Ayurveda 101 – What You Need To Know!
Originating from India more than 5,000 years ago, Ayurveda is the oldest system of healing. Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words: Ayus meaning life, and Veda meaning knowledge or science. Therefore Ayurveda is known as “life knowledge” or “life science”. It is a profound science of living that encompasses the whole of life and relates the life of the individual to the life of the universe.
At the heart of Ayurveda is our intimate connection to the elements in nature, and how they can help us to achieve a physical and spiritual balance in our lives. According to Ayurveda, health is a perfect state of balance among the body’s three Doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) and an equally vital balance among the body, mind, and soul. The ancient sages of India, who lived in the mountains practising Meditation and Yoga, believed that all material forms, including our bodies, are made up of five essential elements – ether, air, fire, water, and earth – in varying degrees. Only by maintaining a balance among these five elements can we achieve a balance in our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
What are the 5 Elements that create the 3 Doshas
- Ether and air constitute Vata. Vata governs all movement in the mind and body.
- Fire and water constitute Pitta. Pitta governs all heat, metabolism and transformation in the mind and body.
- Water and earth make up Kapha. Kapha governs the structure and fluid balance in the body.
How are Doshas Determined?
At the time of fertilization, the Vata–Pitta–Kapha factors from the parents’ bodies that are predominant forms an individual with a particular constellation of qualities. This is known as the inherited genetic code. Ayurveda has called it our prakruti (individual constitution), a constant factor that does not change throughout life. It is a unique pattern of energy with our combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics and predispositions. Though the underlying structure of our prakruti remains fixed. Age, external environment, diet, stress, insufficient rest/exercise, and repressed emotions can disturb our doshic balance.
Depending on the type of changes and the individual’s underlying constitution, various ailments may develop:
• Individuals that experience an increase Kapha, leading to conditions such as congestion, sneezing, allergic manifestations, as well as attachment, greed, and possessiveness.
• Pitta individual may become highly critical, angry, or develop physical symptoms such as acid indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea, dysentery, hives, rash, or acne.
• Vata imbalances may manifest as constipation, abdominal distention, arthritis, insomnia, along with psychological symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and insecurity.
All these conditions, upset the individual’s balance, creating subtle biochemical changes that can lead to illnesses and disease. Hence, the Ayurvedic system emphasizes the need for individual healing. As conditions of our lives constantly change, adjustments are required for a balanced and healthy life. To do so, we have to juggle with the three Doshas, taking action to increase or decrease Vata, Pitta, or Kapha.
As a science of self-healing, Ayurveda encompasses diet, nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rest and relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises, medicinal herbs, along with cleansing and rejuvenation programs for healing the mind, body, and spirit.
Numerous adjunct therapies such as sound, colour, and aromatherapy may also be employed. Ayurveda is not a passive form of therapy. But rather asks each individual to take responsibility for his or her own daily living. It can be through our diet, relationships, responsibilities, and daily life, where simple actions can be taken for prevention, self-healing, wholeness, and growth toward fulfillment.
Whether you require Ayurveda remedies depends on your state of mind/body. If you are able through awareness to detect minor imbalances, you can take note and experiment changing your diet and going for yoga practices. However, remember to talk to your doctor about complementary health practices such as herbal and natural remedies if you have a chronic ailment, as these are not meant to replace any current or required medical treatment. Also, seek professional advice if you are already suffering from any physiological, physical or psychological imbalances. Remember to get professional medical advice before experimenting with any alternative remedies.