Paths to Wellness: Ayurveda

You may have seen Ayurveda on a spa menu, but the roots of the world's oldest systems of natural medicine extend far beyond the treatment room. Ayurveda, which originated in ancient India more than 5,000 years ago, means "science of life.” Stemming from the ancient body of spiritual teachings known as the Vedas, some medical historians believe that Ayurveda was also the original basis for Chinese medicine.

Ayurveda is an integrated system of specific theories and techniques that use diet, herbs, exercise, meditation, yoga, and massage or bodywork. The goal of Ayurveda is to achieve optimal health on all levels: physical, psychological, and spiritual. An estimated 80% of the Indian population uses Ayurveda.

Ayurveda involves the eight main branches of medicine: pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, ophthalmology, geriatrics, otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat), general medicine, and surgery. Ayurveda is practiced in the West by healthcare professionals who are licensed in a variety of disciplines, such as MDs, osteopathic physicians (DOs), naturopaths, acupuncturists, nurses, massage therapists, and chiropractors. In 1980, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the Indian spiritual teacher who introduced transcendental meditation (TM) to the West and also coined the term "Maharishi Ayur-Ved.”

Ayurveda relies heavily on the individual's willingness to participate in lifestyle and behavior changes. India’s ancient healing art recognizes that each of us has a unique constitution with specific needs in terms of diet, environment and routine in order to maintain optimum health. Your constitution is made up of a dynamic balance of three basic forces (doshas): Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When any force becomes unbalanced, your well-being suffers.

Massage is an important part of Ayurveda. The Sanskrit word Sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” It is believed that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Anointing the body in a specific order with warm oil is a practice called Abhyanga. The word ‘abhyanga’ is composed of two Sanskrit words, abhi and anga. Abhi means ‘towards’ and anga, in one of its meanings, refers to ‘movement’.

Ayurveda encourages a daily Abhyanga practice to restore the balance of the doshas and enhance well-being and longevity:

“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much, even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”

  • -Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
    (One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda)

Benefits of Abhyanga

  • -Nourishes the entire body—decreases the effects of aging
  • -Lubricates the joints and imparts muscle tone
  • -Increases circulation
  • -Stimulates the internal organs of the body
  • -Moves the lymph, aiding in detoxification
  • -Increases stamina
  • -Calms the nerves
  • -Benefits sleep—better, deeper sleep
  • -Pacifies Vata and Pitta and stimulates Kapha.

Vata dosha is composed of the elements ether and air and has the qualities dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile. So, if you are Vata-predominant these qualities will express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional and physical make up. Vata people benefit from essential oils that are calming and grounding, comforting and warming.

Imbalanced Vata can cause fatigue, worry, insomnia, dry skin and low weight. Vata Balancing Body Oil is gently warming, comforting and grounding. It helps restore balance to Vata types who are naturally alert, enthusiastic and creative. To balance Vata energy, try Body Bliss Vata Balancing Body Lotion.

Pitta dosha is composed of the elements fire and water and has the qualities oily, sharp, hot, light, spreading and liquid. So, if you are Pitta-predominant these qualities will express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional and physical make up. Pitta people benefit from essential oils that are cooling and soothing, sweet and astringent.

When Pitta dosha is imbalanced it can express as irritability, acne, excess body heat and premature baldness/greying. To balance Pita energy, try Body Bliss Pita Balancing Body Lotion.

Kapha dosha is composed of the elements earth and water and has the qualities oily, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft and static. So, if you are Kapha-predominant these qualities will express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional and physical make up.

Kapha people benefit from essential oils that are warming and drying, energizing and astrigent. Psychologically, they tend to be tolerant, calm, forgiving and loving: however, they also exhibit traits of greed, attachment, envy and possessiveness.

When Kapha dosha is imbalanced it can express as a tendency to gain weight, lack of stamina and poor digestion. To balance Kapha energy, try Body Bliss Kapha Balancing Body Lotion.

Get started on your Ayurvedic journey today with a daily self-massage practice!