Traditional Eastern medicine has much to teach us. Considering the individual in his or her entirety, they invite us to achieve balance through the implementation of a healthy lifestyle adapted to our deepest needs.
Ayurveda, or Ayurvedic medicine, is a concentrate of wisdom for our holistic well-being. This traditional Indian medicine teaches us to know ourselves better, to respect our needs and to maintain our health capital in a simple, natural way.
What is Ayurvedic medicine?
Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient Indian tradition. Literally, Ayurveda means "science of life" in Sanskrit. It is based on the Veda, a collection of sacred texts that list in poetic form the knowledge necessary for a balanced life. Ayurveda is an ancient medicine dating back over 5,000 years, and has proved its worth over the centuries.
Today, it is recognized by the WHO as a truly traditional health system. Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic health method that takes into account all facets of the human being: body, mind and spirit.
Like traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Ayurveda's main aim is to maintain a state of well-being through a healthy lifestyle adapted to one's own needs.
What are the origins of Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a traditional, holistic and ancestral medicine whose origins date back to ancient times. In order to support the people of their village, wise philosophers set out to understand not only the workings of the human body, but also the inner workings of the mind and the colors of the spiritual life.
Through years of transcendental meditation, these Indian sages known as Rishis built up a complete system detailing the workings of the human being from every angle, in harmony with nature.
These great principles, which today form the basis of Ayurvedic medicine, were then immortalized in oral tradition, before being transcribed in poetic form in the Vedas, a body of sacred texts. The Vedas represent the world's oldest handwritten record of health and well-being. This period is known as the Vedic Age.
How does Ayurvedic medicine work?
Traditional Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic tradition. It takes into account the whole being: body, mind and spirit.
Ayurvedic medicine is therefore based on an understanding of the being in question, and offers an individualized program and personalized lifestyle advice. Ayurveda's practice is based on a number of fundamental principles, around which all traditional Ayurvedic advice is structured.
1. Knowledge of man and nature
Ayurveda draws its advice from major philosophical principles inspired by meditations on the human being in his natural environment. This first axis of Ayurvedic medicine is also present in many scientific and philosophical texts: the connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm.
One example is the similarities between the structure of the atoms that make us up and the arrangement of the planets around the stars. Analyzing the infinitely small helps us to understand the infinitely large, and vice versa.
2. The elements in all their splendour
We're all familiar with the five elements that make up matter: water, earth, fire, air and space (or ether). Inspired by their meditations, the wise Rishis discovered just how connected human beings and their natural environment are.
By learning to understand the workings of the five elements through observation of nature, we can divine what's going on inside ourselves, human beings being, of course, made of matter!
The whole philosophy of traditional Ayurvedic medicine is based on the balance between these elements, whether in our bodies or in our environment. Maintaining balance means preventing illness.
3. Ayurvedic profiles or doshas
Most traditional medicines attribute a specific constitution to each individual, determining the strengths and weaknesses of the organism. The dosha, also known as the biological mood, is a specific temperament. Each of us could be classified in one of the three major Ayurvedic families: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
The idea is quite simple: inside us, we have a particular combination of elements that interact with each other to give us our shape, our moods, our strengths, our weaknesses and even our personality!
All three doshas are present in the human body, with varying degrees of intensity. By learning which dosha is dominant in our body, we can adapt our lifestyle to match our real needs and maintain our well-being.
4. Birth constitution
While the presence of the different doshas may come and go, causing us to dance constantly between states of balance and imbalance, we each carry within us a basic combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Even when our lifestyles are altered, our basic constitution remains unchanged. This is our Prakriti, inherited from our parents in a skilful blend.
If our basic constitution, or Prakriti, is balanced, an unhealthy lifestyle can lead us to lose this sacred balance, leaving the way open for the appearance of various dysfunctions.
5. Essential balance for well-being
Essential balance is at the heart of Ayurvedic medicine. It is when we are able to regain this basic balance, the one we enjoyed before birth, that we are in full possession of our vital force.
Throughout our lives, the three doshas will dictate our physiological processes, constantly taking precedence over each other. Our aim is to work tirelessly to maintain a balance between the three doshas, in an attempt to return to our balanced Prakriti constitution.
