What is Ayurveda Medicine?
“Because we cannot scrub our inner body, we need to learn a few skills to help cleanse our tissues, organs, and mind. This is the art of Ayurveda.” ~Sebastian Pole~
Ayurveda is a system of healing using natural remedies to improve the quality of life. Ayurveda involves the synchronized healing of the body, mind and spirit. Aside from healing the sick or injured body, the Ayurveda philosophy follows protocols of prevention, preservation and rejuvenation.
Ayurveda is considered the oldest medical science and literally means the “science of life”. This ancient, 2000-year-old “Mother of Medicine” utilizes customized, holistic treatments that balance body energy through plant-based medicines, therapeutic, synchronized massage, yoga and meditation. Ayurveda treats the causes of ailments at the deepest cellular levels. It then activates the body’s healing response to balance and self-heal.
Ayurvedic medicine has 8 clinical specialties referred to as Astanga Ayurveda:
1. Kaya chikista (Internal Medicine)
2. Bala / Koumarabhritya chikista (Paediatrics, gynecology and obstetrics)
3. Graha chikista (Psychiatry)
4. Urdhwanga chikista (ENT & Ophthalmology)
5. Shalya chikista (Surgery)
6. Damstra / Agada chikista (Toxicology & Forensic medicine)
7. Jara / Rasayana chikista (Geriatrics & Rejuvenation)
8. Vrisha/ Vajeekarana chikista (Aphrodisiac & Reproductive medicine)
Ayurveda Tri-Dosha Theory
Space, air, fire, water and earth combine to form the human body. They make up 3 vital energies known as “Doshas”. Doshas are responsible for all the psycho-physiological functions of the body and mind. When in good health, these doshas remain in harmony. Illness occurs when the harmony between the Doshas is obstructed.
Vata is the most powerful among the doshas. Formed by the interaction of space and air, Vata is movement, the body in motion.
Pitta is formed by the interaction of fire and water. The polarity of these two elements plays an important role for Pitta, which regulates the body’s metabolism and transformations in the body’s form.
Kapha is formed by the structural properties of earth, with water in its role as a lubricant to different tissues of the body, which also aids strength and adds stamina to the body.
My Family’s Personal Experience With Ayurveda
To date, I have undergone three 2-week Ayurvedic treatments in Kerala, India, the hub of authentic Ayurvedic medicine. I was introduced to Ayurveda by my parents who were devoted and faithful followers of the medicine. And with good reason. My mother was a teacher and head mistress in three continents – Asia, Africa and North America. Towards the end of her teaching career in Alberta, Canada, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and the prescribed treatment at the time involved gold injections. She could barely raise her arm to write on the blackboard and was unable to even hold her baby grandchildren. She would fall asleep at night crying and writhing in pain, with her wrists supported by straps and wraps, held close to her chest. My mother chose to forego western medicine in treating her RA and turned to alternative Ayurveda medicine. Through her initial treatments she found immense relief from joint pain and swelling. Over time, all symptoms related to her RA began subsiding. Her Canadian doctor was immensely and happily surprised and encouraged my mother to continue what worked for her. My mother reversed her severe RA and today she is 90-years-old and still symptom-free of RA.
At the age of 59 my husband triple-fractured his left femur while slalom water skiing. It was a brutal injury. He endured three surgeries to repair the damage and a long recovery period including 4 months of zero weight-bearing. Even after three years of recovery there was a level of ongoing chronic pain with limited flexibility. He found just two weeks of Ayurvedic treatment highly effective with eliminating the pain and increasing his flexibility.
What to Expect With Ayurveda Treatments
My family has been attending the authentic Arya Vaidya Sala Kottakkal centres of Ayurvedic treatment in Kerala: www.aryavaidyasala.com. Two weeks is the standard time for the Ayurvedic treatments. The customized treatment is changed weekly when a patient is booked for more than a week.
The Ayurvedic team of doctors make their rounds every morning for patient assessment and feedback, as well as to fine tune the customized treatments. Yoga classes are offered daily as part of the program at 5pm. Meditation and rest take place between treatments in the comfort of your room. All patients are on a prescribed vegetarian diet. Depending on the individual patient needs, two massage treatment therapies a day is the general norm.
My 2-week Ayurvedic treatments include:
* Customized herbal medications
* Pizhichil Treatment
* Shirodhara Treatment
* Navarakizhi Treatment
* Potli/kizhi Treatment
This Ayurvedic doctor-prescribed, customized treatment involves having 3 litres of medicated warm oils poured all over body with simultaneous, rhythmic massage by 3 therapists. My friend Alice who recently did her first Ayurvedic treatment, now refers to Pizhichil as “an oil basting of the body”. It is heavenly.
“Shiro” means head and “dhara”means to flow. Shirodhara involves gently and continuously pouring warm, soothing oil from a specific height over the forehead, between the eyebrows. The oil runs through the scalp and into the hair. Two therapists provide this treatment. It is said to be extremely effective in treating insomnia, mental disorders, memory loss and has the effect of calming the mind and soothing the nervous system. In the interest of full disclosure, I will share that this is not my favourite treatment, but I did power through it. It’s soothing, but an hour is a long time for this treatment. I lasted 25 minutes the first time, but after hearing from the head Ayurveda physician that most people, including himself, find it a bit of a challenge, I decided to persevere and complete the treatment.
This is a type of body scrub with medicated herbal cooked rice soaked in customized warm oils and milk in large muslin tea bags and scrubbed over body for one hour by therapists. This is incredibly soothing and comforting.
This is a whole body massage with customized herbal pouches of medicated oils used to remove inflammation. This is often followed by the steam box so the medicated herbal oils can penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin, draining toxins from deep tissues. This is an absolute favourite treatment and the ultimate in a body scrub!
***It’s important to emphasize that Ayurveda is not a resort spa vacation. Ayurveda involves dedicated personal work that focuses on activating the body, mind and soul’s healing response.***
Cost For Two-Week Ayurvedic Treatment
Once you arrive in India your western currency goes a long way. Currently:
1 US Dollar = 64.66 Indian Rupees and
1 Canadian Dollar = 51.22 Indian Rupees.
Airfare is your main cost. Economy flights from a Canadian or US city to Kochi, Kerala range from $1500-$1700 (return) per person
However, Ayurveda accommodation, meals, medicines and all treatment costs for two weeks is very reasonable at approximately $1200 CA per person at Arya Vaidya Sala Kottakkal centres. What an incredible way to make health a priority during an awesome wellness retreat!
After your 2-week Ayurvedic treatment, I recommend treating yourself for a stay of 3 to 6 days at a local Kochi hotel. Be a tourist and take a guided half-day Kochi bike tour or day-trip houseboat tour of the Kerala backwaters. A fantastic central location is the Marriott Kochi Hotel adjacent to India’s largest mall, Lulu Mall with the most amazing supermarket, the Hypermarket.
Finally, it is my deepest hope that you find Healing in all the ways that you need to be Healed. May the universe Bless you in all the ways you need to be Blessed.
“Wounds don’t heal the way you want them to, they heal the way they need to. It takes time for wounds to fade into scars. It takes time for the process of healing to take place. Give yourself that time. Give yourself that grace. Be gentle with your wounds. Be gentle with your heart. You deserve to heal.” ~Dele Olanubi~