Traditional Indian Medicine
Ayurvedic perspectives in the integrative reflection
Fear arises from the selfish idea consisting of cutting off from the universe.
Ayurvedic practices and hypnosis provide an interesting perspective in how we approach healthcare.
This perspective demonstrates the importance of providing the experience and learning of Mind-Body practices. They allow us to develop a sound mental and body elasticity, and to process one's emotions - be it in a patient's care pathway, or in the field of prevention and the development of Health Care.
This page deals with the mutual benefits of Ayurvedic practices and hypnosis in a reflection on care, and by putting them into practice in the integrative center - IFPPC (French Institute of Mind-Body Practices).
Experiencing Ayurvedic care practices as integrative practices has brought a lot to my reflection on my hypnosis practice, and also on the setting up of an integrative center, the IFPPC - for patients but also for teaching and research in this field.
1 – What does the Ayurvedic care reveal to us?
The integrative perspective is a way that also allows us to examine our practices from a different point of view. It leads to taking a step back.
In this section, I suggest that we take a step back using an old integrative system - Indian or Ayurvedic medicine – which will allow us to think over our own pratice. The question that will be used as a red wire is the following: What do these practices - that sometimes seem strange to us or surprise us - bring to the reflection on care?
Therefore I will put in perspective Ayurvedic and hypnosis pratices and their common ingredients.
Throughout 6 study trips (in the region of Karnataka and Gujarat), I have had the opportunity to observe Ayurvedic practices in hospitals in India that use Ayurvedic medicine.
I have discovered and observed therapeutic acts to bring patients back in movement. I have also seen contrasts, similarities, and complementarities between the way to care or treat in various cultures. All this has nourished my reflection on care and on my practice of hypnosis.
Ayurveda, beyond its medical practices, is above all a philosophy and a way of life which considers humans in all their dimensions.
The word Ayur in Sanskrit means 'life' or 'life force'. The word Veda which translates as 'knowledge'; hence Ayurveda is defined as 'knowledge of life - of life force or vital momentum', or even as 'science of life'.
The origins of Ayurveda, which comes from the Indus vallez civilization, date back to 2,500 BC. The bases of Ayurveda can mainly be found in the Vedas, which are sacred texts from Hinduism, and in founding elements of the Indian culture, found in the Atharvaveda – the fourth Veda.
1.1 – The importance of the body and of sensoriality
First of all, as an hypnotherapist, this way of dealing with pain really makes sense to me, even if it was previously unknown to me and linked to a certain conception of the world, to a spirituality that was totally unknown to me, at different levels.
This is maybe because, beyond the differences, I can see one major similarity between Ayurveda and hypnosis: the effectiveness of a body oriented work.
What we immediately notice in the Ayurvedic practice is the importance of the body in this kind of therapy. The importance of senses clearly appears at all levels – during rituals such as Puja, meditation or massages, but also the importance of coordinating and connecting senses tognether. During care, touch, hearing, sight and smell are used simultaneously. This refers to a representation of the body which is specific to the Ayurvedic discipline and at the same time to the representation of a process of change – which is for me, close to what we go through in hypnosis.
Ayurveda considers the human being as a small-scale replica of the universe. The universe is considered as a subtle combination of the 5 elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. Human beings are also made up of these 5 elements – in proportions that are specific to each inndividual.
A human being is like the universe. It is structured in the same way, with the same elements: 'I am made of the universe and the universe is made of me'. The body, the earth, the whole universe is made up of the same energy. Human beings express themselves in the universe, and the universe expresses itself in human beings. Interaction and exchanges between the universe and individuals are part of a natural process.
Incidentally, the sensory functions are linked to the five major elements – sight with fire, hearing with ether, smell with earth, taste with water and touch with air or wind.
This is why coordinating sensory information is very important; it puts human beings in harmony – just as the harmony and the alliance of elements in the universe. What makes Ayuverda is this very harmony between the 5 senses, their constant connection, their deep osmosis – it is the movement of life.
1.2 – Purifying the senses and the mind
Another significant point in Ayurveda is the prerequisite to any care so that the process of change can occur - namely the purification work, in particular for the senses – which represents a primary condition for the therapy and for the way of life in general.
One the one hand, Ayurveda teaches that food has to be well digested and well assimilated, and on the other hand that all that is not digested - the wastes, the malas, have to be completely disposed of.
In the same way, information comes in through our senses, and all that is useless and which is not assimilated has to disappear - otherwise it will create tensions or stress. Ayurveda is not only about the health of the body but also about the emotional health.
