Ayurveda is a Sister Science to Yoga that emerged from the sacred texts of ancient India, called the Vedas, meaning “Books of Wisdom.” Ayurveda is not just a popular form of alternative medicine. Rather, It is a holistic healing philosophy. Believed to be over 5000+ years old, Ayurveda teaches us to see the world with respect to three elements—also called as the doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha. According to Ayurveda, each human is born as a mixture of these three elements. The first step towards finding your optimal state of balanced, natural health begins by determining your primary Dosha. So here is a quick introduction to Ayurveda.
What is Ayurveda?
The first step in introduction to Ayurveda is to understand the meaning of the word. The word Ayurveda is derived from Sanskrit word ‘Ayu’ which means ‘Life’ and ‘Veda’ which means ‘Knowledge’. Ayurveda therefore translates to “the science of life and holistic well-being”. Believed to be 6000 years Old, it is the oldest documented body of holistic medical knowledge in the world,- a system of herbs, oils and plants. The fundamental philosophy of Ayurveda rests on the concept of harmony – in Ayurveda, true health and wellness can only result from perfect harmony between the mind, body and spirit.
At its very root, it is both a holistic tradition as well a way of living to help each us claim and celebrate wellness. Thus, Ayurveda can help us to:
- Synchronize with our truest inner self
- Help Develop our strengths
- Go Directly towards our challenge areas
- Maintain our physical and mental balance in the face of adversity
Therefore, Ayurveda is not just about taking any herbal formula and waiting for the results. Rather, it encourages one to be an active participant in one’s own journey to healing. This involves learning about one’s relationship with the 5 elements and the unique combinations they create also known as Doshas. Lets now look at the history of Ayurveda in our introduction to ayurveda knowledge.
History of Ayurveda
The practice of Ayurveda is believed to date back to over five thousand years, originated during the vedic period in ancient India. The earliest-known references to Ayurveda along with Yoga, appeared in scholarly called “theVedas“.
Ayurveda was a very popular and prosperous practice during vedic times as the Vedic texts were taught as part of the school education.However in the wake of India’s political struggles with various invading countries—most notably the British Empire , this knowledge was lost as the education system underwent multiple changes by different invading countries. Inspite of this, those who practiced Ayurveda on the fringes of society, kept the tradition alive till India gained independence in 1947. Ayurveda has now resurfaced as a major system of healthcare thanks to many saints and yoga masters.
Principles of Ayurveda- Elements, Qualities and Doshas
The next step in our introduction to Ayurveda is understanding how Ayurveda can help someone, is to understand the core principles of Ayurveda – the 5 elements, the 20 qualities and 3 Doshas. These are the lenses through which Ayurveda views the universe completely. These Ayurveda basics are the essential tools to:
- Interpret the very laws of nature
- Identify the different states of health or health imbalances
- Creating a course toward improved well-being
The Five Elements of Ayurveda
Ayurveda identifies five elements as the fundamental building blocks of everything in nature:
- Ether or Space
Each and every substance contains all of these elements. However, in any given substance, one or two elements typically predominate over the others.
Ayurvedic Qualities or Gunas
As per Ayurveda, twenty qualities or gunas can be used to describe each substance or experience. These gunas can be organized into the ten pairs of opposites:
|Slow (Dull)||Sharp (Penetrating)|
These gunas are the basis to the Ayurvedic principle that like increases like and opposites balance. For example, a person who is particularly cold in constitution (or prakriti), lives in a cold climate, in winter season, is likely to be expereince an aggravation of the cold quality. The remedy? Heat—in the form of warming foods, hot drinks, heating spices, soothing baths, warm clothes, and an abundance of heart-warming experiences.
Ayurveda And Doshas
Vata Dosha, representing the energy of ether and air, movement and impulse, creativity and connection. People with Vata Qualities Reflects the elements of Space and Air.The word Vata derives from the Space and Air and translates into “wind” or “something which moves things.” It is the energy of movement , the force that governs all biological activity. Vata is often called as the “King of the Doshas” since it governs our body’s life force giving motion to Pitta and Kapha. Vata in the Body is responsible for pulsation of the heart, muscle movement, nerve impulses, sensory perception , communication, and our capacity to experience joy, flexibility and consciousness.
Pitta Dosha representing the energy of fire and water, digestion and transformation .In Western Science, the Pitta body type is also known as Mesomorph. Pitta refers to energy of digestion and metabolism in the body that works through substances such as organic acids, hormones, enzymes, and bile. While Pitta is closely related to the fire element ,the liquid nature of these substances in our bodies accounts for the element of Water in Pitta’s make-up. Pitta in the body is responsible for Appetite, digestion, absorption , assimilation ,intelligence ,charisma, courage and ambition.
Kapha Dosha, representing the energy water and earth, structure and cohesiveness, grounding and stability. In Western Science, the Pitta body type is also known as Endomorph.Kapha is the energy of building and lubrication which provides the body with physical form, structure, and smooth functioning of its parts. Kapha can be also be thought of as the essential cement, glue, lubrication of the body in one. Kapha in the body is responsible for nourishment, growth, lubrication , regeneration, fluid balance, fat regulation, strength, stamina, memory , and our ability to feel compassion and contentment.
Each of us is a combination of these three doshas. There is a combination of doshas with which we are born with, also known our constitution, or prakriti in Sanskrit. We also have a state of balance known as vkriti that is the doshas that are elevated within our body at a given time. If these doshas accumulate beyond the healthy limits (those determined by one’s constitution), they can cause havoc on one’s health.