Of the many forms of alternative medicine currently in vogue in India, yoga and ayurveda almost certainly lead the pack- and both forms have much in common. Both, for instance, date back to over 5,000 years ago, and have a long history of carefully-researched and highly scientific reasoning to back them up. Both seek to integrate mind, body and soul for holistic healing, and both are increasingly gaining popularity as therapeutic sciences that aim to heal without causing harmful side effects.
Ayurveda' is derived from the two words 'ayu' ('age' or 'life') and 'veda' ('a knowledge of').
As is apparent from the word itself, ayurveda centers round a close understanding of life; and in the case of ayurveda, this means an intricate relationship between the many aspects of human life, both physical as well as mental and spiritual.
According to the tenets of ayurveda, the human body comprises of five basic elements- earth, fire, water, air and ether (space). Each of these elements is also present in the atmosphere surrounding humans, and their combination affects the human body and mind. These combinations include vatadosha (ether + air, which effects the nervous system, circulation, elimination and respiration); pittadosha (fire + water, which governs digestion and metabolism) and kaphadosha (water + earth, responsible for growth as well as for immunity).
Ayurveda bases itself on these three doshas, using the premise that each individual is a unique combination of the doshas, and any imbalance in this combination is the ultimate cause of all diseases. The cure for these diseases, then, lies in a customized cleansing process, tailor-made specifically for the affected individual. The cure is known as 'panchkarma' and it aims to treat the disease by eliminating accumulated toxins from the body. Panchkarma can take many different forms, ranging from special diets and oil massages to therapeutic vomiting and purgation.
Ayurvedic treatments, if rendered properly, can be very helpful in curing a range of illnesses and physical disorders, including asthma, diabetes, obesity, skin diseases, digestive disorders, joint disorders, allergies and more. Treating diseases of a complex type will obviously take much more than a mere weekend of ayurvedic massages, but a quiet 3 days (or even a week, if you can afford to spare the time) is good enough to get a very rejuvenating taste of what ayurveda is all about.
A huge number of ayurvedic resorts and spas are mushrooming all across India, and all of them offer a tempting range of packages to choose from. Some are specifically geared towards curing certain minor ailments, although most offer a short-term but highly intensive 'ayurveda package' which runs the gamut from oil massages and herbal steam baths to special diets and the pouring of medicinal oils on the forehead of the individual.