The senses are therefore permanently purified so that contact with the world is more direct, so that the relation with the world is not altered, and so that energy and creation flow; so that interaction and exchanges between the universe and the individual naturally occur.
We do notice in this Ayurvdic conception, that the body cannot be separated from the outside world. Yet, pain and suffering tend to isolate, seperate and divide.
Ayurveda believes that disease comes from dysfunctions in the equilibrium of the senses that constitute the matter of the body, and therefore bring dysharmony and disequilibrium with the universe.
Isn't this the common point with the experience of hypnosis? What do we do during a hypnosis session? What do we exprience during a trance?
We also experience a change in the relation to our body, to others and to the world around, being then in direct relation with the world and not with something that was put – or that we have put – between us and the world, like a pain, a sadness... We then relate differently to our body and to what surrounds us.
But we also experience that our body is not seperated from the world that surrounds us. Hypnosis allows us to restore the bonds within our context, to be in touch again with what surrounds us, to reposition ourselves in our universe.
Hypnosis and trance allow us to have a comprehensive view, to build connections with the infinite complexity of our universe; it is an expansion movement, while at the same time having a vision of each detail, by experiencing the abolition of distances.
1.3 - Connection
The entire therapy is based on connection: connection between the senses, connection using touch between patients and therapists, connection with the universe. Yoga and meditation allow us to be conscious of being part of the universal creation and that we are not separated from it.
How to connect?
In answering this question, Ayurveda allows us to position ourselves.
In Ayurveda, one of the main ideas is that our body has its own intelligence. In the Sankhya philosophy – which had a great influence on Ayurveda – there is a particular notion: Ahamkara. Ahamkara is considered as an inner wisdom; in a way, an intelligence of the body. It is the part of 'me' which knows which part of the universal creation is 'me'. It is my unique vibration in which all the physical parts of 'me' resonate. 'I' am not seperated from any part of creation but 'I' have an identity which differs and thus defines the limits of 'me'. The purification of the senses allows the person and his/her inner wisdom to be nourished by the universe through all his/her senses. This very part of us is connected to the universe and is connecting us.
Isn't this what happens in hypnosis?
I feel that with hypnosis we can reveal oneself; we can be ourself without any effort: hypnosis removes us from the character to connect with the person.
But connecting with the person is only possible if we connect in a different way with what surrounds us, with the movement of life. For Indians, it is about the idea of being in contact with vital energy, about letting this energy flow in ourselves.
1.4 - Let's focus on the notion of Prana
Ayurveda is a traditional Indian science dealing with vital energy. It is both a type of medicine and a philosophy, which places humans not only in their physical dimension, but also emotional and spiritual dimensions.
In Ayurveda, life is studied in its continuous dynamic, its capacity to change and create, its intelligence. This intelligence of life is called Prana or fundamental energy, which is the origin of any manifestation of matter in creation.
When Prana flows freely, we feel healthy, filled with energy. If stuck, then tiredness and disease will appear.
For Ayurveda, breathing is of great importance. Conscious breathing techniques - Pranayama – play an important rôle in the circulation of Prana. It allows us to manage a vital energy; and according to Ayurveda, the movement of the diaphragm, which is the ideal massage for vital organs: the heart and lungs, and the intestines, spleen, pancreas, liver, etc.
Breathing is affected by the mental state… and the mental state can be regulated by breathing.
Prana is also a driving force in the healing process. In this philosophy, movement and energy are the source of creation.
In hypnosis too, movement is therapeutic: something becomes frozen or rigid, and yet we return to the movement of life; we are not stuck in the past or future, but instead are backagain in the present moment.
All the metaphors we use – physical, imaginary, or symbolic – help us to have patients experiment this movement of change. The change in metaphors creates change. There are no longer any limits.
1.5 – The role of the therapist
Let us also look at the role of therapists.
In Ayurveda, the therapist is also in a particular state of mind.
Be it in the Vedic group ceremony or in one-on-one sessions, we see that the therapist also goes into a different state of mind to heal. In this process, through yoga and meditation, the therapist also connects to his body in relation with the universe, but in a different way. As he gets in this state, he can heal. He is then outside of the emotional dimension, outside of any urge to heal. This is also a necessary condition in our work.
This collaborative work, these exchanges, and these studies, have put in perspective the notions of Ayurveda and our practice of hypnosis, each in their integrative dimension. It became clear that we needed to set up not only a care pathway for patients with various problems - pain, stress, depression, phobia, addictions…- but also coaching in Health Care, at the IFPPC Center.
