An Introduction To Ayurvedic Medicine
By Rosanna campbell-Gray
Three years ago, I boarded a flight to Italy to visit Rosa Alpina, an oasis of calm in the Dolomites and the residence of the certified Ayurveda physician, Dr. Suraj Dubey. The subsequent five days were spent immersing myself in the ancient alternative medicine system under Dr. Suraj’s watchful eye, comprised of yoga sessions, wellness consultations, breathing exercises, Ayurvedic treatments, personalised lifestyle and nutrition coaching, barefoot hikes and even some rock climbing.
Three years on, I caught up with Dr. Suraj to discuss how these same practices can be integrated into everyday life, in the hope that during these trying times, you too will be able to benefit from his wisdom and expertise.
Could you tell us why you were drawn to practice Ayurvedic medicine?
Dr. Suraj: I was born in the northern part of rural India and growing up, I was fascinated by the indigenous healing power of nature and its elements. I am a staunch believer in the concept of holistic health and the role of nature in attaining it, and so Ayurveda Medicine felt like the most natural course to me since it is based on the fundamental relationship between human beings and nature.
What is Ayurvedic medicine and how does it differ from modern medicine?
Dr. Suraj: Ayurveda is the Science of Life, with Ayu meaning ‘life’ and Veda meaning ‘science’. Unlike modern medicine which began in the early 18th Century, Ayurveda dates back to the Vedic era more than 5,000 years ago and champions a holistic, personalised and preventative approach. In contrast, modern medicine focuses on symptomatic-based reactive treatments, targeting specific areas or organs through chemical-derived drug formulations and surgical interventions.
Could you tell us about Doshas?
Dr. Suraj: The fundamental theory of Ayurveda is based on Panchamahabhutas – the five great natural elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space – and Tri Doshas, the three biological forces or ‘humours’ that exist in the body.
When the different Panchamahabhuta combine, they create a dosha which in turn governs the physiopathological and psychosomatic functioning of an Individual. To identify a predominant Dosha, a certified Ayurveda physician examines the person through a detailed process of inspection, interrogation and palpation (pulse diagnosis) in one-to-one consultation sessions. It can be common for a person to possess attributes from more than one Dosha, however, the predominant Dosha defines the line of treatments or lifestyle changes that should be addressed in the case of any imbalances or disorders. The three doshas are:
- Vata (air), which represents motion and is responsible for all sorts of movements like walking, talking, breathing, circulation and bowel movements.
- Pitta (fire), which represents heat or combustion energy and is responsible for all metabolic functions in the body.
- Kapha (water), which represents the lubrication of bodily tissues and is responsible for the growth and stability of the body.
Could you tell us some ways in which we can incorporate Ayurvedic practices into our day-to-day lives?
Dr. Suraj: The easiest way to incorporate Ayurveda into your life is by selecting a diet that is specific to your Dosha(s). Ensuring proper sleep rituals is also key but, as with diet, it is important to identify your dominant Dosha first to understand your body’s specific requirements, as opposed to following the ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality of modern medicine that recommends 7-8 hours of sleep for everyone. Lastly, engaging with nature on a regular basis allows you to nurture the five great Panchamahabhuta that make up all matter.
- Earth – Barefoot walking or ‘grounding’ in the garden, a park or outdoors for five minutes at least once a day.
- Water – Sip natural water at room temperature to stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Fire – Soak in the sun or perform physical activity to generate heat energy in the body. Intellectual discussion is another excellent way of generating heat energy.
- Air – Breathe consciously throughout the day or plan a five-minute deep breathing session at a time that is convenient to you.
- Ether / Space – Go outdoors for a walk, look at the sky, stargaze or simply appreciate the majesty of nature.
What is the best advice you could give someone planning to visit an Ayurvedic doctor for the first time?
Dr. Suraj: Visiting an Ayurvedic Doctor is like interacting with a friend, philosopher and physician who will touch upon all aspects of your physical, mental, spiritual, social and emotional wellbeing. Take the time to find an open-minded doctor with whom you feel comfortable, and be prepared to share all details of your life and offer up complete honesty with your answers.
It is also advised to attend a consultation on an empty stomach for an accurate pulse reading.
Could you tell us a little more about the different types of Ayurveda treatments one can receive?
Dr. Suraj: The initial step is to determine an individual’s Dosha type, after which we move on to developing a preventive regime that focuses on diet, food recommendations and possibly some restrictions. From there, we might explore therapeutic procedures that incorporate herbal oils of natural origin followed by a personalised programme mapped out over the course of 3-21 days. Some common programmes include:
- Abhyangam – An oleation therapy for the whole body that uses Dosha-specific warm herb-infused oil and applies prescribed pressure and strokes to the body parts.
- Udwarthanam – An invigorating body massage using herbal powder or paste that targets underlying lipids and helps in reducing excess body fat.
- Marma Therapy – Targeting of energy plexus points on the body (we use 107 main points) to activate or calm down any internal organ / or body system.
- Panchakarma – Five purification procedures that use herbal formulations (Oils / Decoctions) to cleanse the deep-seated toxins in the body, planned according to the season of the year and stage of the ailment or disorder.
For Personalised Lifestyle Consultation relating to Holistic Health and Wellbeing, Dr. Suraj J Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org via WhatsApp: +91-98 60 10 4445
The views expressed in this article are for informational purposes. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.
Rosanna is a sustainability consultant at Talia Collective. Having worked in a leading travel PR agency in London, she is currently heading up the editorial side of our platform whilst volunteering with the US-based NGO Sustainable Travel International, assisting with new media campaigns related to carbon offset programs.