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Strengthening immunity with Indian alternative medicine
According to Ayurveda, there are five basic energies: water, fire, air, earth and ether, which make up the entire universe and by combining them, the three basic energy characteristics or doshas are created: vata, pitta and khapa. According to the Indian Vedas, we are born with these doshas in perfect balance and when there is a misalignment of these doshas, then we experience various pains, illnesses and diseases.
The aim of Ayurveda is then to bring the doshas back into balance, which is done primarily by cleansing the body. While in the West we are mainly concerned with the external purification of our body, in Ayurveda the emphasis is also on the internal purity. This is done using Panchkarmas,
five treatments that help get rid of stored toxins, release the flow of blocked energy, and even help alleviate the symptoms of chronic illness or pain.
In this article, we will learn about three practices: basti – enema, dhauti – vomiting, and neti – nasal cleansing. However, Ayurveda includes a wider range of methods and treatments, namely: aroma and music therapy or massage, and Ayurvedic dietary supplements in the form of herbs and minerals help to balance the mind and body. Ayurveda also emphasises a healthy lifestyle, especially to ensure that the effects of the treatments are long-lasting.
For the following techniques, the first attempts should absolutely take place under the supervision of an Ayurvedic teacher.
Enema: an ancient way of cleansing the intestines
Enema is a fundamental cleansing method in Indian medicine, which believes that it is the impurity of the digestive tract that is the source of disease. This healing method has been known since ancient Egypt and was also used in China and Greece.
In the past, people used their rectal muscles to suck water from the river into their intestines and let it flow out of the river again; the modern form is the enema. In Sanskrit, an enema is called a basti and is performed with warm oil rather than water (as in colonic hydrotherapy), as water dries out the bowel and can make problems worse. Due to the properties of the oil, this procedure is not performed on its own and a special syringe is used instead of a traditional enema. For the basti, sesame oil is used as a base, but salons also add various medicinal herbal decoctions. It is good to keep the oil in the body for a few minutes, after which it is possible to go to the toilet.
The warm oil softens, crumbles and removes stool residues, parasites, mucus and other waste matter from the intestinal mucosa, which leads to harmonization of the whole body. In Indian medicine, it is believed that gut health is closely related to the bones.
Enema therefore has a positive effect on diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, counteracts thinning of bones and helps in nervous disorders as well. Primarily it is used to treat chronic constipation, irritable bowel, remove toxic waste materials for better absorption of nutrients and helps stimulate bowel peristalsis.
It is recommended to drink plenty of water, limit meat, eggs, milk, baked goods and eat a mostly vegetable diet for a smooth treatment. The enema is best performed in the evening or morning. In the evening it is a good idea to eat nothing for at least two hours beforehand, and in the morning come on an empty stomach and drink only minimally. It is a good idea to repeat the bastis at least three times, and in early succession. Prepare a liner, as the remaining oil may drip off.
Dhauti: by vomiting against stomach acidity
This technique is otherwise known as gadjakarna. Its name comes from the word elephant (=gadj). When an elephant is sick, it sticks its trunk deep into its esophagus and sucks out the contents of its stomach. It works in the same way in humans: it helps with upset stomachs, for example when we have eaten something spoiled, or when the stomach is over-acidic. It even has a positive effect on asthma and food allergies, and removes bad breath.
For this technique we will need two litres of warm water (40 °C) in which we dissolve one teaspoon of salt. In an upright posture, gradually drink all the water, glass by glass, bending over slightly and pressing the left hand lightly on the abdomen and pushing the index and middle fingers of the right hand down the throat to induce vomiting. All the water comes out in thirty seconds. Perform the technique on an empty stomach no more than twice a week. It is not performed when the blood pressure is high and the intraocular pressure is elevated. It is also not suitable for anyone suffering from eating disorders.
Néti: a clean nose thanks to a teapot
There are two types of neti – jala neti and sutra neti. Sútra néti is the cleansing of the nasal cavities using a waxed strip of cotton or a rubber catheter. Some practice is required for this technique, and it should therefore be practiced for the first time under the guidance of a yoga teacher. This technique is suitable for people with narrowed nostrils, and consequent breathing problems. Like jala neti, this sutra thoroughly clears the entire nose. However, unlike sutra néti, jala néti can also be performed alone. All we need is a specially shaped teapot for the néti.
Prepare a salt solution – dissolve about one teaspoon of salt in one litre of warm water (38 to 40 °C). Pour this solution into the neti pot, bend over the sink and tuck the beak of the neti pot into your right nostril to close it. Tilt the head slightly forward and at the same time to the left side so that the water flows out through the left nostril. Breathe through the open mouth.
Let about half of the contents of the teapot flow in this way and blow the remaining water first through the right, then the left and finally through both nostrils at once. Repeat on the other side. Make sure to breathe with your mouth open, otherwise the water will get into your ears. If your nasal mucosa burns during the procedure, either the water is too cold or the solution is too salty.
It is a good idea to perform the technique regularly, preferably every morning. Neti has a positive effect on the activity of all the sensory organs in the head area, counteracts fatigue, improves concentration and memory, and even helps with headaches. By clearing the nasal cavities, it acts as a prevention against colds and inflammation of the frontal and nasal sinuses, and can help with chronic rhinitis and allergies. Contraindications to this technique are: acute colds, sinusitis and earaches.