the thermal principle
Pitta is composed of the elements fire and water. Its properties are warm, fluid, mobile, pungent and acidic. Pitta is responsible for digestion and metabolism. On a spiritual level it represents the intellect. In the life cycle Pitta represents the middle of life. In warm weather and during the summer months Pitta prevails.
Pitta people are often charismatic, very active and motivated. They know how to inspire and convince other people. Therefore, the Pitta principle often predominates among leaders. Pittas are well organised, very structured and efficient.
Physically, Pitta types are often of medium stature, athletically built and sporty.
Kapha - the stability principle
Kapha is composed of the elements water and earth. Its properties are heavy, cold, oily and slow. Kapha is responsible for cohesion and structure in the body and gives stability on a physical and mental level. In the life cycle, Kapha sees for childhood. Cold, wet weather, for example in spring, represents Kapha in nature.
Kapha types are often very relaxed, consistent and usually act with great consideration. They are grounded, do not like changes and do not react impulsively or rush things.
Externally, Kapha people tend to be overweight and are reluctant to move. Ravenous appetite and a great appetite also contribute to their strong stature.
For many people, one or two doshas are in the foreground. Basically, however, all three types of dosha are defined in their individual relationship to each other in every person from birth. If the balance of the Doshas is out of balance over a longer period of time, diseases can develop. Negative factors that have a negative effect on the harmony of the Doshas are for example:
- an unbalanced diet
- a generally unhealthy lifestyle
- too little exercise
- environmental toxins or also
- genetic predisposition.
What role does nutrition play in Ayurveda?
Ayurvedic nutrition also depends on the three Doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. However, there are also general rules that apply to all doshas.
You should only eat again when the previous meal has been completely digested. A growing feeling of hunger is the best indicator of this. In order not to put more strain on the digestion than necessary, you should never eat a completely full meal, but finish it when your stomach is three-quarters full.
The digestive tract works best at midday. In the morning and evening it is still or already weak again. Therefore the main meal should be taken at noon. In the mornings and evenings the food should be easily digestible.
Eating quickly, eating standing up or eating under stress has a negative influence on digestion and should therefore be avoided.
Hot food and drinks are easier to digest than cold ones. Lukewarm water or herbal teas are suitable thirst quenchers. This is particularly useful in the morning, as digestion is still weak then.
Spices play a decisive role in Ayurveda. There are six different flavours: sweet, sour, bitter, sweet, hot and tart. A balanced meal should contain as many of these as possible.
What are the dietary rules for the three doshas?
Each of the three doshas in Ayurveda has specific nutritional needs.
People with a dominant vata dosha often tend to be constipated or bloated. For them, cooked meals and warm drinks are recommended. Creamy and warm drinks are good for vatas. Sweet, sour and salty are the best flavours.
The Pitta Dosha tends to be ravenous and should be careful not to eat too much at once and avoid spicy, fried or fried foods. Bitter substances, as in some green leafy vegetables, have a balancing effect. Bitter, sweet and tart are the best flavours for Pitta types.
Digestion in people with a dominant Kapha dosha is rather sluggish. Kapha types should therefore avoid fatty and heavy foods and too much raw food. Ayurvedic teachings recommend plenty of vegetables, warm food and drinks. Kapha also tolerates hot spices such as pepper, chilli and ginger well. The best flavours are bitter and hot.
Do Ayurveda and Yoga complement each other?
Both Yoga and Ayurveda have their common origin in the millennia-old Vedic scriptures. Already there they are related to each other again and again. Ayurveda, with its holistic medical concept, is also always about movement, meditation and breathing exercises and refers to the different practices of Yoga. Yoga includes not only the asanas but also numerous recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, such as cleansing rituals and a healthy diet. These in turn have their origin in Ayurveda. In essence, yoga and Ayurveda have one thing in common: health, mindfulness, contentment and balance. Both yoga and Ayurveda always see the connection to the higher self and the connection of body, mind and soul in addition to the focus on a healthy lifestyle.
