India is a legendary land. The cradle of a great civilization, the land of beautiful nature, an exceptional mosaic of religions, smells, colors, cultures. The melting-pot, in which this has all mixed, has given us both the Taj Mahal and Bollywood. The space program and nuclear weapons, but also poverty and overpopulation present on every step.
Over one million millionaires on one hand and extreme poverty on the other. More than 40% of the world population of poor people live in India. The largest democratic country in the world, which regained its independence as one of the few without violence. The biggest, oldest, and longest existing civilization in the world, the birthplace of chess, the decimal number system, the number zero and Ayurveda. And it is precisely the latter that brought me to India for the second time in my life.
Ayurveda is literally translated as the knowledge of life or the art of living. And since life is synonymous with health, it is knowledge about health. Ayurveda is the world’s oldest medical and philosophical system, derived precisely from ancient India. It teaches how to maintain harmony between the body and mind. Its objectives can best be explained by the slogan: maintain the health of those who are healthy and cure the disease of those who are sick. Above all – to treat the causes, not the effects.
It is difficult to determine the time of creation of this method because of the lack of sources. The oldest records on it, which survive until today, make up part of the Vedas, the sacred books of Hinduism. The Vedas were written probably between the years 1500 and 500 BC, but Ayurveda is much older, and before it was written, it circulated for years in the oral tradition. Only after its inclusion in the books of Vedic was a canon set up concerning its basic assumptions.
Today it is said that Ayurveda, which has about 5000 years as a concept of health and therapy, is recognized for 40 years by the World Health Organization. It is also one of the few systems of alternative medicine which uses surgery. Many scientists believe that this is the oldest existing system of treatment. So it is a very old science, but it is also referred to as the future of medicine, which, after a week stay at an Ayurvedic resort, I agree with wholeheartedly. Ayurveda is undoubtedly entering a stage of splendor, not only in India but also in the world. For it is being rediscovered and practiced by inhabitants of western countries. With surprising effectiveness and spectacular results at that.
Ayurveda is appealing in that it not only refers to the medical side, but applies to all levels of our activity. It recognizes man as a whole, holistically, focusing on maintaining health, the prevention of disease. And when it does occur, it removes the source, not the symptoms. According to the Ayurvedic definition of health, full health is not based solely on the absence of symptoms of a disease, but a condition of absolute well-being in its very essence. Maybe that’s why Indians, although poor, at first glance seem to be happy and healthy.
The growing popularity of Ayurveda means that we do not have to go to India to experience its beneficial effects. Of course, if someone wants, they can visit one of the many resorts that offer such treatments. Those are not lacking in all of India. I just got back from a week in Sitaram Beach Retreat, a site run by my good friend Vignesh. His family for 90 years promotes this way of maintaining health, and Vignesh is the 4th generation of doctors in their family.
In Poland, it is difficult to find someone as experienced, but this does not mean that you can not try local treatments like the ones offered by the birthplace of this method. So what should you choose?
Start with yoga, often equated with Ayurveda. This is not entirely true, because Ayurveda, as we already know, is an entire medical system. And yoga is one of the fantastic ways of taking care of ones health. It strengthens the body and helps cure diseases by performing appropriate asanas. Undoubtedly, yoga is one of the tools that Ayurvedic medicine uses for treatment and prevention. In Poland, in most schools the first classes for beginners are free, maybe you will find in yoga your passion and combine pleasure with something useful and healthy.
Healthy breathing – pranayama
Another method, which we can try is pranayama. In short it is breath control, the effect of which is to be peace of mind. Translated literally prana is the air, the life force and ayama is to increase the width, length, volume. Pranayama is therefore a systematic extension of inhaling and exhaling. And we are not talking about the habitual, automatic breathing that we simply need to live. These are precise techniques that increase oxygen intake significantly to the body, so you gain energy, peace and sharpness of mind. The nerves become soothed, the body feels light, the chest is opened and spatial. We breathe with our entire lungs and we feel much better.
