What is the Ayurvedic Medical System

Ayurveda - an Indian medicine system against western medicine

Ayurvedic oil pouring

Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical systems in the world. The more than 5,000 year old Indian traditional teaching became particularly well known in Germany for the fitness movement. Parts of Ayurveda - which are useful for maintaining well-being and beauty - are presented in countless books.

Interested parties receive tips e.g. on nutrition or relaxation, but also practical instructions for beauty care. Ayurveda oil applications in particular are very popular: special oils are said to have a beneficial and relaxing effect by slowly flowing over different parts of the body. Owners of cosmetic studios are discovering more and more that a lot of money can be earned with the addition of "Ayurveda" and are successfully offering expensive treatments. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who made "Transcendental Meditation" (TM) known in the West, made the name of this traditional medicine system his own in a special way: He lets his sect members practice the lucrative Ayurveda in countless beauty farms and health centers. In addition to Ayurveda training and cooking courses, entry into TM is also offered there. The numerous products of the sparkling wine are also marketed in the health centers: The spectrum ranges from oils and cleansing cures to nutritional supplements that are said to be particularly beneficial to health.

Marketing a doctrine of salvation

Many Ayurvedic doctors and naturopaths do not agree with the apparently only profitable orientation of TM Ayurveda. For example, the Hamburg medical practitioner Michael Rohrschneider (www.ayur-med.de): "Ayurveda translates as:‘ The science of life ’", he says. "This Indian doctrine of salvation is also a religiously influenced philosophy of life". The hamburger considers it questionable to only remove certain, marketable sub-areas from Ayurveda.

Rohrschneider got to know Ayurveda during a trip to India. He decided to learn the medicine system from Indian Ayurveda doctors. Even today he is in regular contact with his teachers to expand his knowledge or to clarify questions. Rohrschneider has been practicing Ayurveda in his practice for eight years - as an alternative healing method to western conventional medicine. It is often visited by people with chronic (pain patients) or psychosomatic (symptoms of illness without a clear cause) illnesses. After a long ordeal, these people seeking help are ready to try other, lesser-known medical procedures. Many have made the experience that despite extensive examination procedures, doctors have not been able to find the cause of their chronic illness or pain. And the many treatments and drugs often had little or no therapeutic effect.

Help for body, soul and spirit

Therefore it is not surprising to the naturopath that many patients "only want to talk about their suffering from the soul" during the first conversation. Ayurvedic treatment comes later. First he explains what Ayurveda is all about: From the Ayurveda point of view, all the work, growth and decay of the universe are interrelated. The human being, made up of body, soul and spirit, is only a very small part of the entire cosmos. Ayurveda aims to help people live a long, fulfilling and healthy life. This includes the responsible and self-determined person who is ready to do something for himself. One focus of this doctrine of salvation is the guidance to a healthy lifestyle and disease-preventive measures. Disease is namely an imbalance of different forces in the human body. But not only the human body is considered in this traditional Indian medicine: mind and soul are just as important. And therefore Ayurveda practitioners will pay attention to physical health, positive lifestyle and mental attitude.

Basic principles and elements

Ayurvedic oil pouring

"The western people can usually not get into the complex system of Ayurveda so quickly," explains Rohrschneider. A fine interplay of five basic elements and three basic principles (doshas) determines emergence, being and passing away. Whether cosmos, flora and fauna or inanimate things - everything is permeated with the elements and doshas. The basic elements are 'air', 'fire', 'water', 'earth' and 'ether'. The three basic principles are referred to as 'Vata', 'Pitta' and 'Kapha'. As the cosmos on a large scale, so on a small scale man is subject to the interplay of forces of the doshas. All biological functions of body, mind and soul, which are given by nature, are regulated by three basic principles: creation, preservation and destruction. E.g. the daily emergence of new nasal mucous membrane cells, their maintenance and repair (especially with a cold) and finally the breakdown and excretion of old cells (e.g. after infection by cold viruses).

Man as an individual

The composition of the basic principles Vata, Pitta and Kapha is just as unique as a person's fingerprint. Ayurveda takes into account the unmistakable nature of a person, their different preferences or needs: "That is why it is important to know how much the individual doshas are in an individual and how they work together," explains the man from Hamburg. "Despite this uniqueness of every person, Ayurveda knows certain basic types, which are also called constitutions in relation to illness and health". From the seven basic constitutions of Ayurveda, it is important to find the most suitable for a patient. But: Assigning and recognizing the Vata, Pitta and Kapha principles requires many years of experience.

An example: Kapha is made up of the elements earth and water and provides strength, stability and stability. Kapha is also responsible for the human memory. Feelings such as envy, greed or avarice, but also forgiveness and love, are assigned to the basic principle of Kapha. People with a 'Kapha constitution' have good physical strength and a stable physique. They prefer spicy and bitter foods. 'Kapha people' often have good stamina and are not so easily disturbed. When they become ill, the head, neck, bronchi, stomach and joints are more often affected than in other people.

Another goal: to create harmony

There are fewer people with pure Vata, Pitta or Kapha constitutions. "Much more common are the mixed forms in which, for example, two of the basic principles are in the foreground," says Rohrschneider and emphasizes again how extremely important it is to determine the constitutional form. Because: This has a say in the choice of subsequent therapies. Oils or medical applications must be selected accordingly. To stay with the Kapha example: Kapha people have too much Pitta in their bodies, perhaps due to an unhealthy lifestyle. To restore harmony to your doshas, ​​'Pitta-deriving' treatments should be used. A wrongly chosen Ayurveda treatment measure can also intensify the symptoms of the disease. "The theoretical background of Ayurveda seems very complicated at first," says Rohrschneider, "but interested and committed patients, alternative practitioners or doctors are gradually learning to apply this theory successfully in treatment and lifestyle."

