What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago. The word Ayurveda is made from two Sanskrit roots “Ayu” which mean life and “Veda” which means knowledge. Therefore, the term Ayurveda means the knowledge or science of life.
How does Ayurveda work?
According to Ayurvedic fundamental's people are a combination of the three “Dosha’s” or “Vata”, “Pitta” and “Kapha”. Each dosha has a specific quality and it is a combination of these three qualities of vata pitta and kapha which combine to make the unique qualities of every person on the planet. Just like the genetic code or DNA. The unique qualities of vata pitta and kapha are a combination of two of the five elements, Space, air, fire, water and earth. For example,
Vata is a combination of elements Space and Air. From these elements we get the qualities of lightness, movement, wind and space. These qualities manifest in an individual as talkativeness, as sound uses the medium of air to travel in. Lightness of the body as the quality of space and air is lightness. Dryness, as the qualities of air and wind tend to dry things like the skin.
Movement, the quality of air has the power to move things like a kite or a windmill but this movement manifests itself in the body as the movement of nervous energy, an impulse from the brain to the hand or leg or a nervous tremor or even the movement of food through the digestive system.
These are the qualities of vata. So if we can imagine a person who is purely of a vata constitution then we can imagine a person who would be talkative, a person who has a thin bony body who has dry skin and dry hair, and maybe suffers from joint pain or stomach cramps.
Fundamentals of Ayurveda.
The Sanskrit term Ayurveda is a combination of two words Ayu-life and Veda-knowledge or science. The literal translation of Ayurveda is “knowledge of life” or “right living”. Its principles are universally applicable. Those who wish to live happy, healthy and inspired lives can benefit from the wisdom Ayurveda holds.
Ayurvedic knowledge is grounded in the Vedic scriptures, which date back to 3000 BC. According to the Vedas, life is seen as an evolution of the creative principle, Prakriti, and the formless and attribute-less, non-being, Purusha. While Prakriti is the Sakthi or Divine Mother, Purusha is the Father principle, which is unchanging. Prakriti creates all forms in the universe.
In their primary states all the forms contain the three gunas, or principles called Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in perfect balance. When the three gunas start to interact, the balance is disturbed. In an attempt to restore this balance, activity begins.
This action creates currents of energy or space and Akash is generated. From Akash comes Air, then Fire, then water and finally Earth. Simultaneously, during this, fields are created, the mental (conscious) field created by sattva; the power field created by Rajas; and the material field created by Tamas.
The five elements belong to the material field and are the building blocks of the body. The Philosophical Background of Ayurveda and the Concept of Creation. Sciences in ancient India were based on various philosophical systems known as darshanas. These classical philosophical systems are divided into astika and nastika darsanas.
The darsanas, which accept the authority of the Vedas, are called astika and those not based on acceptance of the authority of the Vedas are called nastika.
These different philosophical systems describe truth from different points of view. Reality is not a fixed measurable entity but a variable that depends on the level of intensity of our experience. Truth has as many aspects as there are dimensions of experience. Each dimension corresponds to a particular level of reality.
The Tridosa Concept.
According to Ayurveda, the human body is composed of three fundamental elements or categories called dosa, dhatus and malas. We shall deal with the subtle elements called dosa's first. The dosa's (lit. Faults) are composed of al five mahabhutas (elements), but one or the other of the mahabhutas is predominant.
Dosa - Vata - Mahabhuta - Akasa+Vayu - (Element) - (Ether+Air)
Dosa - Pitta - Mahabhuta - Tejas+Jala - (Element) - (Fire+Water)
Dosa - Kapha - Mahabhuta - Prithvi+Jala - (Element) - (Earth+Water)
Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, the five basic elements manifest in the human body as three basic principles or humours, known as the tridosha.
From the Ether and air elements the bodily air principle called vata is manifested, this principle is called the vata dosha.
The Fire and Water or Tejas and Jala elements manifest together in the body as the fire principle Called pitta.
The Earth and Water elements or Prithvi and Jala manifest in the body as the bodily water humour known as kapha.
These three elements; vata-pitta-kapha- govern all the biological, psychological and physiopathological functions of the body, mind and consciousness. They act as basic constituents and protective barriers for the body in its normal physiological condition; when out of balance they contribute to the disease processes.
The tridosha are responsible for the arising of natural urges and for individual preferences in foods: their flavours, temperatures and so on. They govern the creation, maintenance and destruction of bodily tissue, and the elimination of waste products from the body.
The tridosha are also responsible for psychological phenomena, including such emotions as fear, anger and greed: and for the highest order of human emotions such as understanding, compassion and love. Thus, the tridosha are the foundation of psychosomatic existence of man.
