Introduction to Ayurveda

Ayurveda’s roots spring from the traditional ancient Indian system of health. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word which can be broken down to ayur which means life, and veda which translates to science and or knowledge. Together the word ayur and veda means life knowledge.  Ayurveda dates back to over 5,000 years old, developed within the vedic period.  The Ayurvedic method of holistic health emphasizes balancing and uniting the body, mind, and spirit to prevent and treat disease.  Its primary focus is harmonizing the body within nature through right thinking, herbs, natural therapies, remedies, correct food intake, meditation, yoga, movement and body cleansing to fine tune an individual’s lifestyle.  It’s philosophy to life enables us to protect and sustain our mental and physical health and its longevity.

Ayurveda emphasizes heavily on prevention and supports the maintenance of health through careful attention to the balance of an individual’s life.  According to the Ayurvedic system, each individual is unique and thus giving each of us different characteristics on the physical, mental and emotional level, known in Sanskrit as Prakrti.  Many influences within and outside of us will affect our constitutional state (Prakrti), whether it be our lifestyle, emotions, environment, relationships, diet etc… When these elements are understood, one can take necessary steps of action to diminish the causes of imbalance to revert back to their original prakrti.  By examining ourselves closely, we can integrate the natural trends of what makes up our constitution by understanding our doshas that regulate our functions right down to the core of our most complex of cellular processes.  Ayurveda identifies three basic principles that make up our basic biology and the ecology of nature around us.  These three Sanskrit terms are vata, pitta and kapha.  Let’s have a closer look

Vata – The Force Behind Movement… Space and Air…

Vata is the essential movement of all bodily activities which is most prominent during change of season.  To stabilize the movement of vata, conscious considerations are needed to assist in grounding this moving energy.  A person who is vata usually characterizes a very active and restless individual which usually leads to an increase in fatigue.  When the vata element dominates one’s constitution, the result is usually an increase in anxiety and fear stimulating instability. Common disorders within a vata dominant include constipation, aching joints, dry skin hair and nerve maladies to name a few.  Frequent travel especially by air and over use of drugs that cause stimulation usually further instability.  Vata types are best when they are set in routine and often respond positively to more rest and relaxation which include foods that are warm, heavy and comforting as well as daily self-care such as oil massage.  Some quick guidelines for a vata dominant should be to keep warm, induce practices that increase relaxation, avoid cold temperatures, rest plentiful and stick to a routine schedule.

Pita – The Force of Fire… Fire and Water…

Pita types can be described by heat and fire.  The Pita force is warm, piercing and disquieting.  When this force is dominant, the individual’s constitution usually consists of a strong a metabolism, consistent digestion and a strong inclination to large appetite.  Although hot, these individuals love spicy foods and hot liquids to keep the kindle of fire burning.  Perspiration, clamminess, oiliness and warm feet and hands are often very common and they have the ability to churn this heat into hard physical labor without inducing much fatigue.  During the summer time, which is usually hot in most areas, pitta people usually find themselves aggravated and short tempered.  Usually as the season reverts back to a cooler climate, the pitta disorders calm and the element becomes less in effect.  Certain dietary restrictions will help pitta drastically by incorporating sweet and cooling foods.  Some quick guidelines to help a pitta in their path to balance are to avoid areas of excessive heat and establish a practice that is cooling to keep the potential blaze of fires under control.

Kapha – The Force of Lubrication… Earth and Water…

Kapha is the energy that forms the body’s stable shape and can be described as the stickiness that keeps the body together while supplying the body with lubricative fluids to move.  Individuals with a kapha dominant trait are usually strong, grounded, heavy, tolerating, yet loving and caring.  With the ability to gain weight and become lethargic easily due to a slow metabolism, kapha individuals tend to be stuck within their own body if not properly balanced.  Their skin is thick and smooth with little perspiration and their body features are usually soft and attractive.  When kapha’s become out of balance from their natural nature, they are susceptible to attachment, self-indulgence and bitterness.  Well connected to the water source, they tend to pick up on diseases that cause an over stimulation of mucus and congestion causing headaches, diabetes, influenza and lethargy to name a few.  They tend to be most agitated during the full moon phase because of the increase in water withholding in the body and outer environment.  The winter is when the kapha needs to really hone in on their lifestyle and diet as this time is most important for them.  Some guidelines to help a kapha in their path to balance is to firstly limit the amount of food intake.  Foods that are greasy and high in fats should be completely avoided and foods that induce lightness to stimulate their minds should be consumed.  Often cooked grains and fresh vegetables are best while avoiding anything that creates an excess of mucus and heavy liquid viscosities should be avoided completely.  Kapha individual’s need to stay active with a routine that is fluid and changing in direction.  In general, those who are kapha dosha dominant have very little influence from vata and pitta, so it’s important to stay on track with a balanced lifestyle.

To Conclude…

Progress towards a state of balance and health are parallel to the effort put towards the ayurvedic guidelines and how well you follow them.  Taking action to apply these guidelines is the key to positive results of how the energy of mind, body and spirit can flow in a harmonious direction.  To enjoy complete health, we need to live in harmony according to the understanding of ourselves and the universe.  To achieve progress, changes need to be made and only you are in charge of the direction in which state of health you would like to live with.  What is a healthy and happy life is constantly evolving while all the medical system advances and technologies are changing the way we think and perceive our world and state of health.  Although, the more we consider and validate the foundational theory of Ayurveda, the more we are convinced that the balance of diet and lifestyle does indeed lead to a happier and healthier way of life.  As scientists and researchers are coming to discover, healing and health cannot be quarantined to specific western medicine or any one method but must be understood as a balance of holism.

Written by Quinn Taplin