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Ayurveda means "science of life" in Sanskrit. This
comprehensive system of medicine originated in India more than
5,000 years ago. Basic Concepts: According to Ayurvedic
beliefs, the physical and mental characteristics and well-being
of each individual are determined by that person's dosha, or
metabolic body type. There are three doshas or energy types:
vata, pitta, and kapha. Most people have a predominant dosha,
though all three doshas are present in everyone to varying
degrees. Vata individuals tend to be slender and restless, with
cool, dry skin and dry hair. They eat and sleep erratically, and
are prone to anxiety and insomnia. Pittas usually are of medium
build, strength and endurance. They have a strong appetite and
good digestion. They are warm blooded with a tendency toward
excessive perspiring and an inability to tolerate sunlight and
heat. Kaphas tend to be big-boned, heavy and strong. They are
often overweight, with slow digestion, thick hair and oily
skin. Good health requires a balance between the three
doshas within each individual. However, factors such as an
unhealthy lifestyle, stress, seasonal imbalances, genetic
predisposition and toxic substances can throw us out of balance.
Our daily habits - diet, exercise, sleep patterns and thought
patterns - influence the intensity of our dosha characteristics.
Therefore, once individuals become aware of their dosha type and
predispositions, they can make lifestyle changes to restore
balance. Ayurvedic practitioners first diagnose a patient
by taking an extensive personal and family history and
performing a physical examination that includes close attention
to the pulse, tongue, nails, eyes, and urine. The practitioner
then creates a program of lifestyle changes to bring the doshas
into balance. Ayurvedic therapies include purification to rid
the body of toxins, meditation, dietary modifications, herbs,
massage, yoga, and breathing exercises. Evidence:
Research has looked at various Ayurvedic practices, such as
yogic breathing. A study of 18 asthma sufferers, published in
the June 1990 issue of the journal Lancet, showed that slow,
deep breathing over the course of two weeks controlled asthma
symptoms. A 1998 study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom
Management found an Ayurvedic herbal laxative to be just as
effective as a conventional laxative but better-tasting and less
expensive with fewer side effects. A 1989 Dutch study documented
improvements in 79% of patients with certain chronic
conditions?asthma, hypertension, arthritis, constipation,
headaches, eczema, bronchitis and non-insulin dependent
diabetes?after Ayurvedic therapies were used.