Panchakarma loosely translated means “five methods” and this is one of the most important and deepest forms of therapy. According to Ayurveda it is the most effective method of healing, cleansing and strengthening the body at every level. The advantages are numerous: it improves sleep, digestion, increases overall energy to the optimum level, removes toxins, cleanses the body and mind, increases weight loss without the yo-yo effect, eliminates stress, improves the condition and quality of the skin, brings relaxation and well-being.
Proper cleansing is preceded by Purvakarma, or softening of tough toxins and clearing the channels in which they nest. This step is quite nice, because it entails an internal and external oiling of the body. The first is to receive adequate food and specimens, the second is very pleasant, because it is rubbing the body or parts of it in prescribed oils.
The second stage, the aforementioned Panchakarma is five methods of cleansing the body. This is done in a very direct and literal way, by an enema to cleanse the body or to remove toxins from the nasal passages, the more blunt methods I will not mention here. Therefore, if you choose the program, you have to be prepared for, to put it mildly – some difficulties. But one thing is certain – after the whole program you will feel reborn!
Shirodhara, or massage with a warm stream of herbal oil or other specially selected liquids carried out on the third eye (to simplify, on the forehead). This is one of the most important Ayurvedic treatments, it deeply relaxes, often introduces patients into altered states of consciousness, may have a trance-like property. The benefits are innumerable: improving health and blood circulation in the brain, strengthening the scalp and hair, calming the mind, reducing stress, improving the emotional state. Not surprisingly, the Shirodhara is seen as a divine technique rejuvenating the whole body. I highly recommend it!
Abhyanga, full body massage. It starts by a masseur or masseurs (sometimes two people perform it) heating oils. Traditionally, black sesame oil is used. The substances contained in it penetrate the skin, and soften and firm it. In addition, the warmed oil distributes heat throughout the body and relaxes it.
Mukha Abhyanga, facial massage. It is on the face that our sensory organs are located, which the mentioned treatment regenerates. In addition it gives the skin radiance, makes it more flexible and smoothes wrinkles. The next stages are equally pleasant and have a similarly beneficial effect on the body. After the massage (it lasts about an hour), we find ourselves with improved blood circulation, increase in energy, increased joint flexibility and range of motion, tension and muscle stiffness disappears, the skin radiates, pain disappears. Just let yourself be massaged.
In the last part I will show you a few more interesting treatments offered by Ayurveda.
- Udvartana, is a massage using dry herbal powders and paste, or also mixed with oil. The treatment stimulates blood circulation, smooths out rough skin, acts as a scrub, eliminates cellulite.
- Pina Sweda is in turn a massage using packs of medicinal herbs. It removes insomnia, fatigue, it cleanses the body of toxins, strengthens the skin, relaxes and warms the muscles. It can be applied topically to the area with injury, tension, etc.
- Kati Vasti is a treatment consisting of pouring oil on the spine, warm oil is poured on an area blocked off by a piece of dough. It alleviates pain, relaxes the spine, it ends in a back massage. I recommend it because the sensations are amazing.
- Udara is a stomach and foot massage perfect for gastric problems, poor bowel movements, problems with defecation. It reduces bloating, a feeling of abdominal overflow. It relaxes and flattens the stomach, stimulates digestion.
- Nasya Karma is a treatment for the sinuses involving instillation specially crafted herbs through the nostrils. It helps reduce symptoms associated with the sinuses, upper airways and headaches.
- Netra Basti is in turn a special herbal bath for the eye which reduces the feeling of dry, tired eyes, it smoothes and relaxes the skin. A very pleasant and soothing treatment, I recommend it whole-heartily!
- Karna Purana, an oil treatment performed within the ears. Reduces tension in the jaw and neck, cleans ears of wax buildup, if used systematically it improves hearing.
Even if you believe only in traditional medicine, you can take a chance and treat yourself to one of these treatments. 20-30 USD for an hour-long massage or “oil bath” is a small sum compared to their effects. I would urge you to try it. After a few sessions, I feel at least a few years younger. We’ll see for how long 🙂
I recommend the Sitaram Beach Retreat: http://www.sitaramretreat.com