What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu system of medicine (incorporated in Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas) and it is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. It is based on the idea of balance in the body using diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing. It stands for the science of life (Ayur = Life, Veda = Science) and it has been practiced in India for thousands of years. Its main goal is to promote good health using natural and herbal ingredients.
According to Ayurveda, everything in the universe – dead or alive – is connected. If the balance of your mind, body and spirit is aligned and in harmony with the universe you have good health. If for any reason this balance is disrupted, your health becomes afflicted. The balance can be disrupted by a number of things including and not limited to age, injuries, climate & seasonal changes, genetic birth defects and your emotions.
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that every person is made up of five basic elements found in the universe namely air, space, water, fire and Earth. These five elements combine in the human body to form three life forces or fundamental energies called doshas. The Sankskrit names for these three doshas are Vata (Space & Air), Pitta (Fire & Water) and Kapha (Water & Earth). They govern our inner and outer environments essentially determining the characteristics of our mind and body.
Vata (Space & Air) Dosha
Vata is arguably the most powerful of the three doshas. It controls cell division in the body, your mind, breathing, heart function, blood flow and the ability to get rid of waste through your intestines. It is often disrupted by eating too quickly after a meal, staying up too late, fear and grief.
If Vata dosha is dominant in your Ayurvedic constitution, you tend to be light, thin, energetic, enthusiastic and changeable. If it is your main life force, you may have an increased chance of developing conditions like anxiety, heart disease, asthma, skin problems, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Pitta (Fire & Water) Dosha
Pitta controls your digestion, metabolism (how well you break down foods), and hormonal activity linked to your appetite. It can be disrupted by eating spicy or sour foods and by spending too much time in the sun and the heat.
If Pitta dosha is dominant in your Ayurvedic constitution you tend to be intelligent, intense, goal-oriented and have a strong appetite for life. If it is your main life force, you may have an increased chance of developing conditions like Crohn’s disease, high blood pressure, heart disease and infections.
Kapha (Water & Earth) Dosha
Kapha controls body strength and stability, muscle growth, weight, and your immune system. It can be disrupted by sleeping during the day and by eating foods or drinking liquids with far too much sugar and salt.
When Kapha predominates your Ayurvedic constitution, you tend to be nurturing, easy-going and methodical. If it is your main life force, you may develop obesity, diabetes, sickness after eating, cancer, asthma and other breathing disorders.
So what does this mean for me?
Although we all have these three doshas in our constitution, most people have one or two elements that are more dominant. The key is to have all three doshas balanced and that is what the practice of Ayurveda helps us to achieve.