Which Yoga style for which dosha?
Just as with nutrition, there are also exercises in yoga that are particularly suitable for the individual doshas or should be avoided.
The Vata type is ambitious, loves variety, movement and speed, and quickly runs the risk of putting himself under a lot of pressure, even in yoga, due to his high demands on himself. Therefore strenuous asanas without short relaxation phases are not suitable. They support the conscious experience of tension and relaxation. The effort should therefore be moderate, the dynamic phases not too fast and the static phases not too long. The exercises should strengthen and stabilise without achieving maximum stretching. The alternating breathing and the sound with the sound "mmmmm...." have a calming and balancing effect.
The Pitta type also tends to be very demanding and power-packed during yoga. Here too, the exercises should lead to greater inner calmness and balance. In this case, a good mixture of strength and flexibility should be observed during the asanas. Relaxation phases are very important. Alternate breathing is also useful for people with predominantly Pitta Dosha.
Of all doshas, the Kapha type has the most tendency to rest and little movement. Kaphas should above all practice asanas, which promote alertness, stamina and mobility. The exercises should heat and stretch the body and stimulate sweat production. This includes, for example, the sun salutation, the hero or the boat as well as all backbends. The relaxation phases should not be too long.
How does a treatment with an Ayurveda therapist work?
A thorough diagnosis by an Ayurveda therapist always includes, among other things, the examination of
- Bowle movement
- Body Language
- Discussions about the domestic situation
- the environment and
- the diet.
A variety of methods are used in an Ayurveda treatment to restore harmony of body, mind and soul. These include, for example
- cleansing treatments
- Treatments according to the type of constitution
- special diets
- full body massages or
- colour, aroma and music therapy and
- herbal and mineral medicines.
Ayurvedic medicines usually have many different ingredients. Their basis is often plants, but also animals and a variety of minerals. In classical recipes you often find more than a hundred individual substances.
Can I integrate Ayurveda into my everyday life?
Many Ayurvedic rituals can be integrated into daily life. For example, the morning routine (Dinacharya):
- Immediately after getting up, the tongue is cleaned with a tongue scraper. This frees the mouth from deposits and toxins
- A glass of warm water with ginger or lemon before breakfast stimulates digestion.
- When drawing oil, one to two tablespoons of oil are moved back and forth in the mouth for about 10 minutes. Then it is spat out and the mouth is rinsed with warm water. The saliva-oil mixture should never be swallowed. The oil binds the fat-soluble substances in the oral mucosa and reduces bacteria. Bad breath is thus reduced, the sense of taste is sharpened and teeth and gums are strengthened.
- Daily abdominal massage with warm oil stimulates digestion, strengthens the immune system and alleviates tiredness. During the stomach massage, the oil is massaged slowly in all directions. Let the rest of the oil soak in and only then take a shower.
Ayurveda in Europe
In Europe the term Ayurveda is often associated with the idea of wellness and oil massages. However, oil massages are only a small part of the wide range of Ayurvedic treatment methods. They are integrated into the comprehensive cleansing and detoxification concept, the Panchakarma (translated: "the five actions"). A Panchakarma cure thus consists of five different measures. Each of these five components serves to eliminate toxins. The aim is always to purify body and mind in a lasting and intensive way. The removal of toxins and waste products takes place via the intestines, the mouth and the skin. The type of cleansing process depends on the constitution of the patient (Pitta, Vata or Kapha) and the type of illness. A Panchakarma cure always includes an individual nutritional concept that takes the constitution of the guest into account.
If you decide to take a traditional Panchakarma cure, you should plan at least 2-3 weeks for this. Every cure begins for the guest with a visit to the Ayurveda doctor. Here the doshas are determined and the individual treatment plan is determined.
Vaidya Upula Samarakoon (born 1964) comes from Sri Lanka and is a traditionally trained Ayurveda specialist. In parallel to her five-year study of Ayurvedic medicine, she completed a two-year training in acupuncture.