Dr Mishra, you are a doctor of Ayurvedic medicine and have for many years been helping people to cope with and resolve health problems using Ayurvedic healing methods. Can you give us a short overview of what the traditional Indian healing art of Ayurveda involves?
Ayurveda, the “knowledge of life”, is a very old science based entirely upon nature and upon natural processes. It is very comprehensive, but at the centre are always to be found the three principles of life, which we also call doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata is the principle of movement and speed; Pitta is the principle of transformation and energy; while Kapha is the principle of solidity and mass. These three principles, or fires of life, work together in our bodies, influencing and controlling every mechanism – including and especially those that go very deep. If the three principles are in - and kept in - balance, the body will work normally. If not, conditions occur in the body that favour the growth and spread of viruses and bacteria, resulting in sickness.
Do the three principles only work on a physical level, or are there corresponding effects on the mind too?
The three doshas of course describe not only physical principles, but also emotional and spiritual principles. Vata stands for enthusiasm, Pitta for curiosity and Kapha for tolerance. To ensure we remain healthy and strong it is also necessary to maintain a balance between the three doshas on a mental and emotional level.
You are famous, not only in India, but also in various European countries as an excellent diagnostician. Guests here at the Hotel Engel can request a consultation with you. What does such a consultation involve?
First of all I try to discover which is the predominant dosha in a person. All three doshas are always present and always in flux, continuously altering during the course of the day: in the morning it is Vata that is predominant, at noon it is Pitta, then Kapha in the evening: up and down, rather like a wave. This up and down occurs in each individual cell, each molecule of our body, producing a movement there that can be read from the pulse. A pulse diagnosis therefore tells us to what extent Vata, Pitta and Kapha are out of balance. I also work from a detailed questionnaire covering each guest’s medical history and I look at each person as a whole: what sort of constitution do they have and what is their emotional state? For example, Vata people are mentally very active and flexible. They have dry skin and often suffer from constipation. Kapha types, however, often tend to be overweight and have oily skin. External features and recognisable character traits help us to understand which dosha is in surplus or deficit.
What happens after the initial consultation?
The next step is to select appropriate foods in order to resolve the imbalance, as the various foods and the way they are prepared can also be associated with either Vata, Pitta or Kapha. We distinguish a total of twenty properties, such as cold and hot, solid and liquid, dry and oily and the like that are present in the body just as they are in foods. Legumes are regarded as dry, while raw vegetables are airy. Both increase Vata. Should there be an excess of Vata in the body, these foods are to be avoided and instead oilier foods consumed, for example eggs and cheese. Conversely a person with excess Kapha should avoid oily foods and red meat.
So each guest receives a personal diet plan with your consultation?
Yes, precisely. This is immediately set in motion in the kitchen at the Hotel Engel so that the massages, yoga, oil sprays and other treatments during the stay can best develop their full effect. When working out a diet plan, I take as far as possible account of any personal likes or dislikes. I also work with available local foodstuffs, herbs and spices. This is important, because an Ayurvedic diet should ideally become part of the guests’ everyday life even after their departure. It thus makes little sense for a nutrition plan to include foods and spices that are hard to find in Europe.
What role does exercise play?
Movement and breathing exercises are the second pillar of the Panchakarma, the Ayurvedic therapy. Depending on the body type, I select suitable exercises together with the patient with the aim of stimulating the organs and eliminating the toxins present. The sequence consists of stretching and breathing exercises, as well as physical exercises, and will not usually last longer than 10 to 15 minutes. It is not necessary to set aside hours on end for this - but it is vital to find the time to perform the exercises each day!
Ayurveda is not an exclusive or secret science - it is a way of life, a way of arranging our everyday lives so that mind and body are in balance and we remain healthy. Excess in one characteristic always means a shortfall in another, leading to tension, imbalance - and ultimately to illness. Our aim is to maintain or restore the balance between the three doshas so that sickness will not occur in the first place.