What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda (pronounced “eye-your-vay-da”) is a holistic system of health and well being that has its roots in ancient India and pre-dates every other medical system on the planet. The wisdom and practice of Ayurveda is 5,000 + years old, and some suggest it is considerably older. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “science of life,” and it is often referred to as the “sister science of Yoga.”
However strange the Sanskrit words (Dosha, Agni, Ama, Ojas, etc.) might sound, there is nothing about Ayurveda that is inexplicable. It is a very ancient, practical method of understanding life. It teaches us to learn our own unique nature (constitution) and the effects that different natures have on it. These other natures can take the form of climate & seasons, foods, other people in our lives, where we live on the planet, toxins in the environment, or even one’s career. Disease is understood as imbalance of our true nature. The cure is based on the knowledge of how our body’s energy functions in relation to that of nature, using the harmonizing energies of foods, spices, and herbs to bring us into balance. In short, Ayurveda is based on simple but profound principles that take into consideration each person’s unique constitution (nature), allowing diet and lifestyle recommendations to be tailored to each individual based on one’s needs.
With the proper diet and use of spices, the right lifestyle, and the use of herbs, cleansing practices, and therapies such as massage, Ayurveda intends to bring balance to the mind, body, and spirit, and to act as a preventative medicine that can stave off dis-ease and promote optimal health and well being.
“One who is established in self, who has balanced doshas, balanced agni, properly formed dhatus, proper elimination of malas, well functioning bodily processes and whose mind, soul, and senses are happy is called a healthy person.” ~Sushruta Samhita 15.38
Ayurveda & The Five Elements: The Doshas
The science of Ayurveda recognizes the earth’s five elements and their existence in the universe around us as well as the universe within us. Everything we can sense and experience in nature and the cosmos is evident in our own bodies and minds. Ether, air, fire, water, and earth form the various components of our physiology, our minds, and in our energetic bodies. The five elements organize into three Doshas known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata Dosha is composed of the elements of Air and Space. It is responsible for all forms of movement, transportation, and communication in the body.
Pitta Dosha is composed of Fire and Water and is the energy responsible for all metabolic processes in the body including digestion, metabolism, and transformation of food and experiences. It is also regulates body temperature.
Kapha Dosha includes the Water and Earth elements of the body and mind. It comprises the body’s substance and mass and provides the body with lubrication, strength, and structure. It supplies water to body parts and skin and maintains the immune system.