Kerala Ayurveda

Ayurveda is an experience of God's Own Country inspired by a 5000-year-old holistic system of healing. Perfected by time tested therapies and age-old traditions, medicated baths and herbal diets, cool monsoons and a bountiful nature. Come, discover life anew.

Ayurveda, a Sanskrit word meaning the "knowledge for prolonging life", is a medical system widely practised in India, but especially in Kerala. It originated from the same period of Vedic philosophy as yoga, and places great importance on the harmony of mind, body and spirit.

The skin is seen as a mirror of our inner health and the body manifests everything that happens internally. Unlike the allopathic medicines of the West, which depend on finding out what's ailing you and then killing it, ayurveda looks at the whole patient: disease is regarded as s symptom of imbalance, so it's the imbalance that's treated, not the disease.

Theory of Ayurveda

Ayurveda theory holds that the body is controlled by three doshas (forces), themselves made up of the basic elements of space, fire, water, earth and air, which reflect the forces within the self.

The three doshas are: pitta, the force of the sun, which is hot and rules the digestive processes and metabolism; kapaha, likened to the moon, the creator of tides and rhythms, which has cooling effect, and governs the body's organs and bone structure; and vata, wind, which relates to movement, circulation and the nervous system.

People are classified according to which dosha or combination of them is prominent. The healthy body is one that has the three forces in the correct balance for its type.

To diagnose an imbalance, the ayurveda doctor not only goes into the physical complaint but also into family background, daily habits and emotional traits. Once a problem is diagnosed it is then treated with a combination of strict diets, massage with essential oils, spiritual practice and ancient herbal medicine. In addition, the doctor may prescribe various forms of yogic cleansing to rid the body of waste substances.

Popular treatments include abhayanga (full body massage), shirodhara (head and neck massage followed by a gentle stream of warm medicated oil dripping onto the forehead), shiro abhayanga (head massage) and sarvanghadahara, a full ayurveda oil massage followed by a selection of other treatments.

Kerala Ayurveda Treatments

Health tourism is very much a buzz phrase in Kerala these days. International standard hospitals and dental clinics have mushroomed around resorts such as Kovalam, catering for cost-conscious patients from abroad who've travelled here expressly for treatments. While all luxury resorts have its own money-spinning "ayurvedic spa" or " wellness centre".

Hippies who first came here to drop out are, three decades on, returning to detox and de-stress-and even for the odd hip replacement.

Kerala ayurveda is synonymous with the boom in health travel in Kerala. Ayurveda, literally "science of life" is an ancient system of herbal healing practised throughout India. Nowhere, however, are its Sanskrit roots so strictly adhered to as in Kerala.

Kerala is where the great sage Agasthya is said to have developed the siddha form of the medicine from which modern ayurveda evolved. Legend also attributes the discovery of the sacred Agasthya Malai on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, famous as a source of medicinal herbs of unparalleld potency, to Agasthya.

According to tradition, eighteen families were originally chosen by Lord Brahama to hold the secrets of ayurveda. Over time these, dwindled to eight-known as the Ashtavaidyas-of whom only six still ptractise, mostly around the towns of Thrissur and Kozhikode (Calicut).

Kerala Approach to Ayurveda

The Kerala approach to ayurveda has two distinct elements: first, the body is cleansed of toxins generated by imbalances in lifestyle and diet; secondly, its equilibrium is restored using herbal medicines, mainly in the form of plant oils applied using a range of different massage techniques.

A practitioner's first prescription will often be a course of panchakarma treatment-a five-phase therapy during which harmful impurities are purged through the nasal cavity. Other less onerous are blended with ghee or milk and poured onto the forehead; pizhichil, in which a team of four masseurs apply different oils simultaneously; and, sirovasthi, where the oils are poured into a tall, topless leather cap placed on the head.

Patients are prescribed special balancing foods, and given vigorous full-body massages, or abhayangam, each day. Some practioners may also offer marma chikitsa, a Kerala speciality where pressure is applied to the body with the soles of the feet; to control how much weight pressure is applied to the body with the soles of the feet, the masseur grips a knotted rope suspended from the ceiling.

The technique, which focuses on key connective energy "marma" points, was originally developed by masters of the martial art kalarippayat; part of every fighter's training routine involves a gruelling oily rubdown before dawn, as does the begining of a typical kathakali student's day.

Rejuvenating Tradition

The rising demand for ayurveda has brought in a huge demand for herbs that form the base for ayurveda medicines and massages, and which hold the key to many ailments and illness of the modern world.

Once present in almost every home in the State, the herbs, which disappeared over time, have now found their way back into homes, resorts, spas etc, where they hold price of place. A true comeback that is contributing to balancing not just life, but the ecology as well.

Long before the world discovered ayurveda, Kerala had made it an integral part of daily life. An equable climate and a natural wealth of herbs and medicinal plants make the State the perfect home for ayurveda.

Perfecting Nature's Healing Touch

Perhaps the only place in the world where ayurveda the age-old system of medicine, is practiced to perfection. Kerala opens up the most natural and holistic way to wellness.

Ancient texts prescribe the monsoon as the best time for ayurveda. The cool climate opens the pores of the skin to the maximum-making it more receptive to Ayurveda's oils and herbs.

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