Ayurveda is an ancient holistic system of medicine from India that understands health in terms of a constitutional model. Each of use manifests a mixture of each of the three constitutional energetic forces – or ‘doshas’. Its aim is to provide guidance regarding specially designed treatments, food and lifestyle so that health can be optimized and illness healed.
There are several aspects to Ayurveda that are quite unique:
Recommendations will often be unique for each person regarding which foods and which lifestyle they should follow in order to be completely healthy. This is due to its use of a constitutional model.
Everything in Ayurveda is validated by observation, inquiry, direct examination and knowledge derived from the ancient texts.
It understands that there are energetic forces that influence nature and human beings. These forces are called the Tridoshas.
Because Ayurveda sees a strong connection between the mind and the body, a huge amount of information is available regarding this relationship.
Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words: Ayu, which means ‘life’ and Veda, which means ‘the knowledge of’. To know about life is Ayurveda. However, to fully comprehend the vast scope of Ayurveda let us first define "Ayu" or ‘life’. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, "ayu" is comprised of four essential parts: the combination of mind, body, senses and the soul.
Ayurveda is an intricate system of healing that originated in India thousands of years ago. We can find historical evidence of Ayurveda in the ancient books of wisdom known as the Vedas. In the Rig Veda, over 60 preparations were mentioned that could be used to assist an individual in overcoming various ailments. The Rig Veda was written over 6,000 years ago, but really Ayurveda has been around even longer than that. What we see is that Ayurveda is more than just a medical system. It is a Science of Life.
In nature balance is always to be found. Just as the animals and plants live in harmony with nature, our minds and bodies adhere to these same principles where a balance is required for health to thrive. It is fair to say that Ayurveda is a system that helps maintain health in a person by using the inherent principles of nature to bring the individual back into equilibrium with their true self. In essence Ayurveda has been in existence since the beginning of time because we have always been governed by nature's laws.
Mind, Body and Senses
We tend to identify most with our physical bodies; yet, in actuality, there is more to us then what meets the eye. We can see that underlying our physical structure is the mind, which not only controls our thought processes but helps assist us in carrying out day-to-day activities such as respiration, circulation, digestion and elimination. The mind and the body work in conjunction with one another to regulate our physiology. In order for the mind to act appropriately to assist the physical body, we must use our senses as information gatherers.
In Ayurveda we view a person as a unique individual made up of five primary elements. The elements are ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. Just as in nature, we too have these five elements in us. When any of these elements are present in the environment, they will in turn have an influence on us. The foods we eat and the weather are just two examples of the presence of these elements. While we are a composite of these five primary elements, certain elements are seen to have an ability to combine to create various physiological functions.
Ether and air combine to form what is known in Ayurveda as the Vata dosha. Vata governs the principle of movement and therefore can be seen as the force that directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination.
Fire and water are the elements that combine to form the Pitta dosha. The Pitta dosha is the process of transformation or metabolism. The transformation of foods into nutrients that our bodies can assimilate is an example of a pitta function. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems as well as cellular metabolism.
Finally, it is predominantly the water and earth elements that combine to form the Kapha dosha. Kapha is what is responsible for growth, adding structure unit by unit. Another function of the Kapha dosha is to offer protection. Cerebral-spinal fluid protects the brain and spinal column and is a type of Kapha found in the body. Also, the mucousal lining of the stomach is another example of the Kapha dosha protecting the tissues. We are all made up of unique proportions of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These ratios of the doshas vary in each individual; and because of this, Ayurveda sees each person as a special mixture that accounts for our diversity.
Ayurveda gives us a model to look at each individual as a unique makeup of the three doshas and to thereby design treatment protocols that specifically address a persons health challenges. When any of the doshas (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) become accumulated, Ayurveda will suggest specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing the dosha that has become excessive. We may also suggest certain herbal supplements to hasten the healing process. If toxins in the body are abundant then a cleansing protocol using our various detoxing technology is recommended.
Definition of the Dosha Types
Vata dosha - Air
The Vata dosha is the most important of the three doshas. This is for two reasons. First, if Vata becomes imbalanced for long enough and sufficiently enough, it can also cause the other two doshas (Pitta or Kapha) to become imbalanced. It can even cause both Pitta and Kapha to become imbalanced. Secondly, Vata is the main driver or mover of the body, including the other two doshas, all the tissues and all of the waste products.
Vata provides the following functions:
- All eliminations: fetus, semen, feces, urine, sweat, and a few others
- Assists with all the various metabolisms in the body
- Controls all of the various movement of body (both physical & mental), including such things as respiration, heart beat, motivation and contraction of muscles, relays all sensory input from the various sense organs to the brain.
Pitta dosha - Fire
The Pitta dosha is associated with fire or heat. Wherever there is transformation, there is Pitta (doing its job). Whether it is in the GI tract, liver, skin, eyes or brain doesn't matter, for these are all locations where Pitta works.
Pitta provides the following functions:
- Metabolism - at all the various levels from digestion of food to transformation of all other material
- Thermo genesis - maintains the proper body temperature
- Vision - converts external images into optic nerve impulses
- Appetite - the feeling of hunger and thirst
- Comprehension - of information into knowledge, also reasoning and judgment
- Courage & Braveness - to face the situation
- Complexion - gives color and softness to skin
Kapha dosha - Earth
Kapha is the heaviest of the three doshas. It provides the structures and the lubrication that the body needs. These qualities help to counterbalance Vata's movement and Pitta's metabolism. A big, heavyset football play or wrestler is a person with a predominance of Kapha.
Kapha provides the following functions:
- Strength - to perform physical tasks
- Moistness & Lubrication - to prevent excessive friction from occurring between the various parts of the body
- Stability - to add the necessary grounding aspect to both mind and body
- Mass & Structure - to provide fullness to bodily tissues
- Fertility & Virility - to produce healthy offspring
Curious to know what your dominant dosha type is?
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