Ayurveda: What is it and how does it work

Ayurveda is an ancient healing system that originates from India. More than 5,000 years old, ayurveda is a complementary health system that works in harmony with nature.

The aim of Ayurveda is to protect health and prolong life, and to eliminate diseases and dysfunctions of the body.

A Sanskrit term, Ayurveda is made up of the words “ayus” and “veda” which when combined means “the knowledge of life” or “the science of life.” According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, “ayu” comprises the mind, body, senses and the soul.

Ayurveda recognises that all living creatures, whether human, plant, or animal, must live in harmony with nature in order to survive. Just as maintaining one’s health is an ongoing process, Ayurveda incorporates daily and seasonal tools, including a proper diet and a balanced lifestyle, which are designed to ensure maximum health, mental clarity, and longevity.

The three doshas

Ayurveda is based on the premise that the universe is made up of five elements: air, fire, water, earth, and ether. In Ayurvedic medicine, one’s individual nature is mirrored in their body type, or dosha. These elements are represented in humans by three “doshas”, or energies: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

When any of the doshas accumulate in the body beyond the desirable limit, the body loses its balance. Every individual has a distinct balance, and Ayurveda works to balance the physical body, ensuring that the it gets a right balance of the three doshas, tridoshas.

Each person is a unique combination of these three principles or doshas, with different proportions of each existing within. Various Dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and personality traits, as well as general likes and dislikes. For example Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types.

The three basic Ayurvedic principles combine to make ten unique mind-body types.

Vata, which corresponds to air and ether elements, is the energy which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration, and elimination. When Vata is in balance, there is creativity and vitality. When it is out of balance, symptoms include fear and anxiety.

Kapha corresponds to water and earth elements. Kapha is responsible for growth and protection.  It supplies water to all body parts, moisturises the skin, and maintains the immune system. When Kapha is in balance, it is expressed as love and forgiveness. An out of balance Kapha can lead to insecurity and envy.

Pitta corresponds to fire and water elements. Pitta is responsible for metabolism, which converts food into energy that’s used to provide fuel to the body’s cells. When Pitta is in balance, there is contentment and intelligence. When it’s out of balance, it can cause ulcers and anger.

Lifestyle and diet

Based on one’s Ayurvedic body type, what one eats, how one exercises, when one sleeps, and the optimal place for one to live, will have its own unique blueprint.

Once you know your body type, Ayurveda provides protocols to align your internal nature with the larger cycles of nature, such as the daily rhythms and seasonal cycles.

Food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine in Ayurveda. Seasonal and daily routines include proper diet and a balanced lifestyle, according to your body type. Ayurveda then makes very specific recommendations for resetting digestion, restoring balance and function, and proper detoxification.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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