What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, the Indian traditional medicine, recognized by the World Health Organization is the Vedic science of maintaining in good health as well as healing both the body and mind.
Ayurveda means Ayur (life) Veda (science /knowledge).
Ayurveda has two aspects or side, the preventive side and the curative side. The preventive side guides us to avoid illness with the right diet and lifestyle, meditation and yoga. The curative side consists of eight branches of medicine. Ayurveda sees illness as an imbalance in a person’s physical or mental composition and treat such imbalances by targeting the root cause.
According to the ancient seers, everything in the world is a constant play of dynamic forces and energies (Gunas). It is these energies that connect us to nature, as everything in nature is made up from these energies understanding how they flow, and work is the key to health. Ayurveda believes that everything we need to be healthy is all around us and empowers us to be our own healers.
The five elements
According to Ayurveda everything in the universe is made up of five elements: ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. These elements are energies present in different proportions and together they are the building blocks of all we see: tree, plants, animals, humans, and even the seasons.
In the body, the five elements become biological elements and are grouped into three energies known as doshas; VATA, PITTA, KAPHA. Doshas are responsible for all the physiological and psychological processes within the body and mind.
As with the elements, the three doshas can be found in everyone and everything, but in different proportions. In fact, the ratio of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha within each of us provides us with a blueprint for optimal health, and influence significantly our individual physical, mental, and emotional character traits—as well as our unique strengths and vulnerabilities. Each dosha is a combination of two of the five elements, with one predominant.
Vata is characterized by the mobile nature of Air and Ether energy.
Pitta embodies the transformative nature of Fire (90%) and Water energy.
Kapha reflects the binding nature of Water and earth energy.
Vata embodies the energy of movement and is therefore often associated with wind (and the air element). Vata is linked to creativity and flexibility; it governs all movement—the flow of the breath, excretion, pulsation of the heart, all muscle contractions—and communication throughout the mind and the nervous system. Mental and emotional aspects are rapidity, sensitivity, creativity, enthusiasm, vitality, energy, generosity, joy.
When Vata is imbalanced or in excess tends to cause fear, anxiety, exhaustion. It can lead to both physical and energetic depletion, disrupt proper communication, and cause all sorts of abnormal movements in the body, such as tics, tremors, and muscle spasms, constipation, abdominal cramps, internal external dryness.
In order to stay balanced Vata should maintain regularity – particularly of sleep and meals, favouring warm nourishing foods, relaxing exercises, and warm oil massage.
Pitta represents the energy of transformation and is therefore closely aligned with the fire element. Pitta is closely related to intelligence, understanding, and the digestion of foods, thoughts, emotions, and experiences; it governs nutrition and metabolism. Mental and emotional aspects are being acute, exact, dynamic, decisive, ambitious, focused, brave.
When out of balance, pitta causes reactionary emotions such as frustration, anger, jealously, and criticism. Imbalanced pitta is often at the root of inflammatory disorders, which can affect organs and tissues throughout the body.
In order to stay balanced Pitta should have sufficient rest and be fed when hungry. Eat moderately cool and warm food, shield against hot, multitasking and stressful environments.
Kapha represents structure, solidity, and cohesiveness to all things, and is therefore associated primarily with the earth and water elements. Kapha also embodies the watery energies of love and compassion. This dosha hydrates all cells and systems, lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin, maintains immunity, and protects the tissues. Mental and emotional aspects: slow but exact, calm, strong, patient, compassionate, humble, happy, satisfied, trustable.
When out of balance, Kapha triggers emotions of attachment, greed, and possessiveness and can also create, lethargy and resistance to change. Physically, Kapha tends to invite stagnation and congestion with mucus accumulation, in organs and tissues throughout the body—including the mind.
In order to stay balanced Kapha should engage in stimulating physical exercise, avoid excess sleep, eat light and warm and open to new and invigorating experiences.