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