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Ayurveda within reach – Featured in GMA NEWS LIFESTYLE

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Ayurveda within reach

EILEEN PAAT December 9, 2011 3:17pm

My first knowledge of Ayurveda came from some of my health-conscious and vegetarian Thai friends back during my days as a Bangkok resident. Mostly, the talk circulated around drinking some vegetable with honey drinks—natural—but for me, quite boring at the time.


So one day, out of curiosity and upon the prodding of my pranic healing teacher, I set out to visit an Ayurvedic Center in the suburbs of Bangkok. The road was winding, long and tiresome. But what I saw completely blotted the desire to learn more about this science. The center was a house and there were these very sick people waiting for their turn to consult the Indian doctor.  Seeing those sick people made me backtrack and return home fast.


Therefore, I was delighted to be invited to attend the recently held 2nd International Ayurveda, Yoga, Wellness Convention and Expo Philippines organized by the Ayurveda Center. It was also to my great surprise that Ayurveda was already being successfully practiced here in the Philippines, particularly in Manila, for the last 20 years by an Indian Roman Catholic priest from Kerala named Father Jacob Gnalian.


The science of life and longevity


But before we discuss how Father Gnalian introduced Ayurveda here, let’s go over some basic Ayurvedic concepts. Dr. Hari Kumar, a medical director and Ayurveda practitioner from Kerala and a convention speaker, said Ayurveda is the knowledge of life and longevity. Ayurveda is learning the different factors in producing health (considered happiness), and prevention of diseases (unhappiness).


“Most of the time, Western medicine addresses only the symptoms of the disease and successfully remedies it,” said Father Gnalian. “Ayurveda addresses the root causes of the disease, thereby helping generate a lasting cure or solution,” he said.


So how do we actually cure the Ayurveda way?, I asked Dr. S. Sunil Kumar of the Sanjeevann Ayurveda Hospital and Research Institute of Kerala, a city in southern India. He replied that it is the “balance” between three important, primary life forces or doshas in our body.


The first of this doshas is vata. It is the energy of movement or wind and occupies the empty spaces and channels in our body.  Vata represents that which is cold and light.


On the other hand, pitha is the energy of fire, which aids in our digestion and metabolism. Pitha represents what is hot and oily, and when activated, makes us cantankerous.


Lastly, kapha represents the energy of lubrication or that which holds everything together. Phlegm in the body represents kapha. Anything that is heavy, cool and wet governs kapha.


Balance represents the harmonious interplay of these three doshas in the body. An excess or deficit of one leads to an imbalance in the body, thus leading to disease. For instance, feeling too hot or angry signals a pitha imbalance; having insomnia or excessive sexuality shows a vata imbalance; and being too sluggish, having indigestion and sleeping during the day indicates a kapha imbalance.


What keeps us disease-free?


Keeping track of balancing the three doshas inside myself seems to be a superhuman effort, I thought, so I asked Dr. Sunil Kumar if there is a way to regularly maintain this balance. And fortunately, there is.


“The best way to keep oneself balanced and disease-free is to regularly follow a periodic detoxifying  regimen,” said Dr. Sunil. This involves what Ayurveda practitioners call as Panchakarma Therapy, which consists of three stages:  preparing the body, cleansing the body, and rejuvenating the body.


Usually a 2- to 3-week procedure once a year, it involves preparing the body to expel all the toxins it has imbibed at a time. Preparation involves a seven-day regimen, wherein the body is completely and regularly massaged with oil. Thereafter, the patient is also interviewed regarding his food intake, as well as the nature of his activities. He is also examined to determine his dosha in order to prescribe the best Ayurvedic remedy.

After the preparation phase, the patient proceeds to the cleansing phase. This involves a variety of treatments, depending on the disease. It could be either through enema, nasal cleaning, blood-letting or purgation induced by proper medication.


Lastly, the body is then rejuvenated through a series of massages with oil. Depending on the specific disease, a specific oil is concocted for your ailment involving as much as 40 different medicinal herbs.


Now if going through that long procedure scares you, then Dr. Sunil recommends at least one hour of brisk walking in the morning every day. He said this will certainly balance your doshas to help prevent disease. But if disease has set in, then doing the detoxification regimen is recommended.


What now for Ayurveda in the Philippines?


Ayurveda certainly has come a long way in the Philippines, but Father Gnalian says a lot can still be done. As the person who introduced Ayurveda in the Philippines some 20 years ago when he arrived in the Philippines as a missionary of the east, Father Gnalian foresees Ayurveda as a good and affordable medical treatment for the masses.

He himself charges only a minimal fee of P200 to P300 per treatment, which may include also some of his homegrown herbal medicines. But his Panchakarma Therapy treatment is a whopping 14-week procedure which may cost up to P35,000. Not everyone has to go through such a long intensive treatment, however. It all depends on his/her specific illness. For those who do, though, miracles do happen. Cases of people who managed to walk after treatment, or having their diabetes, arthritis or hypertension eradicated are quite common here.


Father Gnalian looks forward to a time wherein Ayurveda can be accessed by all. “Currently, we have our herbal medicines imported from India,” he said. “But we are talking with the Department of Health to help us promote this medical treatment.” He also cited the problem of import taxes, wherein the medicines are taxed heavily by the government.


