Ayurveda’s pre-history stretches back over 5000 years to the Indus Valley Civilization. However, despite its antiquity, Ayurveda’s wisdom remains timeless,and as relevant today as in the past. Ayurveda, “the science of life” or“knowledge of living” teaches us to decipher the language encoded in our bodies in relation to the basic elements of nature and their reflection in our bodies and minds. Ayurveda speaks to all aspects of our lives, and offers time-tested guidance for regaining and maintaining a balanced state in body, mind and spirit.

Health, according to Ayurveda’s holistic model goes well beyond absence of disease to encompass a content, joyous, bright and clear state of body, mind and consciousness, wherein all body parts and processes function smoothly.Additionally, Ayurveda acknowledges that each one of us is completely unique and thus requires our own personalized set of practices and remedies to be our best selves throughout our lives.

Uniquely suited to helping us overcome global epidemics of stress, anxiety, insomnia and chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, Ayurveda offers a wide variety of healing methodologies. These include: diet, herbs, daily cleansing and oiling routines, aromatherapy, gem and color therapies, as well as lifestyle practices that incorporate yoga asanas, pranayama practices, mantras,meditation, and more.

Five Elements of Nature


Ayurveda bases its theory on the existence of five elements – basic principles or building blocks, which are the foundation of life of the whole universe (the macrocosm), as well as our body (the microcosm), and are known as the five great elements:

Space/Ether
(ākāśa)

Air/Wind
(vāyu)

Fire
(tejas)

Water
(jala)

Earth
(pṛthvī)

Everything in the universe that surrounds us, is made of a combination of these five elements in different proportions. Each of the elements is described in terms of 20 qualities, or gunas, arranged in 10 pairs of opposites:

Heavy/Light
(ākāśa)

Slow/Sharp

Cold/Hot

Oily/Dry

Smooth/Rough

Dense/Liquid

Soft/Hard

Stable/Mobile

Gross/Subtle

Cloudy/Clear

Heavy/Light
(ākāśa)

Slow/Sharp

Cold/Hot

Oily/Dry

Smooth/Rough

Dense/Liquid

Soft/Hard

Stable/Mobile

Gross/Subtle

Cloudy/Clear

These ten pairs of opposites are used in understanding many aspects of the matter being observed. For example, by determining the qualities of a person in a balanced and healthy state, and the qualities of any dis-ease we can identify the factors driving that imbalance. Further, we can invite the qualities needed to bring one back to a state of balance.

Thus Ayurveda uses ten qualities, or pairs of opposites, to gain understanding about the nature of the person, the nature of the imbalance, and the nature of the cure.We use these factors to identify the basic constitution in people and to understand the impacts of dietary and lifestyle choices.

Even our environments may be understood as an expression of these qualities. When we have a symptom, we assess how it reveals these qualities to understand both what drove us out of balance and what will bring us back to our balanced, natural state.

The Three Doshas

Pairs of elements combine to form the three doshas, or energetic forces, called Vata (Ether and Air), Pitta (Fire and a little Water) and Kapha (Water and Earth).

The Three Doshas are the expression of the qualities, the union of elements, and the energetic states that make up the foundation of Ayurvedic understanding of the world. The term dosha means “fault” as in a fault line, something that can easily go out of balance. Since Ayurveda has its origins in nature, we can better understand and support the natural world by applying the understanding of the Doshas.

The doshas carry the qualities of their elements, thus Vata’s qualities are dry, light, cold, mobile, subtle, clear and rough. Pitta’s qualities include hot, sharp, light, oily, and liquid. Kapha manifests as heavy, stable, dense, gross, slow, soft, cool, smooth and cloudy.

Vata, Pitta and Kapha give their qualities to everything they touch, including various climates and weather patterns, seasons, landscapes, times of day, plants, animals, foods, and humans.

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Prakruti or Original Nature & Vikruti or Imbalanced State

We each carry our own special mix of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, which is believed to be set at conception. This personal blend of energetic forces is called our Prakruti, or constitution, and influences our body type, its physiological functions,as well as our mental and emotional characteristics, tendencies, strengths, and vulnerabilities. The doshas may be identified in the physical body by how it looks and how it functions, this may be compared to the DNA, the way any person is at the core of his/her being.

Our Prakruti remains our constant baseline template throughout life. Although the Prakruti may set the stage for our tendencies, it is the dietary and lifestyle choices that determine whether or not we move toward greater health or disease.The imbalanced state, Vikruti, occurs when we create imbalance by our choices in diet and lifestyle. The Prakruti may influence our preferences, but our actions determine whether or not we pacify the predominant dosha or drive that dosha to its full, possibly problematic, expression. We feel our best, and function optimally, when our current state, Vikruti, matches our Prakruti.

Vata rules movement and communication including the activity of neurotransmitters, the movement of muscles and skin, the circulation of breath,and the beating of our hearts.Pitta governs digestion, metabolism and transformation of food into body tissues,as well as information into wisdom. Kapha is responsible for bone and muscle growth, strength, stability, and immunity.

The 3 Doshas in Body and Mind

Vata in Body and Mind

Elements:

Air and Ether.

Qualities:

Light, dry, cold, mobile.

