The call for a more balanced and healthy living is being answered in the pandemic with the re-emergence of traditional practices for the body, mind, and soul. One such age-old practice gaining popularity is Ayurveda — indicative of ancient wisdom and knowledge that practitioners have amassed over years.
One look at social media, however, will tell you that many of today’s Ayurvedic practitioners are young and well-connected with several hundreds of people through their channels. They also have an advanced educational degree in the practice and allied fields to further their case. So, what is driving this change? Indianexpress.com reached out to some practitioners to understand more about their tryst with this form of medicine, catering to an audience spread across the globe, and why Ayurveda retains an edge for them.
“Before the Ayurvedic medical educational system, healers carried the rich tradition of Ayurveda on their shoulders for centuries. A traditional Ayurveda healer is one who acquires knowledge from family elders. Some of them have a thorough knowledge of principles, do strict and pure application, have no bias against the modern medical system, and have sound knowledge of rare Ayurvedic herbs,” explained Dr Shyam VL, WHO member for Ayurveda Health Practices Benchmark, founder and director – Back to Roots, Kerala, India.
Born to parents who insisted on living with a “healthy discipline”, the 47-year-old with an experience of 20 years, arrived in UAE in 2000 when Ayurveda was not a recognised system of medicine. Later in 2002, he got the first Ayurveda license in the country from the Ministry of Health in UAE. In 2017, he was awarded the Health Excellence Award for the best physician by Dubai Health Authority. “I got admission into Ayurveda studies after my 12th standard in India. And then I came to the realisation that Ayurveda is not just a medical system that treats a few diseases; rather, it is the way of life and the intelligence of life and nature. I was able to connect Ayurveda with the traditional and cultural lifestyle practices of my family. Ayurveda teaches us how to live in sync and harmony with nature,” Dr Shyam, who has studied eight-and-a-half years in an Ayurveda college for the BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine, and Surgery) and MD (Doctor of Medicine), said.
Ayurveda has its foundations in the ancient schools of Indian philosophical teachings named Samkhya, Vaisheshika, and the school of logic Nyaya. From ancient physicians, the knowledge of traditional medicines was passed on to the disciples, and then to the common man by various writings and oral narrations. The information about Ayurveda and the healing properties of the herbs was composed in the form of poems, called shlokas, as per experts.
Calling Ayurveda a “Bible in terms of sustainability”, Dr Shyam explained how the treatment indentifies the root cause of the issue and then aims to cure it entirely. “Ayurveda teaches about longevity, keeping the body, mind, and the world in perfect harmony. Metabolic and auto-immune diseases have become major health problems. It is so important to look back into this ancient intelligence and begin to put on its principles to protect the earth and ourselves,” Dr Shyam, who has over 10,000 followers on social media, said.
Seconding him, Dr Dixa Bhavsar, an ayurvedic practitioner, who regularly shares Instagram videos on simple lifestyle tweaks that can come in handy said: “Ayurveda is literally ‘science (knowledge) of life’ rather than just a ‘treatment modality’ unlike other systems of medicine. “It inculcates the whole human life as it teaches us everything from dinacharya (daily-routine), ritucharya (seasonal-routine), ratricharya (night- rituals), and pathya- apathya (what to eat and what to avoid based on one’s prakriti or nature),” said the 27-year-old, who has been practising for the past four years.
Back in 2016, when Dr Dixa was about to complete her internship in Ayurveda medicine, she got diagnosed with hypothyroidism just like her mother. But she “refused to take any allopathy medicines”. “My TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone was 28 then (which is really high). But I followed a strict Ayurvedic regime, along with yoga, and within a month, my TSH reduced to 14. This made me believe in the healing powers of Ayurveda. Since then, I’ve been following and suggesting Ayurveda,” Dr Dixa, who has a social media following of more than 6,000, shared.
The first line of treatment in Ayurveda is “avoiding the causative factors of diseases”. “With food and lifestyle changes and medicines (if needed) Ayurveda can completely cure many of the diseases,” said Dr Aiswarya Santhosh from Kerala.