But for Father Gnalian, it is just a day’s work for the Lord, as well as doing His bidding to heal the sick among us. –KG, GMA News


Priest helps the sick, using a 5,000-year-old healing system

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Excerpts from Sunday Inquirer Magazine 2006

REVEREND Fr, Jacob Gnalian has treated about 400 snake victims in his native India. “All got well except one, which I did not want to accept because it was already too late.”

Fr Gnalian is no ordinary doctor, but a practitioner of the ancient healing system known as ayurveda.

The catholic priest and ayurveda doctor has been practicing in the Philippines for the past four years. Through the use of ayurvedic medicines, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, he says that difficult illnesses like diabetic, asthma, arthritis and hypertension can be cured.

Fr. Gnalian was born in Kerala, India in the 1940’s, According to him both his mother and father had a special talent in medicine. “They have secret herbal medicines, and its part of ayurveda but not the classic ayurveda, “ Fr, Gnalian explains. “My mother can cure hepatitis in three days, and my grandfather can heal different ailments like wounds and poisoning.” They got their healing knowledge from their ancestors, who passed it on to them, just as it was to conveyed to them by their ascendants.

Needed expertise

“ I was interested from the very beginning because I saw all that,” He explains, He saw for instance, how his grandfather healed bad cases of burning, Today, Fr. Gnalian relatives are his patients too. “ My mother is taking my prescribed medicines, and my bother-in-law who is highly diabetic, has been taking my prescription for four years, and now he is ok.”

When Fr. Gnalian goes on one of his yearly trips to India, he makes his diagnoses and prescription for family members who need his expertise, His siblings, three boys and tree girls, two of them are now religious sisters, are all based in India.

Gnalian’s birthplace of Kerala is asouthern state of India considered to be the center of Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old Vedic healing system

“Kerala is the strongest Christian community in the world” he says, “One of Christ’s apostles, St. Thomas went to India in 52 AD and started preaching the Christian message in South India, particularly in Kerela.” St Thomas supposedly establish seven churches and communities there, which allowed the Christian faith to flourish.

Since his elementary days. Fr Gnalian had felt the desire to “serve the people.” That is my mission,” he says.  Priesthood naturally came next, since for him it was the best way to fulfill his mission,

In the seminary, Fr Gnalian thoroughly studied the scripture and the mission of Christ. “While studying the scriptur, I learned that mission of Christ is healing – he didn’t spend so much time in the temple, he was always with the people, preaching to them and performing holistic healing , “ Christ healed the people of their physical, mental an spiritual afflictions. Likewise, the ayurvedic approach is not limited to looking at the symptoms of the patients, “but looking at the patient as a whole, to see the cause of the problem.”

Priest and doctor

Fr. Gnalian’s acharya (guru) was a Carmelite brother and doctor of ayurveda. When Fr. Gnalian was assigned to the brothers hospital for his pastoral experience , he got interested in the study, and began to learn from him. “I was under an acharya when I was in the seminary, and I learned Ayurveda as I studied for the priesthood, “Fr Gnalian recounts.

When he finished his studies, he began practicing Ayurveda. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1971 by His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Parecatil, Archbishop of Ernaculam, Kerala. As a priest and doctor, he would say mass at the church, then see his patients after wards. He did this for about 14 years until he moved to the Philippines in 1984 for pastoral work and for higher studies in philosophy an theology.

He was requested to come on a mission by the bishop of San Pablo. While in San Pablo, he pursued and completed an MA Degreee in oriental religious and cultures at the University of Sto Tomas. He remembers, “ I came to San Pablo to perish work in the diocese of Laguna; but when the mission was over, I felt that I was not complete, so now I do this, “ he says with a smile” He completed his doctorate thesis in Vedic Philosophy, the root of Ayurveda, also at UST, While serving as chaplain of various poor communities in Metro Manila.

Driven by his since desire to help people, Fr. Gnalian started the Missionaries of the East in the Philippines. He was a member of the Missionaries of the East in India. It is  religious organization that aims “ to continue Christ’s mission in fullness, that is, to heal the people through a holistic healing process.” The local organization currently has priests and laymen members.

Unusual clinic hours

In 2001, he establish the Sandhi Ayurveda clinic in Mandaluyong City, with help of his good friends, the late Rudy dela rama. Sandhi is a research center and health care facility that “offers cure for diseases for which conventional medicines has no effective remedy.”

Sandhi aims “to provide a healthcare program for those who cannot afford other forms of medical treatment due to their high cost.” Fr. Gnalian spends most of his time in the clinic, seeing patients for “as long as they are here,” he says, referring to the absence of usual clinic hours followed by other doctors.

The sandhi Ayurveda clinic brochure states that from the time the clinic opened in 2001, “many patients have been treated by numerous diseases – arthritis, asthma, diabetes, psoriasis,, eczema, and other skin problems, stone in the kidney, dysmenorrhea, eye problem, sinusitis, migraine, hypertension,  gastric ulcer and liver disorder; there has been no report of any side effect or complaints.

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