Every Thinking Woman's Healer; as Long Ago as 1500 BC, Indian Doctors Discovered That Psychiatry Was Vital to Medicine. Today, That Mind-Body Link Is Crucial to Health

By Alexander, Jane | Daily Mail (London), November 12, 2001 | Go to article overview

Every Thinking Woman's Healer; as Long Ago as 1500 BC, Indian Doctors Discovered That Psychiatry Was Vital to Medicine. Today, That Mind-Body Link Is Crucial to Health


Alexander, Jane, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: JANE ALEXANDER

OVER three thousand years ago in Britain, disease was rife and life short. In India, meanwhile, medical students were studying atomic theory and debating evolution. Ayurveda - ancient Indian medicine - is generally accepted to be the forerunner of all the great healing systems of the world.

Ayurvedic physicians were taught psychiatry and paediatrics, toxicology and surgery, as well as general medicine.

They also studied six systems of philosophy: logic, evolution and causality, yoga, moral behaviour, pure knowledge and even the theory of the atom.

No modern medical student has so thorough a grounding in such a broad spectrum of disciplines.

Today, a growing number of people in the West are turning to ayurveda, knowing its physicians have a battery of techniques at their fingertips, including herbal preparations as well as massage and manipulation.

Aromatherapy and sound therapy may also be used, while yoga, meditation and breathing techniques are recommended.

Ayurveda has highly effective beauty treatments, and its detox regime, called panchakarma, is beloved of Hollywood stars and the Duke of York.

In ayurveda, the link between the mind and the body is the key, whereas conventional Western medical practitioners seem not to connect the two.

Linking mind, body and soul

The word ayurveda means science of life - and ayus (life) is defined in the ancient scriptures as the combination of body, mind and soul.

Each of us is said to have our own eternal life energy, like a spark from the universal fire - we are separate yet part of the whole, linked with other people and with the universe.

It is not enough to make changes purely on the physical level - health and wellbeing come about by achieving harmony within ourselves and within our society.

Many people find when they adopt an ayurvedic lifestyle, health problems disappear, energy levels rise, sleep improves and weight usually balances itself out without the need for diets.

Balancing the elements

Put at its simplest, ayurveda teaches that the world has five states of matter.

Ether represents space - both the space things take up and the space within them. Air represents the gaseous substances in the universe, and Water represents liquid. Fire is radiant heat and energy, while Earth represents all solid substances.

The human body is composed of the five elements, and an excess or lack of one or more can cause imbalance, leading to illness.

Ayurveda came up with a kind of shorthand for working out imbalances: three forms of bioenergy known as doshas.

Vata produces movement in the body; pitta produces heat and is responsible for the metabolism; while kapha produces growth and structure. The whole aim of ayurveda is to balance the doshas to restore health.

Which dosha dominates you?

VATA: Vata people are small as children and grow up to have a slim build. A typical vata will always seem to be hurrying. If you are a vata, your appetite is irregular: you often can't finish a large meal. You sleep lightly and may suffer from insomnia. You're prone to headaches, eczema, nervous disorders, wind or constipation.

Vatas tend to be enthusiastic, creative thinkers who hate routine.

PITTA: Pitta children are of average build. Adults have a firm, often muscular, build. Their skin is soft and may be ruddy or freckled.

Pittas put on weight but lose it with relative ease. If you are a pitta, you have a purposeful walk and a good appetite. You sleep regularly and soundly.

The illnesses you are prone to are heartburn, inflammation and fevers.

Pittas are strong-minded people.

Natural leaders, they are perfectionists who embrace routine. …

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