What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a holistic medical system. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that literally means as the knowledge of life (AYU – life, VEDA – knowledge or science). It is based on ancient Indian texts that utilize natural treatments, herbal medicines, lifestyle and dietary practices to promote healing of body, mind and spirit. The benefits of Ayurveda have been proven over centuries and practiced in daily life to sustain health.

History of Ayurveda

Ayurveda, most commonly defined as the practice of ancient Hindu or Indian medicine, originates with the Vedas, the earliest Indian literature, dating from ca. 1500 B.C. Originally transmitted orally, Ayurveda was codified into major treatise of Charak, Sushruta and Vagbhatta samhita (medical transcripts). These texts continue to be the most important classical reference even today. Ayurveda consist of eight branches; general medicine (kayachikitsa), surgery (Shalya), disease of ear, nose and throat (Shalakya), pediatrics (Kaumarbhrutya), toxicology (Agadatantra), psychiatry (Manas roga), Rejuvenation (Rasayana) and sexual vitality (Vajikaran). Over 80 % of the population opts for alternative therapy as curative and preventive healing. Ayurveda has stood the test of times and continues to be complete healing system to offer ancient understanding and wisdom to the modern world.

Basic Principles

Every human being is composed of unique proportion of the five elements (Panchmahabutas) namely earth (prithvi), water (jala), fire (tejas), air (vaayu), and space (akasha). These five elements integrate to form three dynamic forces, the biological humors or Tridosha, namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These distinct doshas govern all our human characteristics, activities and patterns of health and illness. Vata dosha, woven from the elements of Space and Air, regulates movement and change in our minds and bodies. Pitta dosha, comprised of Fire and Water, governs digestion and metabolism. Kapha dosha, made from Earth and Water, maintains and protects the integrity and structure of our mind and body. The doshas determine certain qualities or attributes of our body. One can remain healthy as long as these doshas are in a state of equilibrium in the body. Once aggravated or diminished can lead to disease conditions. How you feel inside depends on how these doshas work within your system.

According to Ayurveda, every individual is born with a unique combination of doshas termed as PRAKRUTI (body’s physical constitution) that is determined at the moment of conception and influenced by seasonal variations and several other internal and external factors. We are all different, everyone inherent strength and weakness. If you know yours and know how your constitution causes them, you can adjust for them and make your life happier and healthier.

For instance, Vata people are quick, to learn, to forget, to become enthused. They walk, talk, and change their minds and moods quickly. Their normal body functions also tend to change quickly. Their energy levels are very high. Vata people often have trouble making decisions, suffer from gas, constipation, and cold extremities. Their body is dry and often rough. They have imaginative minds and irregular habits. It’s the most difficult constitution to keep healthy.

Pitta people are efficient, precise and orderly. They hate hot climate, prefer cooling food. Their skin tends to be warm and soft with freckles, pimples, rashes and wrinkles. Their hair grays and falls early. These people get easily irritated and are impatient.

Kapha people like slow and relaxed life. The qualities of Kapha are slow, steady, heavy, oily, and cold. When Kapha is in balance, Kapha people are loving, nurturing and grounded. Their stamina is superior to the other types. Their body tissues are firm, well-nourished and healthy. When out of balance, they are needy, lazy, feel heavy in body and mind and tend to gain weight easily and lose it with difficulty.

Physical Constitution

Ayurveda classifies individuals broadly into seven categories, according to their constitution or ‘prakriti’. These seven categories are in outcome of the dominance of a particular dosha; vayu, pitta and kapha or of combinations of the three doshas.

Primarily, human constitution is of seven types:

Vata constitution
Pitta constitution
Kapha constitution
Vata-pitta constitution
Pitta-kapha constitution
Vata-kapha constitution
Sama constitution

Most of the people have double predominance, but the various possible proportions of all these dosha to one another; the number of constitutional types becomes infinite. Knowing your constitution is a tool of self –examination for locating what comforts your health and what can lead to imbalance. Knowing your constitution is essential for selecting appropriate food, beverages and also for choosing best therapy for your sufferings.