The Ayurveda Series: Introduction

In this series I'll introduce you to the science of Ayurveda which takes a holistic approach to healing. We'll look at the three doshas, how you can identify your dominant dosha, the impact this may have on your wellbeing and how to bring balance through simple lifestyle and nutritional adaptations.

What is Ayurveda?


Ayurveda (eye-er-vay-dar) is believed to be the oldest-surviving, complete medical system in the world. It combines lifestyle guidance, herbal medicine, nutrition, detoxification, massage and spiritual practices.


Ayur means life, longevity Veda means wisdom, knowledge


The very heart of Ayurveda is that everything is one – the body affects the mind and vice versa.

The history of Aurveda


There are speculations over its true origins but it is believed to be over 5,000 years old. Ayurvedic knowledge was passed down orally until it was set down in ancient Sanskrit texts known as ‘Vedas’. Word spread far and wide through followers and traders (which is why Ayurveda has influenced Greek, Chinese and Roman medicine).


In the 19th Century the British dismissed it as native superstition, closed all the schools and banned the practice. However, at the start of the 20th Century its standing was re-evaluated by Indian physicians and some (more open minded) Englishmen and it regained its reputation.

The principles of Ayurveda


There are three doshas (biological dispositions) that govern our constitution;


  • Vata (var-tar)

  • Pitta (pi-tar)

  • Kapha (ka-far)

Prakruti


Our prakruti is our basic constitution (what we are born with, like DNA). We are all born with our own balance of doshas and our predominant dosha (or doshas) determine our physique, our mental and emotional tendencies and our predisposition to certain health problems.

We generally have a predominance of 1 or 2 doshas (it’s rare to be ‘tri-doshic’ - perfectly balanced between the three!). When our doshas are in balance (when they remain in the proportions we are born with) they maintain our health and wellbeing, when unbalanced we become unwell.

Vikruti


Your vikruti is your current state of imbalance (its always changing). The purpose of Ayurveda treatment is to return your doshic balance to your prakruti. One or two doshas will dominate our constitution with single types the easiest to determine as they stand out.


The three doshas

Vata


Vata's essence is movement. It is our life force (prana), derived primarily from breath. Vata is reflected in the circulation of blood and lymph and the impulses of the nervous system.


Vata qualities; Dry, cold, light, irregular, mobile.


In the body vata controls; Blinking, breathing, heart pulse, nerve impulses, peristalsis, elimination of waste, circulation, the movement of nutrients and balance of the whole body.


Mentally and emotionally vata connects to; Balance and wellbeing, movement of ideas, inspiration and creativity, spiritual aspiration, adaptability, comprehension, fear and anxiety, vision and imagination.


Pitta


Pitta's essence is transformation and heat and it controls all the chemical and metabolic conversions in the body that create energy and heat. Pitta is reflected in the digestion of nutrients which provides energy as well as the hormonal system.


Pitta qualities; Oily, hot, smooth


In the body pitta controls; Appetite, digestion, metabolism, thirst, body heat and colour, lustre of the skin, shine of hair and light in eyes.


Mentally and emotionally pitta connects to; Mental perception, judgement, analysis, penetrating thought, impatience, irritability, anger, willpower, control, enthusiasm, joy, courage, ambition and competition.


Kapha


Kapha's essence is growth and protection and it controls nourishment. It is reflected in the bones, muscles, tissues, cells and body fluids.


Kapha qualities; Wet, dense, solid, heavy


In the body kapha controls; Strength and stability, water balance, lubrication of mucous membranes and joints, protecting and cushioning the whole body, supporting and holding the structures of the body together.


Mentally and emotionally kapha connects to; Emotional support in life, calmness and endurance, patience and forgiveness, ability to feel love, compassion and devotion, sense of wellbeing, loyalty and affection.


Next blog... we look at the doshas in more depth