To put in practice coaching in Health Care, we do well-being sessions and/or workshops. They are based on building personal and preventative strategies, originating from Mind-Body practices, in an integrative health perspective.
2 - Conclusion
Integrating Ayurvedic notions and practices into the Center has been done progressively.
We have begun offering Ayurvedic coaching sessions, to determine what types of practices will fit patients' needs best.
The Ayurvedic practices that we offer remain complementary to conventional medical treatments that patients are already undergoing. This complementarity is the key to their effectiveness.
Thus, practices such as Ayurvedic massage, meditation and yoga have been progressively integrated into conventional medical care; Ayurveda shows us that care is about coming into contact with oneself.
Our diet is also very important as it is also a way to take care of oneself and to achieve a good balance. This is what has motivated us to offer Ayurvedic brunch workshops.
Patients are progressively brought to autonomy in integrating these practices in their daily life.
And for practitioners to learn and offer the most adapted techniques for each patient, we have created a training course on Ayurvedic practices with a specific training course in Paris and India.
Currently, we are working on the feedback and the analysis of the data collected throughout the research protocols in order to assess the effectiveness of the various Ayurvedic pratices in association with medical treatments.
We have already been able to confirm the twofold benefits of hypnosis and Ayurvedic practices. Thus, when it is relevant, Ayurvedic practices benefit from the contributions of hypnosis and in the same way does hypnosis benefit from these practices. For example, our yoga workshops are conducted by a specialist - a nurse supervisor who is trained in yoga and hypnosis who will propose yoga exercices using hypnotic communication.
Breathing Ayurvedic exercise Kiran Vyas
(In 'Changer par la thérapie' Dunod Ed.)
3-2-5-2 Breathing exercise
For the first breath, we breath in counting to 3, then holding in the breath with lungs full we count to 2, then we exhale while counting to 5 and then holding the breath with lungs empty, we count to 2. In summary, we see that there are 3 seconds of inhaling and 9 seconds when the body does not need any new intake of air. When we are stressed, in a hurrrrrry, tired, or if our lungs are not empty, we cannot have a new intake of air...
The two instances of Shunyaka – or 'holding without oxygen' - are a kind of rest, a kind of break, between two activities and provide relaxation. This 3-2-5-2 breathing technique is very relaxing, even more so if practiced regularly and on an empty stomach.
The second breathing technique is Nadi Shodhana, or 'breathing purifying energy paths'. In this type of breathing exercice, we inhale through the left nostril, we exhale through the right one, and then we inhale through the right and exhale through the left. Afterwards, we exhale and inhale through the same nostril and we repeat the exhalation and inhalation in the other nostril. This type of breathing balances the blood pressure and the physical body. This kind of breathing also works on the emotional and mental states (students and therapists use this breathing technique to improve their memory capacities, to calm their mind and to prepare for meditation).
A hypnotic induction exercise with breathing
In this hypnotic induction, we propose focusing on body sensations without trying to connect them with relaxation – simply to examine them.
Can you focus on the contact surface between your body and the armchair… Just see how this contact of your body with this armchair feels from head to toe, how your head... your neck... the contact of your back... your shoulders... your arms... your feet on the ground feel. Pay attention to your presence here and now, to the feeling of being where you are... as you are... without any effort - to simply be…
You can feel the air moving through your nostrils... each time you inhale... the feeling of the air flowing in… the place from which breathing seems to emerge, from the pit of your stomach... and which will open up just as a fist opens... and start becoming a bit warmer... all throuht the session... and radiate a pleasant warmth throughout your body…
3 - Bibliography
Vyas K. (2010), Le bien-être par l'ayurvéda: les bienfaits de la cure ayurvédique, Ed Marabout
Vyas K. (2006), Massages ayurvédiques, Le Massage indien. Selon la tradition ayurvédique, Ed Recto Verseau
Wujastyk D. (1998), The roots of Âyurveda, Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings, New Delhi, Penguin Books India
- Director of IFPPC, the French institute for Mind-Body Practices (www.ifppc.eu).
- Head of the University Diploma in Mind-Body Practices and Integrative Health Studies, Paris Sud University and Réunion University.
- Head of the University Diploma in Hypnosis and Anaesthesia, Paris Sud University.
- Psychologist and Psychotherapist, at the Pain Assessment and Management Center, Bicetre University Hospital, Paris.
- President of the association 'Thérapies d’Ici et d’Ailleurs' (Translatable by: 'Therapies from here and elsewhere').
Translated from French by Frédéric Delacour