Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term and translates to ‘the science of life’ or ‘the knowledge of life’. It is made up of the terms ‘ayus’, meaning life and ‘veda’ meaning knowledge. Ayurveda is a holistic science that incorporates the body, mind, soul and the 5 senses.
The goal of Ayurveda is to achieve balance in our life and optimum health by following the laws of nature. By being aware of these laws of nature, we can adjust our daily routines and behaviors to follow these laws – this leads us to physical health and to the ultimate goal – spiritual enlightenment.
Ayurveda is over 5000 years old, and perhaps much older than this, and is the most ancient of healing systems. In fact, it not only pre-dates all other medical systems in the world, but many health practices including Chinese medicine, modern naturopathy and aromatherapy have their origins in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is unique in that it is entirely individualized and includes the use of herbs, dietary adjustments, daily exercise, daily hygiene and other daily routines. Ayurveda is heavily focused on empowering individuals to take ownership over their health by following these daily routines, not just to cure disease but to maintain and preserve health, giving the perfect balance of a clear mind and an energetic body.
As opposed to modern day medicine, Ayurveda treats the body and mind as one, and knows that each one affects the other and cannot be treated separately. Ayurveda teaches that there is no use having a strong body if the mind is depressed, angry or suffering from any other mental imbalance. A clear and peaceful mind is the aim, at the same time as a healthy body.
Basic principles of Ayurveda
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the environment in which we live is made of five elements – earth, air, fire, ether and water. When the five elements in our bodies are in harmony with our outside environment, health is present, when we are not in balance with our environment, our health deteriorates and disease can occur. The five elements are present in our bodies as the three bodily intelligences, or what we call ‘doshas’, Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata formed by Air and Ether
Vata in our bodies behaves with the same characteristics of Air and ether, it is drying, cool, light and is responsible for movement including circulation, elimination, nerve impulses and breathing. Mentally it can be seen in the flow of thoughts.
Pitta formed by Fire and Water
Pitta is represented with the characteristics of fire and water, but mostly fire element is dominant. It is hot and dry and is responsible for our metabolism and the transforming of food into nutrients and waste and the metabolic functions in all our organs and tissues. Mentally, pitta represents as a fiery temperament with passion and drive.
Kapha formed by Earth and Water
Kapha presents in our bodies with the same characteristics of Earth and Water – moist, heavy and cool. Kapha gives stability, structure, growth, protection, endurance, calmness and cohesion. An example of kapha within our body is the cerebral-spinal fluid, the structure of all our cell walls and the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
The doshas in the human body
Each dosha is present in every body as each is responsible for different functions, however, each person will show characteristics more dominant with one or two of these doshas. The balance of the three doshas is constantly in flux depending upon the seasons and even the time of day! The aim is to achieve balance in our three doshas, for when they are out of balance is when the build up of toxins occurs and disease can manifest.
Common symptoms of Imbalanced doshas
- Dryness of the skin
- Anxiety and worry
- Skin irritation and rash
- Indigestion and heartburn
- High blood pressure and other circulatory problems
- Hot flushes
- Slow digestion
- Oily skin
- Sinus congestion and colds
- Chesty cough
- Allergies and hay fever
- Cysts and other growths