Beginner’s guide to the ancient health practice of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a system of Indian traditional medicine that aims to improve your health and wellbeing through a range of treatments such as diet and yoga.

Originating in India more than 3000 years ago, Ayurveda is still relevant today and is used to treat everything from digestive issues to eczema and asthma.

The traditional system of medicine takes a holistic approach to treatment that considers what’s going on within the body as well as a person’s external environment.

Ayurveda is based on the idea that disease is due to an imbalance or stress in a person’s consciousness.

The practice encourages lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain balance between mind, body, spirit and the environment.

Listen as The House of Wellness Radio team discusses the ancient practice of Ayurvedic medicine:

What are the Ayurvedic basics?

According to Ayurveda philosophy, the universe is comprised of five elements: aakash (space or ether), vayu (air), teja (fire), jala (water) and prithvi (earth).

A combination of these elements is said to form three energetic forces called doshas: vata dosha, pitta dosha and kapha dosha.

And they are believed to influence a person’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Each person is said to have a unique natural constitution (prakriti) comprising various ratios of the doshas, and this is used as a baseline from which to treat or manage health conditions caused by an imbalance of the doshas.

“(The doshas) are vitally important as by understanding them and how to create balance within them, we have the power to maintain balance and promote good health throughout our lives,” Dharmic Living founder and Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health author Mark Bunn says.

Madeleine Holmes, an Ayurvedic practitioner at Modern Ayurvedic, says the aim of Ayurveda is to treat the whole person, “not just a particular area or a particular system in the body”, to achieve balance.

“We understand that there’s a harmony within nature,” Madeleine says.

“We understand that being part of nature there has to be a harmony within us as well.”

Here are some Ayurvedic treatments

In Ayurveda, various treatments and lifestyle interventions tailored to the individual are used and may include:

  • Changes to diet
  • Adopting exercises that suit your doshas, such as yoga
  • Physical treatments such as abhyanga (warm herbal oil) massage
  • Taking prescribed herbs
  • Changes to daily routine, such as when you eat or wake up and go to sleep, to take advantage of the natural rhythms present throughout the day (dinacharya)
  • Meditation
  • Pranayama (breathwork)

For deeper cleansing and rejuvenation of mind and body, Ayurveda’s panchakarma is a procedure that uses five different forms of therapies.

Personalised treatment programs may include induced elimination (purgation) or vomiting (emesis), nasal therapy, and enemas to help rid the body of toxins.

While undergoing panchakarma, daily massage and/or shirodhara may also be required, and a proper diet prescribed.

What disorders can Ayurveda help with?

“Ayurveda has the potential to benefit all health conditions – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual – as it understands the root cause of all disease,” Mark says.

“Having said this, however, it is primarily focused on prevention rather than having to remedy chronic problems.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Ultimately if you are interested in using Ayurveda to treat a health concern, do your research into the practice first, whether through books, websites or listening to podcasts, to determine whether it’s right for you.

If you’re ever unsure or concerned about making any drastic changes as a result of Ayurveda, be sure to speak to a healthcare professional first.

It’s a good idea to seek the help of an Ayurveda practitioner for guidance on the right treatments, appropriate diet and lifestyle adjustments for you.

“I think it is always best to find the right practitioner so that you can avoid any risks associated with self-diagnosis and self-prescribing,” Madeleine says.

The Victorian government’s Better Health Channel website lists safety issues to consider when using Ayurvedic treatments.

For more on ancient practices and foods:

Written by Tania Gomez.