Dipl. pedagogue, practitioner of alternative medicine and medical Ayurveda specialist
Oliver Becker is a certified pedagogue, alternative practitioner and Ayurveda physician and practices in his own naturopathic practice. At the European Academy for Ayurveda he works as a lecturer, medical spa manager, interpreter and module leader in the course of studies Ayurveda medicine. He has profound knowledge and experience in Ayurveda, Vedic sciences, Sanskrit and Yoga.
The Ayurvedic technical term āma is used in different contexts, a circumstance that repeatedly leads to misunderstandings. Thus, the term āma can denote a pathological metabolic intermediate, an accumulation of waste products or a certain stage of disease.
Of particular relevance to the lecture topic is the former meaning: āma as a pathological (i.e., abnormal) metabolic intermediate that arises due to a weakened jāṭharāgnis in the digestive tract, spreads throughout the body via rasa, and in this way causes disease (including autoimmune disease).
Simply put, āma can be thought of as improperly digested food. The central digestive fire, weakened by certain factors in diet and lifestyle, is no longer able to carry out the normal digestion of food. Thus, incomplete structures ("immature" material substances or molecules called āma) arise in the digestive tract, which have a tendency to combine with any body components (doṣas, dhātus, upadhātus, and srotas) and interfere with their normal functioning.
Āma thus causes pathological changes in healthy structures and functions in the body. In addition, āma also interferes with the normal effect of therapies and medications. It is therefore important to first carefully examine each patient for āma before starting any therapy and to eliminate this, if present, by specific therapeutic measures (laṅghana and āma-pācana: agni relief and āma decoction) before starting other therapies.
Important: Only sick people can have āma, but not every sick person has āma.
The following clinical manifestations indicate the presence of āma in a patient:
Loss of appetite, stiffness, heaviness, unexplained fatigue and sluggishness, digestive disturbances and altered bala (altered resistance and immunity).
Due to the latter symptom, it seems only logical to also treat autoimmune processes on the basis of the Ayurvedic āma concept. The clinical successes confirm the correctness of this assumption.
The lecture will explain the main features of the āma concept, the therapeutic approach to āma and its particular implementation in autoimmune diseases.
The Ayurvedic technical term rasayana can be simply interpreted as an anti-aging measure. Behind it lies a complex and proven concept that uses different practical approaches and is applied both preventively and therapeutically.
Important components of rasayana therapy are:
- daily routine measures including healthy activities
- healthy eating
- a lifestyle adapted to the qualities of the seasons
- internal cleansing of the body
- Substances with rasayana effect
- ethical living
The Caraka-samhita, one of the most important classical Ayurvedic texts, defines rasayana as a means to achieve excellence of rasa, etc. Central to this definition is the concept of dhatu-parinama (transformation of dhatus), the complex process of transforming nutrients from food into body structure. This process takes place continuously in the body and ensures that our essential structural body components (dhatus, upadhatus and ojas) can regenerate continuously.
Ideally, a rasayana treatment produces the following general effects in the body:
- Balance of the dosas
- control of agni, in particular the dhatvagnis
- normal function of the srotas
- specific nutrition of the dhatus
This results in a cell regenerating effect.
Certain substances also have a rasayana effect. In the ayurvedic substance teachings dravyaguna-vijnana the term rasayana is used as a special seal of quality, a specific pharmacological effect (karma) or special expertise of only a few substances from the field of food, medicinal plants, minerals and metals.
The lecture will present some important rasāyana substances from the field of food and phytotherapeutics:
- Cow's milk
- Amalaki (Emblica officinalis)
- Guduci (Tinospora cordifolia)
- Mandukaparni (Hydrocotyle asiatica)
Yoga as a therapeutic element in Ayurveda medicine - overview and example from clinical practice
Oliver Becker Dipl.-Päd. HP
Ayurveda and Yoga originate from the Vedic tradition. Both systems pursue the same goal, namely to enable people to live a happy life on all levels. Ayurveda is more moderate, even worldly oriented, the yogic approach is more strict, focussing on the spiritual liberation (mokṣa) of the human being. While Ayurveda medicine focuses primarily on the health of the body in addition to the consideration of psychological elements, the yoga tradition is a comprehensive science of the mind with a variety of approaches to systematic mental development.
Ayurveda has always used a variety of yoga elements both preventively (svasthavṛtta = health maintenance) and therapeutically (cikitsā = therapy). In fact, continuous yoga practice is an integral part of an Ayurvedic way of life and can therefore not really be called a therapeutic element. Thus, Ayurveda recommends the regular morning practice of the following yoga techniques as part of daily routine (dinacaryā): jala-neti (yogic nasal rinsing to prevent problems of the upper respiratory tract), āsana (physical exercises), prāṇāyāma (breathing exercises) and dhyāna (meditation). These form a comprehensive daily fitness program for body and mind.
