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What the %*&^ is Ayurveda?

If you're into wellness, you may have heard the word Ayurveda by now. It was recently named by both Mindbodygreen and Vogue as top wellness trends to look out for. Yoga people have been told for years that they should learn about Ayurveda because it's yoga's sister science. And today, celebrities all over are dabbling in the myriad types of treatments and therapies offered by practitioners and product makers of this ancient healing art.

So, what is Ayurveda?

Nataraja (dancer form of Shiva)

Ayurveda is an elemental healing system that is based on ancient medicine from the Indian subcontinent. It uses diet, circadian alignment, yoga, herbal pharmacology, spices and various types of body and sensory therapies to heal disease processes. Like other ancient medicines, its elemental basis allows an individual to develop an intuitive understanding of the causes of one’s health issues and the methods by which disease may be reversed.

Ayurveda is both a lifestyle medicine and an avenue for individuals looking for deep cleansing and healing. It teaches that health is achieved when an individual has:

  • Balanced bodily humors (doshas)

  • Consistent metabolic strength (agni)

  • Properly formed tissues (dhatus)

  • Effective use of mind (manas) and senses (indriyas)

It connects the mind, body and spirit by decoding the qualities (gunas) that make up an individual person's constitutional makeup and evaluating how the doshas respond to gunas of one’s day-to-day life routines, diet, environmental factors affecting the senses as well as time.

A comprehensive group of Ayurvedic cleansing therapies called panchakarma (pancha = five and karma = actions) is practiced worldwide, though in some regions, practitioners are limited by local laws.

What is an Ayurvedic Practitioner?

Individuals who have studied Ayurveda for several years or more are trained to help people detox and rejuvenate the mind, body, energy and emotions through cleansing and rejuvenation techniques. Some individuals who offer Ayurvedic services simply took a weeklong wellness course, while others have studied for years in clinical practice and obtained post-graduate degrees. As an emerging field in the United States, there are presently many types of people practicing in different forms. Here, qualified Ayurvedic Practitioners are just starting to become board certified, but Ayurveda has yet to become a licensed profession in any state. Nevertheless, some states do have healthcare freedom laws that allow practitioners to educate and serve the public with the wisdom of Ayurveda.

Examples of services provided by Ayurvedic Practitioners include:

  • Diet and lifestyle education and counseling based on one's constitution and imbalances

  • Body and sensory therapies for stress and pain

  • Fasting and cleansing/detox programs, such as panchakarma

  • Oil therapies, such as shirodhara (head oiling), abhyanga (full-body oiling), karnapurana (ear oiling) and nasya (nasal oiling)

  • Herbal medicine

  • Digestion and metabolism resetting

  • Fertility and reproductive support

It is always the goal to educate individuals about how to self-heal and learn how to balance their own bodies, minds, emotions and energy. Because of this, Ayurveda tends to attract individuals who are curious and interested in unconventional medicine.

How is Ayurveda practiced in India and worldwide?

In India, Ayurveda has hundreds of thousands of medical practitioners today. There, it was historically a medical system for royalty and the wealthy that eventually even included surgical practices, and it became more of a rural medicine when the British implemented an allopathic medical system under their rule. After the British rule ended, Ayurveda started going through a renaissance. Today, Ayurveda is a huge source of medical tourism for India. People from all over the globe travel there to receive panchakarma services or other treatments in an Ayurvedic hospital or wellness center.

Worldwide, individuals looking to improve their mind-body health will often find Ayurveda to be the missing piece in their wellness puzzle. It resets a person's common sense about how the body and mind work. Ayurvedic medicine is often practiced alongside conventional medicine for individuals undergoing treatment for other health issues.

Look out for Ayurveda. You'll be seeing it more and more.

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