Rethinking and cooperation are important

In the long term, this is not possible without a profound rethinking: In Ayurvedic philosophy, a person who acts responsibly naturally also takes care of maintaining his or her health; according to the various rules of Ayurveda. This means, for example, eating healthy, getting enough sleep or taking sufficient rest after periods of activity. "And that is extremely difficult for many patients, because they are trapped in their stressful everyday life, which is often sick," says the naturopath. "Most of them only notice that their physical, mental or emotional limits have long been exceeded when acute illnesses no longer heal normally or serious illnesses develop", regrets Rohrschneider. Many patients who come to his practice are under constant tension. They have forgotten how to pay attention to their feelings and understand physical alarm signals: "This is why high blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases are so common".

For the non-medical practitioner, the explanation of these extremely common diseases of civilization is obvious: "In Ayurvedic healing the heart is the seat of the soul. Modern people often no longer take the time to listen to their inner voice. They only obey the increasing external pressure and pressure give no room for inner worries and fears - this is where the (high blood) pressure rises in each of us, "says Rohrschneider. In his opinion, the cry for help is particularly noticeable in people who suffer from tinnitus (noises in the ears): "The inner voice was already noticeable in the form of noises in the ears."

The constitution determination

Special nose drops

After the Ayurvedic constitution determination, a detailed medical history (anamnesis) is carried out for each patient. The Ayurvedic examination differs in many ways from the scientifically oriented medicine: In addition to the careful physical examination, smell (e.g. of the breath) are also taken into account. The overall appearance of the client, such as physique, texture and color of the skin up to the “radiance” of a person, are carefully observed. There are also many questions to be answered: How is your general physical condition? Is sleep deep or superficial, digestion good or rather sluggish? The family and work situation are also queried. The mental and spiritual condition are important: grief, worries or feelings of loneliness are also part of the Ayurvedic anamnesis. Sometimes people feel a little irritated by unusual questions How are you doing with strong winds or changing seasons? ’. "The answers to such questions can, however, be very useful for Ayurveda therapists," says Rohrschneider. The Hamburg alternative practitioner uses 'pulse diagnosis' as another important diagnostic tool. He learned this technique, which is widespread throughout East Asia, in India. The pulse diagnosis gives a lot of additional information about the constitution, i.e. the distribution and activity of the doshas.

A change: Often a big step

After the constitution type has been determined, the treatment is clarified: "Each step must be discussed with the patient and coordinated according to their abilities and possibilities," says Rohrschneider. For this reason, it is initially pointless for some patients to request an immediate and profound change in diet. In the medium term, a change in lifestyle (including diet) is essential, especially for people with chronic diseases. With this group of patients in particular, the forty-eight year old has to do a lot of persuading, since many chronically ill people are reluctant to give up their ingrained eating habits.

Diverse Ayurveda cuisine

Nutrition is an important chapter in the Ayurvedic medicine system. With daily food and drinks, people can do a lot to regulate their energy balance: because here, too, the rules of the five elements and the three doshas apply. Food, drinks and spices are classified as belonging to Vata, Pitta or Kapha. "In order to meet people's diverse needs, for example, many Indian women cook various small dishes based on rice. The different flavors hot, salty, sweet or sour can then be consumed - depending on the needs and constitution of the individual family members", reports the naturopath.

Medical measures

Massage with herbal pillows

Ayurveda medicinal treatment is largely carried out using local herbal medicines. "Real Ayurvedic preparations from India are not imported because they are not approved in accordance with the German Medicines Act," says Rohrschneider. As a result, however, he has no particular problems or fewer treatment options: Ayurvedic medicine recommends using only herbs, vegetables and spices that come from the region for meals and therapeutic applications. Ayurveda therapies are partly very similar to naturopathic applications in the West: Ayurveda also offers sweat cures with herbal additives, such as the herbal priest Kneipp. Herbal compresses or wraps for pain relief. Relaxation massages with small linen bags filled with herbs (beneficial, relaxing effect: herb selection according to constitution type). While the external Ayurveda oil treatments are better known to us, there are also internal treatments (for ingestion). According to Rohrschneider's experience, the so-called Nasya treatment (special nasal drops) is extremely effective, e.g. for inflammation of the nasal sinuses. Many of the treatments, from massage to herbal liqueur, are also carried out by the patient at home on their own by arrangement. "As mentioned, in Ayurveda the self-responsible person is in the foreground. This also means that there should be no dependency on therapists", emphasizes Rohrschneider.

Live by your own standards and rules

Last but not least, self-determined people also need to develop their personality. According to Ayurvedic rules, this means: development of free will and spirit. Live by your own standards and rules. "Only a person who is internally balanced can reflect on himself and his values," says the naturopath. "This is exactly what makes it difficult for all of us." The radio and television are on all the time. Diverse distraction and variety are part of the modern lifestyle. "Physical, mental and spiritual hygiene belong together in Ayurveda," explains the man from Hamburg. That is why every Ayurveda practitioner will recommend various types of relaxation - including the mind - to his patients. "Today, adult education centers actually offer everything that is necessary for this: from hatha yoga to autogenic training and various breathing exercises. But it can also be meditations," says Rohrschneider. He regrets the frequent combination of such procedures for spiritual training and growth with the teaching of ideological content of many sects. Mental relaxation has nothing to do with religion: "Almost every object is suitable for contemplation during meditation. Whether you are looking at a candle or carefully following your own breathing: Regular practice of concentration is important. It can be used in the evenings help to get away from everyday worries. And finally, everyday relaxation exercises together with a healthy lifestyle will in turn help people to focus on the essentials in their own life ".

Author: Marion Kaden, Counselor & Family (1996)