6. Imbalance at the root of our ills
Balance would not exist without imbalance. In Ayurvedic medicine, we call this situation of one dosha's preponderance over the others Vikriti. This imbalance is intended to be temporary and circumstantial, especially if we wish to maintain radiant health!
Knowing your dosha and taking regular Ayurvedic cures will help you maintain a balance between the different elements that make up your body. As Ayurveda is a traditional holistic medicine, it considers all sources of imbalance, whether physical, mental or emotional.
What is an Ayurvedic cure?
It's a phase of holistic rebalancing of our being: body, mind and spirit, aimed at maintaining our well-being. An Ayurvedic cure is a fitness program implemented in accordance with the rules of traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
An Ayurvedic cure can be compared to a naturopathic revitalization or detoxification cure, insofar as it includes lifestyle advice aimed at restoring optimal well-being. The aim of an Ayurvedic cure is to restore balance to the three doshas: Pitta, Vata and Kapha.
An Ayurvedic cure typically lasts 15 days, but can last longer if the person feels the need. It generally revolves around a dietary adjustment, the intake of specific herbs and certain lifestyle adjustments.
What is my Ayurvedic profile?
The first thing to do when embarking on a course of traditional Ayurvedic medicine is to determine your Prakriti, your birth constitution.
Based on this information, we can then determine our Vikriti, a temporary imbalance between our doshas, and implement the most appropriate treatment to restore our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Ayurveda is a traditional holistic medicine that takes into account our entire being.
Discovering your dosha means getting to know yourself better, as well as discovering what's good for you, and what's not.
We're not all equal when it comes to diet, exercise, sleeping habits, etc., and a lifestyle habit can be beneficial to one person and harmful to another, depending on the nature of one's dominant dosha.
1. Vata, the Air and Ether (or Space) dosha
The Vata individual is creative. They dream of freedom and would do anything to be able to fly! But Vata tends to disperse, struggling to organize itself and keep its feet on the ground. If the Vata dosha is dominant in you, you may be prone to respiratory or cardiac difficulties.
2. Pitta, Fire dosha
Pitta is highly ambitious. Highly intelligent, Pitta individuals follow through on their projects and thirst for knowledge. They can concentrate for long periods and are not afraid of difficulties.
They're self-confident and know where they're going, even if they can be criticized for having a bad temper or difficulty controlling their emotions. Physically, Pitta may suffer from slow digestion, difficulty assimilating nutrients or skin problems.
3. Kapha, Earth dosha
The Kapha individual is patient, stable, accomplished and tender. They are compassionate and calm in stressful situations. Kapha is easy to live with! They are often appreciated by those around them, and their presence brings a certain calm. Physically, the Kapha individual has good stamina.
They have stamina, digest food easily and have good muscular resistance. However, Kapha people don't always get enough restful sleep, and may have internal thermostat problems, with hot flushes or, on the contrary, suffer from chilliness!
There are many online tests to help you determine your dosha. However, nothing can replace a personalized consultation with a practitioner trained in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
How do I choose an ayurvedic practitioner?
First of all, it should be noted that there are several types of practitioner in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
We can consider them to be part of the same group, but practicing with different levels of knowledge and experience, and thus offering more or less in-depth care and advice.
Broadly speaking, there are three categories of Ayurvedic professionals: advisors, care providers and specialists.
1. Ayurveda consultants
A consultant in traditional Ayurvedic medicine can help you determine your Prakriti (basic constitution) and Vikriti (current state of your doshas and potential imbalances).
He or she will also have sufficient knowledge to advise you on Ayurvedic nutrition and recommend holistic lifestyle adjustments based on your dominant dosha.
2. The care provider
This may be a body therapist or an energy specialist. The ayurvedic care provider must have a thorough knowledge of the different doshas and their physical and energetic needs. He'll be able to choose from his toolbox of techniques to support you in your return to balance.
Massages, energy treatments, ear and nose oil treatments are just some of the methods generally used by Ayurvedic practitioners.
3. The specialist
The specialist in traditional Ayurvedic medicine has undergone advanced training to provide you with comprehensive support. He or she will be able to give you precise guidance and help you set up Ayurvedic cures adapted to your dominant dosha.
Ayurvedic specialists are often also naturopaths, nutritionists or yoga teachers, constantly adding new knowledge and know-how to their toolbox in order to handle their art to perfection.
