AN OVERVIEW OF AYURVEDA
Ayurveda, meaning the science or knowledge of life, applies to all living things. It is a tool for humanity to understand our true and innate nature and it offers many secrets, which encourage longevity and living life to the highest potential. Ayurveda teaches how to successfully create harmony within and remain balanced by allowing the body’s own intelligence to be unveiled and work optimally.
When seeing through the eyes of Ayurveda we are empowered with self-knowledge and truth, giving us the ability to overcome the idea that health and wellbeing are separate from us.
Ayurveda was developed at least 5,000 years ago in India by sages or holy men. These people knew meditation as a way of life and they went into deep meditation in order to gain insights and understanding of the universe and how we as humans are integrated into the world. They developed an incredibly complete and comprehensive system of healing.
During the time of British colonization of India in the 1800's much of Ayurvedic literature, schools and libraries were destroyed. Fortunately, enough of this knowledge was retained to still serve us today. Ayurveda is now making a major resurgence throughout the world.
The majority of our current Ayurvedic knowledge comes from the ancient Vedic texts (primarily the Atharva Veda) which have been translated from Sanskrit by scholars into text books and a myriad of valuable literature. Not only are the Vedic text books the most ancient books in the world, but the Sanskrit language is the most ancient language to have existed in recorded history.
Ayurveda is the oldest recorded medicine and is considered the Mother of all medicine. Tibetan, early Greek and Traditional Chinese Medicine all have roots in Ayurveda.
THE FIVE ELEMENT THEORY
One major principle of Ayurveda is the Five Element Theory. This theory states that everything in the Universe consists of the five elements. Each of the elements is responsible for distinctive concepts:
Ether- Space and Connectedness
Fire - Transformation
Earth - Solidity/Stability
THE TRI-DOSHIC THEORY
The physiology of humans is governed by the three main energies of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, also known as the three dosas. Each dosh is responsible for governing different aspects of the body and mind.
Vata governs motion and is comprised of ether and air. It is responsible for all forms of mobility within the body. It governs the other two doshas, which would otherwise be incapable of movement and thus is known as the king of the doshas. Vata also oversees mental balance, adaptability, comprehension, and sensory balance.
Pitta governs digestion and transformation. It contains the elements of fire and water. It is responsible for metabolism, transformation of food into energy, body temperature and also mental digestion or our capacity to understand and perceive reality.
Kapha governs structure and stability. It is made up of the elements earth and water. Kapha is what gives the body its structure, support and makes up the majority of our bodily tissues. It is also responsible for positive emotions of love, patience and forgiveness as well as overall emotional support and stability.
Each individual consists of all three of these doshas in varying degrees giving us all a unique constitution. No two people are exactly the same.
The world is made up of the five elements and each of the elements has related attributes or qualities. These qualities tell the Ayurvedic Practitioner a great deal about the personal constitution and any imbalances. Too much or too little of any of the qualities will result in imbalance, relative to each individual. With this understanding a treatment plan can be created using opposing; balancing qualities through diet, herbs and lifestyle.
The twenty attributes and their relation to the doshas:
Vata- dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile and clear.
Pitta- hot, sharp, light, liquid, mobile and slightly oily.
Kapha- heavy, slow, dull, cold, oily, liquid, smooth, slimy, dense, soft, cloudy and static.
PRAKRITI AND VIKRITI
When our personal constitution is understood it becomes possible to discern how our everyday choices affect the balance of our doshas.
The goal is to remain as close to our inherent birth state (prakriti) as possible. One's prakriti is determined at conception and does not change. The prakriti determines physical and structural characteristics as well as internal physiological tendencies. It also effects the mental and emotional demeanor of a person.
There are no two constitutions that are exactly the same and thus we are each unique to our own constitution or combination of doshas.
When we are in a state of imbalance it is because our doshas have shifted away from their natural state (vikriti).