Diagnoses and Therapies
In the United States, some Ayurvedic physicians adhere to very traditional Ayurvedic philosophy and practices. Others practice Maharishi Ayurveda, an Americanized discipline created in the 1980s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Traditional and Maharishi Ayurveda are quite similar, with the latter relying a bit more heavily on transcendental meditation.
Regardless of which school they espouse, all Ayurvedic physicians follow pretty much the same protocol for diagnosing disease. They shun most mainstream diagnostic tools in favor of alternative evaluation procedures, such as the following:
Questionnaire. An Ayurvedic physician has each patient complete a simple questionnaire. By evaluating the patient’s responses, the physician can determine that person’s dominant dosha, or constitution (Vata, Pitta, or Kapha).
Physical examination. Both mainstream and Ayurvedic physicians rely on the physical exam as a diagnostic tool. But an Ayurvedic physician pays particular attention to a patient’s skin, nails, tongue, and other physical features. In these features, the practitioner can detect patterns that reveal the influence of each of the three doshas.
Pulse examination. Pulse examination is a subtle art that takes years to master. The physician usually monitors the pulse at the radial artery, located on the inner wrist at the base of the thumb. Certain patterns in the pulse indicate specific imbalances among the doshas. A pulse that resembles the movement of a snake, for example, suggests excessive Vata dosha.
Urine examination. First, the physician examines the color of the urine sample. Pale yellow urine signifies excessive Vata; bright yellow urine, excessive Pitta; and foamy white urine, excessive Kapha. Next, the physician adds a few drops of sesame oil to the sample and examines it in sunlight, monitoring the dispersal and movement of the oil through the urine. Based on his observations, the physician can detect imbalances among the doshas.
Once they’ve made a diagnosis, Ayurvedic physicians combine a number of different therapies in a comprehensive treatment program. Those therapies include diet, exercise, meditation, massage, and herbal medicine. In addition, the Ayurvedic physician may recommend various amounts of sun exposure, depending on their patients’ dosha profiles.