Dr Aparna K, BAMS, MD, PhD in Ayurveda with 12 years of clinical practice, also stands by its ability to heal, provided one takes the effort to stick to a “routine”. “I see the youth today are somehow disconnected from their roots–staying healthy has taken a back seat due to a highly competitive work-life schedule and stress. Many lifestyle disorders like diabetes, blood pressure, PCOD have crept in very early and many of the youth are not aware of having a routine, respecting one’s biological clock, etc. It’s the need of the hour to spread this ancient wisdom of living healthy, setting a routine, managing emotional and physical stressors on a daily basis,” said the doctor, whose father was an Ayurvedic doctor with over 40 years of experience.
She added: “Ayurveda stands for predictability and sustainability. The more we are in a routine, the more our nervous system will be at ease. And immunity will improve and susceptibility to falling sick reduces.”
In the pandemic, herbs and spices became the go-to immunity boosters, suggesting Ayurveda could help improve the body’s immune system, an idea also strongly propagated by the Government of India through Ministry of AYUSH as well as Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Practitioners, however, point out that Ayurveda, with a 5000-year-long history, needs a much broader approach and understanding beyond tips, home remedies, and solution-specific approach. “Ayurveda is so much more than just home remedies or having chyawanprash, turmeric, and triphala. Ayurveda guarantees permanent treatment of disorders like thyroid, diabetes, blood pressure, for which people take medicines throughout their life,” claimed Dr Dixa.
“For a beginner, home remedy is a good way to introduce Ayurveda, but one must realise Ayurveda is beyond it. I am trying to focus on sharing case studies, experiences and photos of patients before and after healing. Ayurveda is all about imbibing practices of diet and lifestyle which help to live a better life. So many research studies are coming up on how things work and I am sure the future is bright,” said Dr Aparna, who has over 5,000 followers on her social media channels.
While the ultimate goal for any patient is to heal — whether through Ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy, yoga, reiki or modern medicine — there is always a constant comparison with modern medicine, while being called ‘alternative or parallel’. While Dr Shyam mentioned that the world is gravitating towards integrative medicine to forgo the differences, Dr Aparna aims for co-existence with both systems of medicine being needed on a case-by-case basis. While Dr Aiswarya points out that Ayurveda holds good for old-age disorders, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, etc, Dr Dixa is of the opinion that it’s important to “adapt to whichever system suits the body and helps to heal”. “Faith in your system of medicine is of prime importance. If you believe in it, it will give you health and happiness undoubtedly,” she said.
Some Ayurvedic principles that can be incorporated are:
*Wake up early (before 7 am)
*Practise 12 Surya Namaskars daily
*Have light breakfast, moderate lunch, and lightest dinner
*Have early dinner (best before 7 pm but never post 9 pm)
*No gadgets one hour before bedtime
*Practise alternate nasal breathing 11 times at bedtime daily
Dr Dixa suggested some simple everyday practices beneficial for all, based on Ayurveda:
*Kavala (Oil-Pulling)- Oil-pulling involves putting one tablespoon of oil in your mouth and swishing it for about 15- 20 minutes. It is ideally done on an empty stomach, which is best to pull out all kinds of built-up toxins from the mouth; the body but only after brushing your teeth. In Ayurvedic medicine, the mouth is considered to be a “mirror” for the entire body, so keeping your oral cavity healthy impacts positively on gut health and overall health of your body.
*Nasya (nasal-drops)- Instilling 2 drops of warm cow’s ghee in nostrils daily helps in improving immunity, reduces stress, prevents and helps in managing sinusitis, migraine, and cold.
*Vyayama (Exercise)- We all know how exercise makes us feel energetic physically and happy mentally. Don’t spend a day without exercise.
*Abhyanga (Oil-massage)- Self-massage daily can help delay ageing, strengthen muscles, and reduce dryness.
*Garshana (Dry brushing while bathing)- It helps detoxify the lymphatic system which in turn refreshes your skin and mind.