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Ayurveda - the science of life
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There is a renewed and growing interest in the many different natural therapies available - the re-discovery of the ancient and forgotten healing arts that use oils, herbs, crystals, meditation and the merging of ones self with nature, which are as old as humanity itself.

Originating in India several thousand years ago, Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine based on theories of health and illness and on ways to prevent, manage, or treat health problems. It uses herbs and oils to heal and rejuvenate.

The term Ayurveda combines two Sanskrit words - ayur, which means life, and veda, which means science or knowledge. Ayurveda means "the science of life."

To understand this ancient Indian therapy, a visit to Frank n Sense urban retreat is necessary. Located on Xinhua Road, the retreat is a home of true healing and a sanctuary for the international community in Shanghai.

The retreat provides ayurvedic marma energy treatment, ayurvedic marma point head massage and Shirodhara.

Shirodhara is one part or feature of Ayurveda. For any treatment to be effective, it is essential to know the body type so that the treatment can be tailored accordingly.

Before the beginning of the two-hour Shirodhara treatment, I was asked questions such as how stressed I was, my skin type, my sleep pattern and if I was easily frustrated by other people's incompetence.

General Manager Yoshiko Okada, a certified aromatherapist, advanced Reiki practitioner and Ayurveda healer, analyzed the consultation answers and said I was a Vata type.

Doshas (life force) are referred to in Sanskrit as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. They are the three fundamental operating principles in the physiology. Some people are single-dosha type but others are a two-dosha type. Practitioners seek to determine the primary dosha and the balance of doshas through questions that allow them to become very familiar with the client.

Okada mixed the essential oils best suited for me - the Vata type. The unique blend of vata oil includes geranium, clary sage, and cypress. The power of essential oils to affect emotions as well as physical states of ill-health has established them as a most important tool in the healing arts.

The treatment started with the 20-minute marma point head massage. Marma is a Sanskrit word meaning sensitive or vulnerable energy points, which we all have.

The vata oil was used during the massage. Focusing on the scalp, face and neck area, this massage is a relaxing and energizing massage which focused on the energy points and helped in releasing blocked energy. It is very effective for stressed-out people with no outlet, depressed and anxious people, and is very effective for insomnia.

Okada guided me to lie down on the treatment bed to begin the Shirodhara. It's sometimes referred to as the "massage of the third eye" which is considered one of the most powerful ayurvedic treatments available.

A steady stream of vata oil mixed with Shirodhara water is directed on the forehead in a unique therapy designed to relieve mental tension and provide ultimate relaxation for 45 minutes. It also rejuvenated the entire face and softened worry lines.

Regular Shirodhara enhances blood circulation to the brain, improves memory, nourishes hair and scalp, assists in providing sound sleep and calms the body and mind. It is also one of the most effective treatments for reducing stress and nervous tension.

Ayurveda gives us a model to look at each individual as having their own unique makeup of the three doshas and to thereby design treatment protocols that specifically address that person's health challenges. Ayurveda will suggest specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing the dosha if it has become excessive.

(Shanghai Daily March 18, 2008)

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