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Ayurvedic Approach to a Healthy Heart

by Vishal Kohli (BAMS) and Mr Sanil Pillai(more info)

listed in ayurveda, originally published in issue 107 - January 2005

Life in the 21st century is very fast and demanding, especially in developed countries and big cities. When we say demanding it means physically, mentally and emotionally. Ayurveda believes that emotions or matters of your heart do matter to the health of your heart. 'The Heart' or Hriday is the seat of prana (life energy). The heart is also the seat of ojas, (essence of all body tissues) and the substance within us that maintains life and promotes bliss and longevity. Hence heart is among the three most vital portions in the body.

Ayurveda is a science based on ancient Indian philosophy. Ayurveda promotes healthy living. It is as much concerned with the normal condition as with the abnormal. Being a science of healing, it concentrates on what is required to lead a healthy and happy life. It deals not only with what is to be done when one falls prey to a disease, but also with what should be done to maintain one's health and vigour and prevent any possible ailments. Ayurveda contains details about body care and the various foods and drinks, which promote health. It also contains details about ways through which body could be purified of its impurities. Through the means of panchakarma (includes massages, enemas and other therapies) the bodily impurities are thrown out of the body and through the means of yoga and pranayam the mental/psychological impurities are thrown out.

Ayurveda believes that the body is governed by three humours or doshas called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Heart health is also governed by three sub-doshas (humours) – Sadhaka Pitta (emotional balance), Avalambaka Kapha (stability, strength and sense of security) and Vyana Vata (blood flow and beat). The heart is believed to be the seat of the mind and excessive emotional stress is harmful for it.

The causes of heart disease as mentioned in Ayurveda are three-fold. These are classified under: asatmyaindriyartha samyog (either improper, less or excess sensory perception), pradnyapradha (improper conduct) and parinam (changes in the mind and body occurring due to 'time').[1]

Following are the specific causes of heart disease:[2]

• Excessive consumption of food having heavy, dry, frozen, bitter and astringent qualities;
• Excessive physical exertion;
• Excessive purgation and enema;
• Anxiety;
• Fear;
• Mental stress;
• Side effect of wrong medication;
• Suppression of natural urges;
• External Injury.

Ayurveda classifies heart disorders into five types:

Vata type, pitta type, kapha type, tridosha type and Krumija hridroga type.[3]

Ayurveda promotes the Vedic lifestyle for the protection of the health of an individual and to prevent the relapse of a disease if one suffers from any. The vital organs like the heart, etc., when affected cause major illnesses and only medicinal treatment or surgical treatment is not enough to get relief from such life-threatening ailments. A modified lifestyle has to be a part of the treatment to prevent any relapse of it. Following the old methods of Vedic lifestyle will help in the prevention and also in the recovery process of a disease.

Unlike modern medicine, which considers the brain as the ultimate centre of control, Ayurveda considers heart as the seat of human consciousness. Clinically it is a common event of myocardial infarction after a heavy emotional load, anxiety! The sedentary and sluggish lifestyle, the lack of proper exercise, physical or emotional trauma, congenital or hereditary factors, suppressed emotions or excess strain and anxiety are cited as other causes for the high incidence of heart disease. The western diet with its sweet and salty food, animal fats and fried foodstuff makes one prone to heart attacks.

Let's look at a holistic approach to heart health.

Strategies for Preventing Heart Disease – an Ayurvedic Perspective.

Ayurveda lays down basic principles for the maintenance of normal positive health and certain preventive measures against the cardiac aliments.

The foremost principle is called nidaan parivarjana (eliminating the disease-specific causes). As mentioned earlier the causes are threefold. To eliminate the first cause, one should be alert in the sensory perception. Hearing, touch, seeing, taste and smell – all these sensory processes should be within limits and not overdone.

The second cause can be eliminated by proper conduct (yama and niyama of Ashtanga yoga.)

Changes occurred due to passage of time, and seasonal variations, though not eliminated, can be lessened and prevented by detoxifying therapies (panchakarma). These changes may include collection of toxins in the body, stress, etc.

What is Panchakarma and How Can it Help?

The preventive strategies are further classified into two: Shamana (Pacifying Therapies) and Shodhana (Eliminating Therapies or the Panchakarma).

