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Add balance to your life.

Byline: By Gabrielle Fagan

An ancient Indian health practice is the latest alternative treatment to grab celebrity attention.

Ayurveda, which originated over 5,000 years ago, has been adopted by health-conscious stars like Madonna and Sting. Other famous fans include Cindy Crawford, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jemma Kidd, who reportedly adjust their dietary plans and beauty regimes according to its principles.

These glamorous enthusiasts have given a high profile to the complementary healthcare system, which is far from being unproven or merely a fad enjoyed by the wealthy. Ayurveda is becoming one of the fastest-growing alternative medical treatments in the world.

Dr Suraj Dubey, an Ayurvedic practitioner and consultant for the Oberoi Hotel group, says Ayurveda is a complete healthcare system based on the principal belief that prevention is better than cure: "Whilst most healthcare systems focus on the human body and its diseases, Ayurveda treats the complete person ( mind, body and spirit."

He believes its increasing appeal in today's stressful times is due partly to people seeking drug-free alternatives to conventional medicine and wanting a more successful way of managing their own health issues.

His experience is backed by statistics which show one in five Britons uses complementary medicine and, according to a Mintel survey, one in 10 uses herbalism or homeopathy.

Dr Dubey says people often become devotees after first experiencing Ayurvedic treatment in spas: "I meet many people who believe they are not as well as they could be despite the attention they give to their health, fitness and diet.

"Often this is because their diet and lifestyle do not suit their individual body type. Once they identify this through Ayurveda, they can begin to balance their life and their body with amazing results."

What is Ayurveda?

The word Ayurveda literally translates as `the science of life'. The system has been traced and documented through ancient books of wisdom known as the Vedas.

Ayurveda treats the mind, body and spirit. It is based on the concept that we are only truly happy when all these three are in balance. As with all holistic healthcare, medicines, advice and treatment are tailored to individual needs.

What are the principles?

It aims to treat the patient rather than the illness, to prevent disease and promote health.

The essential ethos is that we are all part of nature and everyone has a unique body type made up of a mixture of five elements ( air, space, fire, water and earth.

These manifest in our bodies through three doshas or humours: vata (air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm). Each person usually has one or two dominant doshas. Doshas determine body type, character and constitution.

What are the three types?

* Vata (Air) types: Are likely to be creative, active, alert and restless. He or she will be small-boned and dry-skinned. With outgoing, chatty personalities, they make friends easily.

Ailments: Prone to dry skin, flaky scalp and frizzy hair.

Diet: They benefit from warm, moist, nourishing foods such as stews, creamy curries and porridge, which will help them avoid a mid-afternoon energy low.

Avoiding too many stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine, as well as external stimulants like loud music and violent movies, is recommended.

* Pitta (Fire) types: Are logical, critical and intelligent. Physically, they are usually medium-build. In personality they are competitive ( typical executive, A-types.

Ailments: Sensitive skin, an oily T-zone, perspiration, spots and odour are common complaints.

Diet: They should avoid processed, fatty or fried foods and eat more sweet, bitter vegetables such as carrots and leafy greens.

Overwork or eating too many spicy foods leaves them feeling burnt out ( they should take breaks during the day and add massages and meditation to their routine.

* Kapha (Earth) types: Tend to be calm, caring, family-minded and stable. They are generally heavily-built. In personality they enjoy routine, hate being pushed into decisions and are careful with their money.

Ailments: Open pores and blackheads are the earth type's obvious problem areas. Lack of exercise and cold, damp weather leaves them feeling tired and depressed. Diet: They have a tendency to over-eat and should eat small meals of low-fat foods, lightly cooked vegetables and sour fruits.

They can benefit from high-impact sports which make them sweat such as aerobics, cycling, running or tennis.

Practitioners believe that all ill health, both emotional and physical, is related to disturbances in the three doshas. For example, if Vata people are balanced, they will be vibrant, enthusiastic and imaginative. When they are out of balance, they could feel restless, tired, anxious and prone to certain disorders.

Using a blend of yoga, meditation, herbal medicine and dietary advice, an Ayurvedic practitioner will prescribe a treatment, unique to the patient, to help balance the doshas. Always seek advice from an expert before taking herbal remedies as some are not compatible with orthodox drugs.

Where can I find this therapy?

Ayurvedic medicine is not yet recognised within the National Health system but the Ayurvedic Medical Association (AMA UK), is a professional body for qualified Ayurvedic practitioners in the UK. Dr Sathiya Moorthy, association founder and general secretary, says: "Many people are disillusioned with conventional treatments which may only treat symptoms of an illness but leave the underlying cause untouched.

"A holistic approach, looking at the whole person and focusing on them as an individual rather than just the illness, can be often far more effective."

For more information call (0208) 682-3876.

Ayurvedic treatments are offered in many health centres and spas both here and abroad. See www.oberoihotels.com Two colleges in Britain, including Middlesex University, offer a degree level course in Ayurvedic medicine.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 11, 2005
Words:929
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