Ayurveda: Ancient Science of Life
Ayurveda is the oldest system of health care in the world. It originated in India over 5,000 years ago and was passed down in oral tradition for thousands of years from accomplished masters to their disciples. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means the Science of Life. The purpose of Ayurveda is to heal, to maintain a high quality of life, and to increase the longevity of the individual. It is a holistic clinical science as well as an art of daily living that has evolved from practical, philosophical, and spiritual insight.
Ayurveda places great emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health through right thinking, proper diet and lifestyle, as well as the use of herbs and other therapies. Ayurveda is a science of self-understanding. By understanding our own unique constitution we can begin to understand how we interact with our environment and thus make choices that will lead us toward greater health. Ayurveda defines disease as the natural end result of living out of harmony with our constitution. Since we are all unique individuals, the path to optimal health is different for each person depending upon his or her constitution.
The individual’s constitution or prakruti is determined at the time of conception as a particular pattern of elemental energy (and genetic code). Many factors, both internal and external, can disturb this balance and bring about changes in the constitution that may lead to disorders and disease. Some of these factors include emotional and physical stresses, improper food combinations and choices, seasonal and weather changes, physical trauma, and work and family relationships. Once we understand how these factors affect us on a constitutional level we can take appropriate actions to minimize or nullify their effects and eliminate the causes of imbalance.
The science of understanding our constitution is the science of tridosha. Tridosha defines the three fundamental doshas or principles that govern the function of our bodies on the physical, mental, and emotional levels. These three energies are known as vata, pitta, and kapha. Each individual has a unique balance of all three of these energies. Body, mind, and consciousness work together in maintaining harmony, since they are different aspects of our being. To learn how to balance them requires an understanding of how vata, pitta, and kapha work together.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the cosmos is an interplay of the mahabhutas (five great elements) Ether or Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Vata, pitta, and kapha are combinations of these five elements that manifest as patterns present in all creation. Vata, mainly composed of Space and Air, is the principle of movement. Pitta, principally made up of Fire and Water, is the fire component that transforms food into energy. Kapha, mainly a combination of Water and Earth, is the cementing) constructing matter of the body.
Vata is very much like the wind – it is light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear. People who have a predominant vata dosha in their prakruti will have more of these qualities and will be more prone to disorders that relate to them. These qualities also reflect in their personality. They often move and speak quickly. They tend to be talkative, enthusiastic, creative, flexible, and energetic. Yet, when out of balance, they may become easily confused and overwhelmed, have difficulty focusing and making decisions, and have trouble sleeping. Likewise, they may lose weight easily, become constipated, experience worry and anxiety, as well as constipation. They have light body frames and tend to have underdeveloped muscles, thin bones, and dry hair and skin.
Pitta has hot, sharp, oily, and penetrating qualities. People with a pitta predominant constitution tend to feel warm, and their complexion is often fair, rosy, and oily. They have penetrating eyes and sharp features. They tend to have moderate weight and good musculature. They generally have a powerful appetite and good digestion. They can be highly focused, competitive, capable, courageous, energetic, and clear communicators who get right to the point. When out of balance, they are prone towards disorders of the fire element such as acid indigestion, diarrhea, infections) skin rashes, and weakness in the liver, spleen, and blood. On an emotional level, pitta out of balance can manifest as criticism, irritability, jealousy, and anger.
Kapha is the energy that forms the body’s structure and provides the cohesion that holds the cells together. It also supplies the water for all bodily parts and systems. It helps to lubricate the joints, moisturizes the skin, and maintains immunity. Kapha tends to be cool, moist, stable, and heavy. In the body these qualities manifest as dense, heavy bones, lustrous, supple skin, low metabolism and large, stocky frames. In addition, those with a kapha nature tend to be more sedentary and resist change. When kapha is out of balance it can manifest as lethargy, obesity, edema, and damp congestive disorders. Kapha types are often loving, caring, forgiving, and compassionate, but when out of balance they tend toward attachment, greed, and possessiveness.
Ayurveda states that like increases like. For example, summer has attributes similar to those of pitta’s hot, sharp, and oily qualities. Therefore pitta type individuals should incorporate healthy habits into the diet and lifestyle that help counter the predominate qualities of the summer season. This way the dosha remains quantitatively and qualitatively balanced.
Ayurveda is a precious gem for those of us on the path of yoga. The ancient classical texts state that a body free from disease is the best foundation for achieving the four aims of life – dharma (righteous action or duty), artha (wealth), kama (desire), and mokhsa (liberation). Imbalances at the physical or emotional levels can create obstacles to our spiritual practices. Ayurveda offers practical ways to maintain our health through daily routines, doshic diet, seasonal observances, and the use of medicinal herbs and spices.
Vishnu Dass (NTS, LMT, CAyu) studied Ayurveda under the guidance of Dr. Vasant Lad, world renowned Ayurvedic physician and teacher. He is a graduate of the New Mexico School of Natural Therapeutics in Albuquerque, MN. He had previously studied with herbalist Michael Tierra at the American School of Herbalism in Santa Cruz, CA. He is a former Board Member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) and was granted a Lifetime Professional Membership for his service to that Board.
Vishnu offers lectures and workshops on Ayurveda and yoga philosophy for various herb schools and yoga centers throughout the South East, and has published several
Vishnu offers lectures and workshops on Ayurveda and yoga philosophy for various herb schools and yoga centers throughout the South East, and has published several articles on Ayurveda and yoga, both on local and national publications, including Light on Ayurveda Journal, New Life Journal, and Integrative Health and Healing, amongst others.He has been in clinical practice for over 12 years, treating people of all ages.
His practice, Blue Lotus Ayurveda : Natural Health & Rejuvenation is located at 822 Haywood Rd. – Asheville, North Carolina. Phone: (828) 713-4266.
For more information, go to his website at www.bluelotusayurveda.com