Panchakarma where panch means five and karma means methods of doing. Panchakarma means the five eliminative methods of detoxifying the body.

Furthermore, classification of panchakarma is as follows:

Shodhana (Detoxifying):

Therapy includes five major categories namely:

1. Vamana (Medicated Emesis). Vitiated humours (toxins) are thrown away by oral route. Mainly performed in vitiated kapha type conditions;

2. Virechana (Medicated Purgation). Vitiated pitta type humours are eliminated by purgative therapy;

3. Vasti (Medicated Enema). As vata is the predominant factor in causing heart disease, medicated enema carries utmost importance as it tackles vitiated vata type humours;

4. Nasya. Administrating drugs by nasal route to detoxify the head and neck region;

5. Raktamokshana (blood letting). Toxins in the blood/lymph are removed with the help of leeches, syringe, and therapeutic pricking.

(Note: All the above mentioned procedures may sound violent and aggressive, but these are basic detoxifying procedures carried out smoothly for thousands of years which give miraculous results. If wanted, these can be omitted and a person can be managed on herbal drug therapy and pre-procedures mentioned below without any compromise in the results.)

There are pre-procedures and post-procedures done before and after any of the above five main karmas.

Pre-procedures:

Oleation/Snehana: Medicated oils taken internally and/or applied externally to the whole body according to one's constitution and digestive capacity.

Sudation/Swedana: After oleation, sudation is done for the medicated oil to be absorbed inside the skin.

Post-procedures

Diet according to your constitution and rejuvenating herbal preparations are given.

Other Procedures Indicated

Hrudvasti: This procedure is applied over the heart (externally on the chest) for 20 to 40 minutes using warm medicated oils or herbal decoctions.

This is done to achieve strengthening of the heart, its muscles and valves, improves cardiac rhythm and functioning and relieves deep-seated anger, sadness and unresolved emotions.

Abhyanga: Massage with medicated oils the head and the whole body. The vital points are stimulated and it helps in the rejuvenation.

This is done to reduce fatigue, body ache, stress and to help libido. It is carried out as a pre-procedure in snehana and shirodhara.

Shirodhara: A continuous stream of medicated warm oil/herbal decoctions/ medicated milk/buttermilk (changes according to one's constitution and the type of heart disease) is poured onto the forehead for 20 to 60 minutes. This procedure often induces a mental state similar to a trance, which creates profound relaxation of the mind and body. It is deeply relaxing and revitalizes the central nervous system. Shirodhara gives the best results when taken after an Abhyanga.

This will work against anxiety, depression, hypertension, diabetes, central nervous system related disorders and strengthen the sensory organs. Also works against insomnia, stress, cardiac arrhythmia, fear and mood disorders.

Lepan: External application of natural body mask with herbs (like chandan, yastimadhu, kachora, kumkum, karpur, etc).

This will provide relief from burning sensations, severe perspiration, nausea and vomiting.

Note: Medicated warm oil/herbal decoctions/medicated milk/buttermilk used in the above-mentioned procedures depends upon the constitution of one's body, stage of the disease, season, age and sex and should be performed under supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor.

Is Preventive Panchakarma for You?

• If you are an individual with a history of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, blood-related disorders, heart disease or hypertension from your maternal/ paternal sides;
• If you are in a job involving stress (mental and/or physical);
• If you have a sedentary job and lifestyle;
• If you are approaching old age;
• If you have been smoking for a long time;
• If you are an alcoholic;
• If you are obese.

(Note: All the above have a higher chance of heart disease if they have a family history of heart disease.)

How does Panchakarma Detoxify?

Due to oleation and sudation (pre-procedures), the toxins accumulated from head to toe leave their place and start moving into the gastrointestinal tract. This is due to osmotic pressure changes induced in the body. When the toxins get accumulated in the large intestine it is eliminated by virechana (medicated purgation) or vasti (medicated enema), if the toxins accumulate in the stomach they are eliminated by vamana (medicated emesis).

Let's look at a hypothetical case where Panchakarma can help:

A 30 year-old software engineer, working 12 hours a day, giving a family history of heart disease, comes with complaints of hyperacidity, headache, stress, body ache, fatigue, a slight rise in blood pressure, decrease in appetite and fever.

Even if any of the three complaints are presented, the patient shows signs of early pathogenesis of a heart disease in the forthcoming years of his life.

