Many people dismiss Ayurveda as a hoary old science of jari-bhooti practised by jhola-chaap doctors in India. But it has a firm scientific basis, says RENU GULATI, a teacher and practitioner of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a unique holistic system of health and well-being based on the inter-relationship of the body, mind and spirit and life as a whole. The term ‘Ayurveda’ originates from ancient Sanskrit and literally translates as ‘Knowledge or Science of Life. It is believed to be the oldest health care system in the world, and dates back some 5,000 years ago to the Vedic age. Ayurveda is considered to be the spiritual wisdom of ancient Himalayan sages. Today, as yoga and Indian systems of meditation gain acceptance around the world, Ayurveda is being revived. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also given it a prominent place in its Traditional Medicines Programme to promote global usage.
Ayurveda emulates the laws of nature, teaching us how to put nature’s great principles of health and natural living into practice. Ayurveda considers that everything in the universe, including human beings, comprise of the five basic elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth.
The proportions of these elements vary in each individual, which is what makes each one of us unique. Ayurveda treats disease and promotes optimum well-being by correcting imbalances of these elements. Most people are now familiar with the Ayurvedic terms of vata, pitta and kapha and Ayurveda believes that each of us is a combination of these elements and it is this that determines our body type and our nature.
Ayurveda remedies include the use of herbs, therapeutic oil massages or Abhyanga, detoxifying and dietary measures, as well as exercise, relaxation and meditation. Therapeutic oil massages have great health benefits.
What is Abhyanga (Massage)?
The Sanskrit word Abhyanga means literally “to rub with unctuous substances” and is commonly termed as ‘massage’. Using therapeutic oils and specialised strokes, Abhyanga is traditionally used to treat disease, retard the ageing process, rejuvenate the body and relieve physical and mental stress.
One of the ancient classic texts of Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, which is believed to have been written almost 2,000 years ago recommends daily Abhyanga. It states that benefits to be gained by Abhyanga, whether self-administered or received from another, include:
3. a strong immune system
4. improved blood circulation
7. relief from fatigue and stress
8. sound sleep
9. improved eyesight
10. healthy glowing skin and a beautiful body
The Charaka Samhita considers that daily Abhyanga to the head, ears and feet has the following specific benefits:
Daily head massage prevents conditions such as headache, insomnia, alopecia, and greying or falling hair. Scalp stimulation makes hair healthy, strong and lustrous as well as imparting a radiant glow to the face and a cheerful disposition.
Daily ear massage prevents ear infections, hearing difficulties, as well as stiffness in the neck and jaw area.
Daily foot massage prevents the occurrence of sciatica, thrombosis, cracked skin and quickly alleviates physical and mental fatigue.
Apart from daily massage, it is extremely beneficial to follow the revitalising practice of Yoga asanas or postures. Asanas stimulate the sebaceous glands that lie just beneath the surface of the skin to secrete their natural oils, the inherent skin balm of the human body. Massage returns these beneficial secretions to the skin, thereby maintaining softness and suppleness.
Renu Gulati is a lawyer from the UK and holds an MSc in Ayurveda from London since 2006. Based in Rishikesh, she consults, teaches and writes in the field of Ayurveda, internationally.
Please contact the Stree team for wellness consultations.