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Ayurveda is a system of medicine that originated in India more than three thousand years ago.

The term ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (knowledge, science), so it translates to life science or knowledge of life.

Ayurveda is based on the concept that disease results from an imbalance or stress in an individual's consciousness, and encourages lifestyle interventions and natural therapies aimed at regaining balance between the individual's body, mind, spirit, and the environment. It is a natural and holistic approach to physical, emotional, and mental health.

Ayurveda stems from the belief that everything in life is connected, which leads to the idea that good health is related to the achievement of balance and harmony. People who are imbalanced are likely to develop diseases, and this can best be alleviated by reestablishing balance.

Practitioners of Ayurveda hold that every individual has energy, which it refers to as prana. Similar to the importance of blood being able to flow smoothly through arteries, veins, and capillaries, an individual's prana needs to flow well and be in balance in order for the individual to be healthy.

Important to the achievement of balance, an individual needs to have a healthy diet, restful sleep, regular exercise, and effective management of stress. These necessities can be supplemented by botanicals, exercises, and activities designed to promote mindfulness. However, each individual is unique, so one of the objectives of an Ayurveda practitioner is to define the individual's specific constitution, known as prakriti, which determines the individual's physical, psychological, behavioral, and immunological traits. Not unlike other medical disciplines, Ayurveda holds that different constitutions respond to different treatments, so what works for one person may not be effective in another.

Ayurveda philosophy holds that each person's prakriti is made up of three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. The doshas are the energy types, and they indicate the individual's emotional strengths and weaknesses, the foods that their body needs, and the exercises that will work for them. Nutrition, exercise, and stress management are used to help an individual regain health and balance. Various herbs may also be used.

The vata dosha controls the flow of movement in the body, determining flexibility, muscle movement, blood flow, and breathing. People who are dominant in vita are creative, flexible, and quick to action. They are also prone to anxiety. The Ayurvedic practitioner might recommend a regular sleep schedule and meditation.

The pitta dosha is responsible for controlling digestion, hormones, and metabolism. Individuals who are pitta-dominant are competitive, strong-willed, and confident. When pitta is off-balance, an individual might be easily angered, make rash decisions, or take part in self-destructive behavior. Pitta imbalances can also result in rashes, eczema, or acne, as well as digestive issues. Calming activities and a Mediterranean diet might be prescribed for pitta imbalances.

Kapha is the dosha that holds everything together, including the muscles, bones, and ligaments. Kapha is responsible for endurance and lubrication. Individuals who are kapha-dominant are likely to be comfortable maintaining a routine. They are likely to set expectations and carry them out. They are loyal and nurturing, but dependent on others. Kapha imbalances can result in weight gain, swelling, disinterest, and difficulty letting things go. Essential oils can be helpful in combatting kapha imbalances. Exercise can also be helpful. Dietary recommendations would lean to light fare, such as fruits and vegetables in small portions throughout the day.

Preventative care and the treatment of disease through Ayurvedic medicine falls under eight branches: Kaayachikitsa (internal medicine), Baalachikitsa (pediatrics), Bhuta Vidya (psychiatry), Shalakya Tantra (ear, nose, and throat), Shalya Tantra (surgery), Vishagara Vairodh Tantra (toxicology), Jarachikitsa/Rasayana (geriatrics and rejuvenation), and Vajikarana (aphrodisiac therapy, fertility, and conception).

Ayurveda cleansing protocols are known as panchakarma, which uses five primary therapies to release and eliminate accumulated toxins from deep within the tissues, returning the doshas to their proper seats within the body.

In India, Ayurveda is part of the formal medical system and the equivalent of conventional Western medicine in the United States and other Western countries. India has government and private Ayurvedic medical clinics, hospitals, and schools.

In Western countries, Ayurveda is considered an alternative medical discipline. The National Ayurvedic Medical Association offers Ayurvedic certification programs and professional certification board examinations.



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