The progression of this vicious cycle of accumulation of toxins leading into a heart disease can be prevented by panchakarma, as mentioned above, and pacifying therapies (shamana).

Shamana (Pacifying Therapies):

As mentioned earlier, a sedentary and sluggish lifestyle, the lack of proper exercise, physical or emotional trauma, etc., causes various toxins (physical and mental) to accumulate in the body organs. This process of accumulation of toxins is prevalent in every individual and hence shamana therapy is recommended to all.

Shamana pacifies and digests the responsible humours (doshas) and toxins. Hridroga or heart disease can be prevented by internal medicines. Choice of the herbal drug (herbs, oil, ghee, decoction, powder, paste) or a combination, depends upon many factors, such as, body prototype age, sex, humours, causes, stage of the pathogenesis, digestive capacity (agni) and the season. This should be taken only under professional guidance from a qualified Ayurvedic doctor.

Meditation

An extended period of rest or reduced activity, both physical and mental, is recommended to cardiac patients. Here meditation plays an important role, as it is one of the best ways to relax, dissolve stress and allow the body to heal. It calms the mind, nerves and emotions. As far as possible one should avoid stress, emotional worries and anxiety. You can use it to examine/understand what you really want to do in life. Give up anger, aggression and assertion. Do 20 minutes of meditation once a day. Do not try to 'force' meditation. You should enjoy it rather than doing it for the sake of it, which in turn can result in additional stress.

Yoga

Of the eight steps of yoga (Ashtanga yoga), first four viz. yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama carry importance in preventing and managing heart ailments. Yama and niyama controls excessive emotions. Asana (eg. shavasana) and pranayama looks after endocrinological, metabolic and other physical aspects.

Vyayam (Exercise)

A sedentary lifestyle provokes pathology of heart disease. For maintaining a healthy heart, daily light exercises like brisk walking, swimming, etc., are important. Avoid heavy exercise. You don't have to do a strenuous workout five times a week. Follow the Ayurvedic principle of bala-ardh (exercising to half your capacity) every single day without straining your muscles. Minimize unwanted travel.

Diet

Ayurveda always advises diet that is easy to digest, warm and freshly prepared. Stomach-full of food is always prohibited. An ideal Ayurvedic portion is what fits in the two-cupped palms. Eating three meals a day, (breakfast, dinner and lunch) trains your digestion to anticipate and digest your food. Taxing your digestion by eating late at night or eating a heavy meal at dinner is not advisable.

Dietary Recommendations

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. Include mature pomegranate, apple, orange and grape fruits or juices in your daily diet. A spoon of specially prepared avla a day keeps your heart pumping miles on the runway. Decoction of 'Arjuna-Usheera-Rose Mix' is particularly beneficial for vata or pitta related heart imbalances. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables cooked with Ayurvedic spices (marich- saindhavadi powder). Stimulate a sluggish digestion with fresh ginger and rock salt or a spoonful of Shunthi-Lavana powder or Talisadi powder. A handful of wheat, rice, barley, oats, corn, chicken or mutton soup prepared in marich- saindhavadi powder should be taken daily.

Sleep

The quantity and quality of your life according to Ayurveda depends upon the three basic pillars i.e. diet (ahar), sleep (nidra), abstinence from sex (bramhacharya). Deep sleep without breaking the continuity and without any dreams is an ideal sleep pattern, where the sense organs, mind and soul disintegrate and go to rest. A proper sleep pattern can be judged by early morning freshness and willingness to work. Go to bed by 10 pm so that the body is at rest during the natural purification period from 10 pm to 2 am. Practice of good bedtime habits: Keep your bedroom clear from distractions like television, computers, etc; Maintain temperature that is comfortable and stay away from stimulants in the evening; Avoid taking sleep-inducing tablets as they are habit-forming and have hazardous side-effects; Sleep disorders can be treated and prevented by a small dose of bramhi-jatamansi herbal powder; Abhyanga and Shirodhara according to one's body type may be done at least twice a week to prevent and treat sleep-related disorders.

Life-Style Recommendations

If you can't handle stressful situations without feeling strain, avoid them. Remember to take breaks during the day if you have a stressful job. A daily warm oil massage with hridyataila (specially prepared oil for cardiac patients which also is a rejuvenator) is recommended. Ayurvedic herbal rejuvenators like amlakiadi rasayan are recommended every day as it nourishes and strengthens the myocardial tissues. Practise easy, smooth deep breathing regularly in the mornings.

