What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a holistic practice of medicine whose goal is to balance the body, mind and spirit. Ayurvedic medicine uses a variety of techniques and herbal remedies to aid in the reconstruction of the body’s balance. Food and lifestyle routines are considered highly important within the practice of Ayurvedic medicine. Within Ayurvedic beliefs, every person has a unique pattern of energy. This pattern is a combination of physical, mental, and emotional energy comprised of the three basic types of energy that Ayurveda calls doshas:

Vata: Vata is the energy that controls bodily functions that are associated with motion, such as blood circulation, breathing and heartbeat. When the Vata dosha is in balance, there is creativity and vitality. When it is out of balance, it can produce fear and anger.

Pitta: Pitta is the energy that controls the metabolic systems including digestion, nutrition and body temperature. When the Pitta dosha is in balance, it leads to contentment and intelligence. When it is out of balance, it can cause ulcers and anger.

Kapha: Kapha is the energy that controls the growth in the body and supplies all the water, moisturizes the skin and maintains the immune system. When Kapha is in balance, it is expressed as love and forgiveness. When the Kapha dosha is out of balance, it can lead to insecurity and envy.

Origins in History
Like acupuncture, Ayurveda is one of the oldest practiced forms of medicine. Originating in India, Ayurveda has been practiced for over 5,000 years. The word ‘Ayurveda’ comes from the Sanskrit words for life and knowledge..

Varieties & Types

There are many types of Ayurvedic treatments that a practitioner may use when treating a patient. Some of the most common are:

Sometimes called Yoga breathing, Pranayama is the practice of breathing to induce calmness.

Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic oil massage which is beneficial in increasing circulation, as well as calming nerves and drawing toxins out of the body.

Rasayana is the practice of repeating words or phrases during meditation combined with herbs for rejuvenation.

Yoga combines aspects of Ayurvedic medicine such as pranayama and meditation. Yoga is used to help improve circulation and digestion, reduce blood pressure, anxiety and chronic pain.

Pancha karma
Pancha karma uses methods that cause sweating, bowel movements, and sometimes vomit to cleanse the body of toxins. It is used to purify the body and reduce cholesterol.

Herbal medicines
Many Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe herbs, often prepared in the form of tea, to restore the dosha balance.

What Is Care Like?

Health Benefits
Ayurvedic medicine can be used to treat a variety of diseases or chronic conditions. However, Ayurveda puts emphasis on prevention and giving guidance to maintain physical and emotional health. Food and lifestyle routines are also important in the overall treatment of the patient.

Actions & Experiences During a Session

During your first session with an Ayurvedic practitioner, you will go over your full medical history, and the practitioner will perform a physical exam and ask you questions regarding your health, lifestyle and diet. The practitioner will then make recommendations of ways to restore your dosha balance based upon his or her observations. Many of these changes will include lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Practitioners may ask you to try different types of treatments (see Varieties/Types).

Duration of Care
The duration of care is ultimately up to you and your practitioner. Based upon the course of treatments he or she recommends, and the health problems you may be having, treatment could last several weeks or several months, or become a long-term care relationship.

Resources & References


Mind Body Green: Ayurveda & Dosha Types for Beginners

Maharishi Ayurveda

University of Maryland Medical Center: Ayurveda

What next?

Search Find Wellness to find a qualified Ayurveda practitioner who meets your needs. There is currently no national standard for certifying Ayurvedic practitioners in the United States. The National Ayurvedic Medical Association represents professionals in the United States.