Physical Main Attributes:

Long, thin, small.

Emotions when in balance:

Enthusiastic, energetic, adaptable, artistic, good communicator, strong healing energy, positive spirit, good capacity for positive change and movement.

Emotions when out of balance:

Anxious, overwhelmed, indecisive, unreliable,hyperactive, overly talkative, superficial, disruptive, fearful.

Common Physical Challenges:

Dry skin and hair, constipation, insomnia,anxiety, worry, underweight.

Balanced by:

Heavy, Moist, Warm, Stable qualities

Pitta in Body and Mind

Elements:

Fire and Water

Qualities:

Hot, light, unstable, slightly moist

Physical Main Attributes:

Medium build and features, muscular, deep set eyes,angular face, rosy or red complexion.

Emotions when in balance:

Perceptive, clear, intelligent, independent, friendly,courageous, leader.

Emotions when out of balance:

Aggressive, selfish, controlling, angry, judgmental,manipulating, sharp, jealous.

Common Physical Challenges:

Balding, burning indigestion, acne, fever.

Balanced by:

Heavy, cold, stable, slightly dry qualities.

Kapha in Body and Mind

Elements:

Water and Earth.

Qualities:

Heavy, cold, moist, soft, stable.

Physical Main Attributes:

Large bones, stocky build, good musculature, soft andmoist skin, lustrous hair.

Emotions when in balance:

Compassionate, calm, peaceful, content, nurturing,supportive, stable, loving, forgiving.

Emotions when out of balance:

Attached, controlling, sentimental, materialistic,greedy, apathetic, slow comprehension, needing security, seeking comfort and luxury.

Common Physical Challenges:

Respiratory challenges, increased mucous,overweight, lethargy.

Balanced by:

Light, warm, mobile, dry qualities.

Main principle of Ayurveda
“Like Increases Like, Opposites Bring Balance”

balance de elementos

A fundamental principle of Ayurveda holds that “like increases like,” while opposites bring balance. This means that if we are exposed to too much of the qualities of Vata, Pitta or Kapha, through food, environmental factors, or other sensory inputs, we develop an excess of one or more of those doshas, which leads to imbalance, and eventually disease.

Inevitably as we go through life, we are buffeted by events and experiences that bring us out of balance. Prolonged imbalances lead to disease. As we learn and practice Ayurveda we recognize the early signs of imbalance and can act to apply opposing qualities before we get sick.

Thus, the gunas (pairs of opposite qualities) offer simple, intuitive go-to solutions for the whole range or excesses we’re likely to encounter.For example, if we are born with a predominance of Pitta dosha, and we live in a hot environment, consume spicy foods, and work under stressful conditions we will quickly develop an excess of fire. This, Pitta imbalance could initially manifest as irritability, acid indigestion, or loose stools and further develop into anger,ulcers, rashes or fevers.

Ayurveda recommends to balance excess heat with cold, like cooling activities such as swimming, cool foods, cooling pranayamas, and possibly cooling herbal formulas.

If we find ourselves getting too mentally scattered, overwhelmed, anxious, and/or excessively physically mobile, constipated, and unable to sleep, we are suffering from excess Vata. Ayurveda would recommend bringing in qualities opposite to those of Vata. Heavier, warmer, moister foods, a stable daily routine, slow and grounding asanas, calming pranayama, and possibly warm sedating herbs would be indicated.

Daily Ayurvedic Practices

mahadevir

The word for health in Ayurveda is Swastha which means, to be established in the Self. It can be understood as a state of inner harmony and connection to our innate intelligence. A state of cohesion, an experience of integration and wholeness within oneself.But what does that mean?

From an Ayurvedic point of view it means balanced dosha, proper digestion and formation of the tissues and elimination of waste,proper functioning of all sense and motor organs, a strong sense of Self, and peace of mind. In Ayurveda anything less is consider as lack of health or formation of disease.

When we are healthy we wake up feeling refresh, rested and ready for the day. Our energy level stays high during the day without the help of stimulants and we are symptom free in all body systems. To create this state of perfect health, Ayurveda glorifies the use of daily routines.

Ayurveda’s daily routines, or dinacharya, include some basic preventative practices that are beneficial, with some modifications, for all types. These are a good place to start your Ayurvedic journey. They include morning cleansing of your mouth by brushing your teeth, gently scraping your tongue, and “oil pulling”,which removes toxins and nourishes the gums by swishing oil around in the mouth for 5-15 minutes. Cleaning your nose by means of Neti wash, and lubricating your nostrils with herbalized oil called Nasya, bathing and applying oil (abhyanga) either before or afterwards, round out the basic routines.

Another important tenet of Ayurveda involves aligning ourselves with the daily and seasonal rhythms of Nature, which affect us deeply. The biological energies known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha wax and wane in tune with the hours of the day and seasons of the year, bringing different energies to the fore in our bodies and minds. Learning to work with, rather than against these, brings harmony to life.

An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you tailor a diet that supports your unique constitution and changes with the seasons to help you stay in balance throughout the year. If toxins (ama) have accumulated and you are suffering from disease symptoms, your practitioner can design a cleanse, herbal formulas, and recommend other practices to specifically balance your individual constitution.