What is Ayurveda?
You are unique.
Your path to perfect health is equally unique.
Your body has the innate ability to heal itself.
The optimal condition of existence is one of health, well-being and happiness. As our body has an innate ability to heal itself and is always moving in the direction of a balanced state, the aim of Ayurvedic healthcare is to remove obstacles to wellness and strengthen the body’s self-healing capabilities.
These are the core principles of Ayurveda, India’s ancient natural healing system successfully practiced over the last 5,000 years. More than a simple protocol for treating illness, Ayurveda actually translates from Sanskrit as “the science of life” – Ayur meaning “life” and Veda meaning “science or knowledge”. Essentially, Ayurveda is a body of wisdom that applies a wide range of techniques to keep the whole person – mind, body and spirit – in harmony to maintain optimal wellness. We focus on understanding your individual body-mind constitution and the unique nature of your imbalance.
The Three Ayurveda Doshas
According to Ayurveda, five elements make up everything in the universe. These five elements are ether, air, fire, water and earth. When these elements manifest in biological form (such as the human body) they conjoin to form the bodily humors – the three doshas – which function in relation to one another to create structure and to carry out the physiological processes of the body. The three doshas, the foundation of health and disease, are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata rules movement, Pitta rules metabolism and transformation, and Kapha rules stability. Each dosha is composed of two elements and, therefore, has the qualities of those elements:
- Vata (air & ether) is light, dry, hard, cold, and mobile
- Pitta (fire & water) is hot, light, sharp, penetrating, and slightly moist
- Kapha (water & earth) is moist, cold, heavy, soft, and stable
Everyone has an individual blend of the three doshas, with one or sometimes two doshas predominating. Ayurvedic treatment aims to keep the doshas in balance according to your constitution by determining:
- Prakruti ~ your doshic constitution
- Vikruti ~ your current state of imbalance caused by an excess of one or more of the doshas
Your prakruti is the ratio of the doshas at the moment of your conception, the appropriate balance of which support perfect health. When any of the doshas become excessive you will experience symptoms of imbalance (vikruti) – illness or disease – that is characteristic of the excessive dosha(s). An Ayurvedic practitioner works to bring the doshas back to a state of appropriate balance (prakruti) by creating a unique treatment program for each patient.
The Doshic Mind-Body Types – Ayurveda Body Types
Vata dominant people tend to be thin, petite or very tall with a small frame and small features. They tend to feel cold, and have dry skin and mucous membranes. The light, mobile, and cold qualities can also be seen in their minds and emotions. When balanced, Vata-types are enthusiastic, vivacious, creative, and inspired. Vatas make exceptional artists and healers. Their speech is often fast or dreamy, representing the mobile or ethereal quality of the air and ether elements. Vata-types, or those with Vata vikruti, tend toward low stamina, depletion and fatigue. Vata is responsible for such functions as breathing, heartbeat, elimination, pulsation, blood circulation, and thinking.
Pitta dominant people express the hot, light, sharp, penetrating and oily qualities of the fire and water elements in body and mind. Physically, they tend to have moderate frames and/or athletic builds, and fairer complexions that burn most easily in the sun. When balanced, the Pitta mind is clear, focused, and intelligent. The Pitta mind has the ability to discern truth and light the way for other seekers. In this way, Pitta types make excellent leaders and teachers. When out of balance, the fiery qualities of the body and mind may become excessive, expressing itself through imbalances such as burning indigestion, inflammation, acne, anger, jealousy, competitiveness, or extreme ambition. Pitta is responsible for such functions as digestion and temperature.
Kapha dominant people embody the qualities of the earth and water elements, which are moist, cold, heavy, soft and stable. Physically, kaphas have solid and stable builds, with the tendency to become overweight when out of balance. Given that Kapha is the dosha with the greatest mass, the features of Kapha types are often the largest of the three types. Large, beautiful eyes, round face, thick hair, full lips, and curvy frames are all possible physical manifestations of the Kapha dosha. When balanced, Kaphas are incredibly grounded and nurturing, often being “the rock” of mental and emotional stability upon whom others depend. Their voice and speech is often slow, stable, thoughtful and melodic. When out of balance, the heavy, stable and moist qualities of Kapha may become excessive, leading to symptoms such as mental and physical lethargy, excess mucous, weight gain, and melancholy. Kapha is responsible for such functions as immunity.
Treating Imbalance with Ayurvedic Therapies
The foundation of Ayurvedic treatment is the principle of “like increases like and opposites balance.” When we take in an excess of any specific qualities (ie. hot, sharp, heavy, mobile, etc.) through any of our five senses, it causes doshic imbalance and subsequent symptoms. Therefore, Ayurvedic Medicine uses the same “transport system” – the five senses – to bring the opposite, healing qualities into the patient’s body and mind. Once a practitioner has determined which opposite qualities are most beneficial to the patient, the practitioner creates a treatment program using therapies that feed the patient’s five senses with those qualities which are most healing.