What to expect from an Ayurvedic consultation
Before discussing what to expect from a consultation, let's briefly consider the aim of Ayurvedic treatment.
According to Ayurveda, the human body comprises three vital elements: doshas, dhatus and malas.
Doshas are the three biological energies (vata, pitta, kapha) that govern physiological activities within the body. Two of the five great elements dominate each dosha: vata (space + air), pitta (fire + water), and kapha (water + earth).
Dhatus are the seven bodily tissues that create the form and structure of the body and comprise rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), medas (lipids), asthi (bone), majja (bone marrow) and sukra (reproductive fluids).
Malas are three types of waste substances formed in the body via metabolic and digestive functions. They include Mutra (urine), Purisa (faeces), and Sveda (sweat).
In addition to the three vital elements, Ayurveda pays close attention to agni (the digestive fire) and srotas (bodily channels).
Agni is a collective word for the digestive enzymes, acids and bile that determine our ability to digest, absorb and assimilate food.
Srotas are the channels within the body through which the dosha, dhātu and mala circulate.
A qualified practitioner will determine the exact nature of the disease with particular reference to each of these aspects involved in its manifestation. They will formulate a bespoke treatment plan to balance the three vital elements, clear any obstructions, and restore a healthy digestive fire.
The starting point of successful treatment is an accurate diagnosis. Ayurvedic medicine uses a wide variety of diagnostic methods, but in general, it consists of the following: observation/looking (darshana), palpitation or touch (sparshana), and questioning (prashana).
Observation (Darshan) refers to observing the patient. There are numerous key indicators that an Ayurvedic practitioner may observe from the patient's physical appearance and movements to identify the imbalance.
Palpation or touch (Sparsha) means touching or tactile perception and is used to confirm the findings of the visual observation. Other diagnostic methods include sound observation in which breathing and the function of the stomach and bowel, for instance, can be observed.
Questioning (prashana) takes up a large part of the consultation. You will be encouraged to share details about your diet, digestion, elimination, sleep, daily routines, lifestyle habits, relationships, work, medical history, and family medical history.
It can be uncomfortable to share certain aspects of yourself. However, obtaining this information is crucial as it enables the practitioner to piece together a picture, pinpoint the likely cause of the disorder (nidana) and form an accurate Ayurvedic diagnosis.
Ayurveda places great importance on the nidana. It seeks to identify and remove the root cause of the disorder to eliminate the disease effectively rather than act as a band-aid to the symptoms. A simple analogy for this is the stream feeding a pond. We can remove the pond, but unless we remove the stream, the pond will keep reappearing. We, therefore, need to assess what factors could be causing the imbalances and take steps to eliminate them.
Unlike modern medicine's one size fits all approach, Ayurveda recognises the uniqueness of the individual and provides a completely bespoke treatment plan that considers their presenting symptoms, prakriti (constitution), vikruti (current imbalance), and bala (strength of the disorder). A personalised treatment plan will include appropriate dietary and lifestyle advice and, if necessary, supportive herbal medicines and therapies to restore patients to their unique balance.
Early intervention increases the probability of successful treatment. In other words, prevention is better than cure, so it is wise to address any niggling symptoms when they first arise.