In which countries is traditional Ayurvedic medicine official?
Ayurvedic medicine is, of course, widely practiced in India, its country of origin. But that's not all! Ayurveda is recognized and practiced throughout the world, and appreciated for its effectiveness and its respectful approach to the whole person.
In Nepal, for example, Ayurvedic medicine remains the predominant health system, with 75% of the population practicing it. In Sri Lanka, Ayurvedic medicine is also predominant, and numerous Ayurvedic hospitals are regularly funded by the state.
In the United States, substantial funding is earmarked for research into Ayurvedic medicine, even though the practice is not officially recognized. Finally, Russia offers Ayurveda an important place as a traditional medicine in its healthcare system, thanks to its political agreements with India.
What are the main herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine?
Ayurveda is based on three pillars to maintain our balance: diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine. The Ayurvedic tradition has been working holistically with nature and the plant kingdom for thousands of years, and today over 6,000 plants are still on the register of Ayurvedic practitioners.
You may know ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) as Indian ginseng. Ashwagandha belongs to the family of so-called adaptogenic plants, very popular in Ayurveda. Ashwagandha improves the body's resistance to stress, enabling it to manage it more effectively.
It also helps the body maintain mental equilibrium, while promoting sleep. It also improves the body's resistance to stress and helps maintain mental equilibrium, promoting learning, memory and recall.
Helps recovery from stressful events. Helps maintain emotional stability. Practitioners of traditional Ayurvedic medicine consider it to have a "warming" effect on the body, and therefore recommend it to Vata people.
Boswellia serratais a fragrant resin, often used to purify the interior of Indian homes or during religious rituals. Boswellia is a plant recommended equally for the three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. In the West, boswellia has been the subject of numerous studies, notably for its beneficial effect on lung health, which it supports.
Boswellia is also of great interest in supporting gastrointestinal health. It can help maintain the lining of the digestive system. Finally, this Ayurvedic plant supports joint flexibility. It helps keep joints relaxed and comfortable by supporting joint flexibility.
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is better known to us as sea buckthorn. It is an essential component of Ayurvedic medicine and has been used for preventive purposes for thousands of years in India.
All parts of the plant can be used (leaves, fruit, bark, etc.). Neem is used for its broad-spectrum action in Ayurveda to support physical well-being, and for its use in cosmetics. Neem supports skin health. Neem is recommended for the Vata and Pitta doshas.
Tulsi (Ocinum sanctum) is also known as "holy basil". Grown near Indian homes and prayer sites, tulsi is the holistic plant par excellence. It is renowned in the world of Ayurveda for its physical and mental benefits.
Yogi monks use it to strengthen their spirituality and access a higher level of consciousness. Tulsi is often recommended for Pitta and Vata types who may be bothered by excessive nervousness. Tulsi helps maintain vitality and resistance to stress.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) is the woman's plant in Ayurveda. It accompanies her throughout her development, from the onset of menstruation through pregnancy and breastfeeding to menopause!
In fact, shatavari helps regulate menstrual cycles and supports the health of a woman's reproductive system, helping to maintain physiological balance during and after the menopause.
From an energetic point of view, shatavari is more of a softening plant, enabling the person to anchor themselves holistically. It is recommended for Pitta and Vata temperaments, which it balances.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is very much in vogue these days, as are other "green powders" designed to replenish our mineral reserves. Moringa is a super concentrate of well-being, and lives up to its Sanskrit name of "tree of life".
Moringa is a nutritionally rich plant that is used worldwide in humanitarian actions in the same way as spirulina or kelp. Moringa is also highly prized by people with high mental energy levels, such as students. It helps balance blood glucose at a normal level.
You may have heard of amla (Emblica officinalis) for the action of its oil on hair! Amla is often found in hair preparations designed to restore strength and shine. But that's not all!
In Ayurveda, amla is the plant of choice for people wishing to look after their digestion. It helps to promote regularity and function of the intestines. It promotes better transit and intestinal performance.
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is a beneficial plant for both body and mind. It may have a positive effect on the cerebral system, improving both short- and long-term memory. Brahmi may also help improve concentration.
In India, brahmi is used in oil form by monks to stimulate the seventh chakra and strengthen spiritual willpower. Brahmi is particularly recommended for Vata temperaments.