The basic constitution of each individual is determined at conception. At the time of fertilisation, the single male unit, the spermatozoon, unites with the single female element, the ovum. At the moment of this union, the permutations and combinations of bodily air, fire and water that manifests in the parents bodies determine the constitution of the individual.
In general, there are seven types of constitutions:
Among these seven general types, there are innumerable subtle variations that depend upon the percentage of vata-pitta-kapha elements in the constitution. The constitution is called prakruti in Sanskrit, a term meaning “nature”, “creativity” or “the first creation”. In the body, the first expression of the basic five elements is the constitution.
The basic constitution of an individual remains unaltered during the lifetime, as it is genetically determined. The combinations of elements present at birth remain constant. However, the combination of elements that governs the continuous psycho pathological changes in the body alters in response to changes in the environment.
Throughout life, there is a ceaseless interaction between the internal and external environment. The external environment comprises the cosmic forces (macrocosm), while the internal forces (microcosm) are governed by the principles of vata-pitta-kapha.
A basic principle of healing in Ayurveda holds that one may create balance in the internal forces working in the individual. By altering diet and habits of living this counteracts changes in his external development. Understanding Tridosha. According to Ayurveda, the first requirement for healing oneself and others is a clear understanding of the three dosha.
The concept of vata-pitta-kapha is unique to Ayurveda and it holds the potential for revolutionising the healing systems of the West. However, the concept of the three principles and the Sanskrit words, vata-pitta-kapha, are very difficult to translate into western terms.
Vata is the principle of movement. That which moves is called vata. Therefore, vata may be translated as the bodily air principle. However, the element of Air in the external atmosphere is not the same as the air in the body. Bodily air, or vata, may be characterised as the subtle energy that governs biological movement.
This biological principle of movement engenders all subtle changes in the metabolism. Vata governs breathing, blinking of the eyelids, movements in the muscles and tissues, pulsation's in the heart and all expansion and contraction. Also to be considered are the movements of cytoplasm, cell membranes and movement of single impulses in nerve cells.
Vata also governs such feelings and emotions as freshness, nervousness, fear, anxiety, pain, tremors and spasms. The large intestine, pelvic, bones, skin, ears and thighs are the seats of vata. If the body develops an excess of vata, it will accumulate in these areas.
Pitta is translated as fire, although the term does not literally mean “fire.” The fire of a candle or the fire in a fireplace may be seen; however, the bodily heat-energy, the pitta-dosha, which manifests as metabolism is not visible in this way. Pitta governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, body temperature, skin coloration, the lustre of the eyes; and also intelligence and understanding.
Psychologically, pitta arouses anger, hate and jealousy. The small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, blood, fat, eyes and skin are the seats of pitta. Pitta is formed from the elements fire and water.
The translation of kapha is biological water, and this bodily principle is formed from the two elements, Earth and Water. Kapha cements the elements of the body, providing the material for physical structure. This dosha maintains body resistance. Water is the main constituent of kapha, and this bodily water is responsible physiologically for biological strength and natural resistance in the body.
Kapha lubricates the joints, provides moisture to the skin, helps heal wounds, fills the spaces in the body, and gives biological strength vigour and stability. Kapha also support's memory retention, gives energy to the heart and lungs and maintains immunity. Kapha is present in the chest, throat, head, sinuses, nose, mouth, and stomach, also Joints, cytoplasm, plasma, and liquid secretions of the body such as mucous.
Psychologically, kapha is responsible for emotions of attachment, greed and long standing envy; it is also expressed in tendencies toward calmness, forgiveness and love. The chest is the seat of kapha.
A balance among the tridosha is necessary for health. For example, the air principle kindles the bodily fire, but water is necessary to control fire, otherwise the bodily fire would burn the tissues. Vata moves kapha and pitta, since kapha and pitta are immobile.
Together the tridosha governs all the metabolic activities: anabolism (kapha) catabolism (vata), and metabolism (pitta). When vata is out of balance, the metabolism will be disturbed, resulting in excess catabolism, which is the breakdown or deterioration process in the body.
When anabolism is greater than catabolism, there is an increased rate of growth and repair of the organs and tissues. Excess pitta disturbs metabolism, excess kapha increases the rate of anabolism and excess vata creates emaciation (catabolism).
In childhood, anabolism and the kapha elements are predominant, since this is the time of greatest physical growth. In adulthood, metabolism and the element of pitta are most apparent, because at this stage the body is mature and stable. In old age, catabolism and vata are the most in evidence, as the body begins to deteriorate.