In addition, the classical Ayurvedic texts vividly emphasize the great importance of a morally superior way of life (so-called ācāra-rasāyana; the practice of values that are generally considered good) as a foundation for stable health, recommendations that are called yama or niyama in yoga. The Caraka-saṃhitā (with the most important classical Ayurveda text) even emphasises the anti-aging effect of such behaviours as not hurting other beings, truthfulness, helpfulness, compassion, self-control etc.
Vegetarianism is an important foundation for the successful practice of higher yoga, which strives for the subtle unfolding of the mind. Even though Ayurveda does not explicitly promote vegetarianism, Ayurveda considers a vegetarian lifestyle to be extremely beneficial to health.
The above examples show the high value Ayurveda places on regular yoga practice as the foundation for a long, healthy and happy life.
Ayurveda also uses the concept of the individual constitution (prakṛti) The mental constitution (mānasa-prakṛti) is determined on the basis of the dominance of triguṇas (three qualities = sattva, rajas and tamas). This theory originates from the saṃkhya system, on which Yoga is also based.
In Ayurveda medicine, disease treatment is carried out through a synthesis of rational (yuktivyapāśraya), subtle (daivavyapāśraya) and psychological (sattvāvajaya) approaches.
Especially in ayurvedic psychotherapy, among other things, the entire range of yoga instruments is used to clear and tone the mind of the patient. This is intended to create a favourable (sattva-promoting and rajas-tamas-controlling) mental milieu and thus improve the effect of other psychological therapy methods.
Ayurveda medicine also uses techniques of the āsana 6 yoga (āsana and prāṇāyāma) in the therapy of certain chronic diseases of the body (such as diabetes mellitus, ankylosing spondylitis, essential hypertension, bronchial asthma etc.) within the framework of rational therapy. However, its application is more complementary to the support of other specific Ayurvedic therapies such as internal and external cleansing procedures, nutritional and orderly therapy and drug recommendations. Especially the breathing techniques of yoga are an effective complementary therapeutic tool for a variety of problems, especially cardiovascular diseases, diseases of the respiratory tract, stress disorders as well as psychosomatic and psychological problems.
In the workshop, the above contents will be explained in more detail and finally rounded off with an example (patient case) from clinical practice.
According to WHO estimates, the number of diabetics worldwide has almost doubled from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. The majority of patients suffer from type 2 diabetes. The number of type 2 diabetics increases with the extent of over-nutrition.
This results in major challenges for patients and the health care system alike. In diabetics, the complication rate for myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke is about 2 to 3 times higher. The risk of other dangerous secondary diseases (e.g. diabetic foot syndrome, diabetic retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy) is also high. Diabetes mellitus is a disease that significantly limits the life expectancy and quality of life of patients. Therapy, especially of complications, is costly.
In the Ayurvedic source texts the classical clinical picture madhumeha is found as the equivalent of diabetes mellitus. Madhumeha can be translated as "excessive (honey)sweet urine flow". As in conventional medicine, Ayurveda differentiates between two subspecies: kṛśa-pramehī (corresponds to type 1 diabetes) and sthūla-pramehī (corresponds to type 2 diabetes). Both types are considered prognostically incurable, but therapeutically controllable (so-called yāpya classification).
Also from an Ayurvedic point of view, diabetes mellitus is a lifestyle disease. For the development of madhumeha, Ayurveda describes various etiological factors (hetus) from the areas of nutrition and behaviour. Also a genetic component (especially in type 1) is mentioned in the classical texts. The described causes lead to the provocation of doṣas (especially vāta and kapha), which finally, due to a disturbance of the transport spaces (srotas), locate themselves in various weakened structures (dūṣyas) of the body and damage them. Madhumeha is a multi-organ disease. In diabetes all dhātus as dūṣyas (damaged body components) are involved in the pathogenesis. Also ojas is involved. This shows the complexity of the disease.
Despite this complexity, Ayurvedic medicine offers effective, clinically proven therapy concepts for diabetes mellitus as well as for the chronic complications of the disease. Also in the field of prevention Ayurveda offers numerous simple but effective recommendations to prevent the development of diabetes mellitus. Especially for people with a family history of diabetes, following preventive recommendations is especially important.
Although Ayurveda cannot reverse an existing insulin obligation, the insulin dose can often be significantly reduced by Ayurveda therapy and a healthy lifestyle of the patient.
As proven therapy elements for diabetes, Ayurvedic medicine uses above all physical cleansing therapies (śodhana), various remedies (especially with bitter = antidiabetic taste), an individualised nutrition and order therapy, rasāyana therapies as well as techniques for mental harmonisation. For the therapy of the chronic complications of diabetes mellitus there are specific therapy procedures.
If the diabetes is very pronounced, an in-patient therapy is initially preferable. Later, or if the disease is milder, outpatient therapy is also possible.
In the workshop the above contents will be explained in more detail and further elaborated. The etiopathogenesis, symptomatology, therapy strategy as well as the therapeutic principles of diabetes mellitus from an Ayurvedic point of view will be presented. Preventive recommendations are also addressed.