Ayurveda talks about ojas, (the essence of all tissues) which has its seat in the heart. It is the finest by-product of digestion and the master coordinator of all activities of mind and body, which leads to bliss, contentment, vitality and longevity. Spend time everyday on those activities that give you contentment and happiness. Listen to soothing or uplifting music (ears), enjoy serene natural beauty (eyes), practice uplifting aromatherapy (nose), and sip relaxing herbal teas (tongue) according to the type of heart disease, eg. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, spending time with your loved ones and family and fulfilling your duties (mind and soul).

Treatment

Treatment in Ayurveda is patient specific and hence differs from patient to patient. An ayurvedic physician uses his knowledge and skill to assess the constitution of the patient, find the level of doshas and toxins in the body, and the course and extent of disease process.

The physician, after coming to a diagnosis, uses different permutation and combination of herbs and panchakarma mentioned in the classics of Ayurveda to treat respective ailments. More than 40 different herbs are mentioned in the Ayurvedic classics for the treatment of heart ailments.

The above mentioned panchakarma therapies, both shodhana and shamana are also used as mainline treatment procedures for different cardiac ailments.

In short, Ayurveda looks into the disease in a holistic approach. Factors responsible for causation of the disease is found out and treated, rather than treating a symptom. In this manner, it provides the 'complete treatment'. Reoccurrences of the disease is avoided by proper rejuvenation (Rasayana) drugs and by following the prescribed daily regimen (Dinacharya). Heart diseases have been managed by Ayurvedic ways in out-patient and in-patient departments for thousands of years without any undesired side-effects. The best Ayurvedic treatment available today is in India. More information can be acquired by contacting the authors.

Ayurveda offers prevention, treatment and rejuvenation. It can help you lead a lifestyle which will help you maintain a healthy heart, it could help you treat your heart related ailments and it can also help you rejuvenate if you are recovering from one.

References

1. Cha. Sha. 1102-108. Cha. Soo. 1143.
2. Charak Chikitsastana. 26/75.
3. Cha. Chi. 2678-80.

Comments:

  1. Savita Rani said..

    I have undergone DVR / heart surgery during November 2011 and my heart is very week and heart rating is very fast. you may kindly advise me is there any medecine in ayurveda to give strength of my heart and advise me natural things like food, fruits etc.


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About Vishal Kohli (BAMS) and Mr Sanil Pillai

Vishal Kohli (BAMS, PGPP, PGDKP) holds a Bachelors degree in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery from the Bharti Vidyapeeth University in Pune, India as well as a Post-graduate degree in Ayurvedic Panchakarma from the prestigious Pune University in India.

Vishal has a long-standing passion for Ayurveda. He is currently the Ayurvedic consultant at Ayurveda Retreat. Before this he worked as the Head of Ayurveda at the W S Kohli Memorial Hospital in Pune, India. He was also the Ayurvedic Consultant at the Ayurvedic Spa and Wellness Centre at the Taj Exotica Resort and Spa in the Maldives where he had a number of high-profile international clients.

He has successfully helped numerous clients to achieve significant and lasting improvement to their health. Examples of client conditions include joint disorders- arthritis, musculo-skeletal disorders, depression, anxiety, insomnia, stress and other psychosomatic disorders, obesity and gastro-intestinal disorders and skin disorders such psoriasis and eczema.

An experienced instructor/trainer in Ayurvedic therapeutic treatments, he regularly contribute to articles on Ayurveda for leading UK magazines and websites, and has also held workshops and seminars at various industry events in the UK. In his spare time, he likes to practise Yoga, which he also teaches. Vishal Kohli may be contacted on Tel: 0118 9588 190;   vishal@ayurveda-retreat.co.uk      www.ayurveda-retreat.co.uk

Vishal Kohli (BAMS, PGPP, PGDKP) and Mr Sanil Pillai are Directors of Ayurvave Ltd, a company involved in the promotion of Ayurveda and related services. For further information about Ayurveda or any other issues mentioned in the article, the authors can be contacted on london@ayurvave.com; www.ayurvave.com

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