The EastWest® Way was created to harmoniously combine the time-honored traditional medicines of our heritage to combat some of the West’s most challenging and chronic common health concerns.
Bringing the wisdom of the East and the science of the West together for common health concerns is the key aspect of our philosophy as a brand. But you may not know that our foundations are firmly rooted in the wisdom of Ayurveda, an ancient traditional medicine system that’s been treating patients in the East for over 5000 years.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a holistic health system focused on the mind, body and spirit as one whole entity. Its name, derived from Sanskrit for life (ayur) science (veda) gives some idea of the focus of its philosophies, which use an all-encompassing approach to treat mind, body and spirit. Its methods are respected and revered throughout Asia and many of the principles and philosophies of Ayurveda can be closely linked with other traditional medical mediums such as Chinese medicine.
In contrast to the allopathic medical system, Ayurveda focuses on maintaining a healthy mind and body to actively prevent diseases from developing. It is a holistic methodology based on lifestyle rather than a single cause behind a disease, although treatments are used where there are ailments or conditions that require them. Many Ayurvedic disciplines and advice is based around strengthening the immune system and supporting the body to be naturally as healthy and happy as possible.
Where and when did Ayurveda originate?
Ayurveda’s initial origins date back thousands of years – it is so ancient in fact that its exact date of conception is now disputed. Ayurveda originated in what is now modern-day India, but traces of its influence have been found across South East Asia including Tibet, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. As it has been established for so long few people agree on exactly how old the practices of Ayurveda may be. Early sacred texts called the Vedas dating back to the 5th century detail and document Ayurveda techniques and practices.
Ayurveda has evolved over the years and become integrated with other traditional medical systems, but many of the principles and practices remain the same.
Personalized care and treatment
Like other Eastern traditional medicine disciplines, Ayurveda prioritises and champions the individual and takes a completely personalised approach to healing and health. An Ayurveda practitioner will very carefully study your current state of being and examine your lifestyle to tailor their approach to your needs. This is successful not only because it’s individually tailored to each person – but also because the treatments and new habits for lifestyle are more likely to stick when they’re based on your natural prakriti.
This is why many Western diets and fitness plans don’t work – because they’re ‘one size fits all’ when we each have our own likes, dislikes and limitations. In Ayurveda, practitioners work with who you are and what you have for successful, meaningful and lasting positive changes to your health and wellbeing.
In Ayurveda your character and constitution determine various key aspects of your state of health, including disease vulnerability, physiology and mental disposition. One principal tool used by Ayurveda practitioners to discover one’s constitution and required approach is the dosha system – comprised of three categories describing someone’s natural state of being. Usually a person is dominant in one dosha, sometimes two – and this informs the practitioner’s approach on how to treat or prevent illness. More on doshas and dosha types here.
What tools do we typically use in Ayurveda?
Ayurveda medicine is vast and therefore there are many treatments available, always using a combination of tools and techniques. The most commonly known in the West include the following – but there are many more to discover.
Herbs, spices and natural remedies have a huge role to play in the treatment of via Ayurvedic techniques. Whether they’re ground and brewed in a tincture, added to the diet in a supplementary capacity or stuffed into a poultice, Ayurveda practitioners love to use the bounty of nature’s harvest to treat and remedy a variety of ailments.
Some of Ayurveda’s star herbs and spices have found themselves in the spotlight/popularity in western wellness circles recently. These include adaptogens such as ashwhaganda and astragalus, herbs such as Tulsi or Holy Basil, and spices including Turmeric and ginger.
This is great news, as what Ayurveda practitioners have known for many years and the knowledge they have used is confirmed through scientific studies and research.
2. Celebrating the mind/body connection
Ayurveda does not treat the body and mind as separate from one another – instead, it sees them as two closely linked entities that strongly influence one another. Ayurveda treatments tend to focus on body and mind together, and many recommended practices and remedies (from herbal supplements to dietary recommendations) incorporate both the physical, emotional (and spiritual) aspects of the self.
One example of this is yoga. Yoga is massive in the West – but not many people realise that Yoga is just one part of the vast catalogue of Ayurveda. As one of its many disciplines designed to unify body and mind and focus on moving towards enlightenment, yoga can be just one of many treatments recommended by an Ayurveda practitioner. Yoga offers us strength and flexibility, but it also helps to quiet the mind and reconnect us with our inner life. It goes hand-in-hand with Pranayama (breath) and meditation. Ayurvedic medicine does not neglect the emotional and spiritual in favour of the physical. Instead it considers all aspects of the self in a holistic nature.
3. Body massage (abhyanga)
Massage therapy is more than a relaxation technique in Ayurveda. Abhyanga, or oil massage, has various benefits now confirmed by scientific studies. These include lymphatic drainage, muscle tension relaxation and stimulation of circulation. There are many different types of massage which are used depending on a person’s prakriti and health concerns. Ayurveda practitioners recommend abhyanga once a week at least, as frequently as once a day where needed.
Whilst there are treatments in Ayurveda that must be administered by practitioners themselves and specialists, it empowers the patient themselves to bring about lasting change and maintain a level of wellbeing through their daily routine and lifestyle changes.
How is Ayurveda applied today and used in modern medicine?
Ayurveda has stayed true to its roots despite the passage of time – so its employment today as a health system is very closely matched to the methodology of ancient Ayurveda practitioners thousands of years ago. Allopathic medical practitioners are now incorporating elements of Ayurveda into western treatments with great success.
In India it’s thought that 90% of people use some form of Ayurvedic medicine alongside or in lieu of modern medical treatments. But the Western world has been slow to adopt its teachings. Much of this hesitancy stems from the lack of studies and researches into Ayurveda methods and treatments. In the 1970s the World Health Organisation conducted a study on Ayurveda treatments focused on patients with rheumatoid arthritis which found them to be ‘both safe and effective’ in providing symptomatic relief without harmful side effects.
In Europe the EFCAM (European Federation for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) estimates over 100 million people in Europe now use complementary therapies and medicines to support their health. In the UK the NCAM is campaigning for it to be incorporated into allopathic treatment plans, especially where chronic illness is a concern – with university courses in Ayurveda available at Thames College in London.
As ‘alternative medicine’ practices such as Acupuncture become more widely accepted as viable treatments in the Western world, and with the chronic illnesses they treat on the rise, Ayurveda looks set to become increasingly popular in years to come, even if its practices are prescribed as therapeutic or supportive.
How can I apply the principles of Ayurveda to modern life?
Many of the principles of Ayurveda can be seamlessly incorporated into modern life with a little thought and effort. But many are pushed for the time and headspace needed to form new habits and create lasting change.
Supplementation with herbs and plant extracts is one of the most popular ways to introduce the benefits of Ayurveda into daily life to support improved health and wellbeing.