What is Ayurveda?
The world’s oldest healing science originated in India and has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. The foundation of this philosophy came from the Vedas, divine books of knowledge advocated by the sages.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit compound word; Ayur means life and Veda means science, knowledge, and wisdom. Consequently, Ayurveda is the science of life, knowledge, wisdom, or rejuvenation.
Ayurveda’s definition speaks for a system that creates good health and seeks to maintain perfect harmony or balance within the body, mind, and soul.
The focus of Ayurveda is to promote wellness by balancing the body constitutions (called doshas).
Through Ayurveda, we learn how to create harmony or balance with ourselves and with nature. The emphasis is on balancing the body through conscious awareness of proper diet, lifestyle, and detoxification.
According to Ayurveda, the knowledge of the body, mind, soul, and senses is a sole significant structure. That structure revolves around the elements. Ayurveda teaches that everything in the cosmos, including human beings, are” a “microcosm of the macrocosm.”
“We are not a small star; we contain the entire universe inside of us.”
The Five Great Elements (Panchamahabhutas)
The elements are the fundamental substance components that exist in the Universe in all organic or inorganic organisms. Their qualities and actions identify the uniqueness of these substances. When they are in equilibrium, the function of the Universe and humanity are also in balance.
The Five Great Elements are defined in greater detail by AshtangaHridaya, which contains knowledge comprising the Ayurveda School of Surgery and School of Physicians:
Air (Vayu), Gaseous, a form of matter; it represents the energy of movement involving heartbeat, inspiration and expiration, the nervous system, and all other movements occurring within the body. It is the necessary element that keeps the fire burning.
Space (Akasha), Etheric, is found in the cavities of the lungs, mouth, bones, digestive and urinary tract, and within the blood vessels. It represents communication and transportation. All the other elements occupy space within our body and in the Universe.
Fire (Tejas), Radiant, is in the digestive system and responsible for metabolism, body temperature, sight, and intellect. The role of fire is transformation and conversion. It transforms the state of any substance, such as solids into liquids, liquids to gas, back to solids, and food into energy. It also converts food to fats and muscles.
Water (Aap), Fluid, is the liquid in the body, such as saliva, gastric juice, lymph, and blood. Water is essential for the survival of all living organisms; it extinguishes the fire and gives form to earth. Living organisms cannot survive in the absence of water.
Earth (Prithvi), Solid, is the solid-state of matter, a stable substance that manifests endurance, stability, solidity, and steadfastness; it stabilizes water. When the elements combine in a certain way, they form the doshas which control all physical, psychological, and physiological functions of the body.
The elements are life-supporting; they acquire a natural form when entering into the biology of a living organism. The driving force behind the actions of the elements is supported by the three principles of energies: Wind (Air and Space-Vata), Sun (Fire-Pitta), and Moon (Earth and Water-Kapha).
- Wind (Air) is the energy responsible for all movements and communication
- Sun (Fire) represents the conversion and transformation energy
- Moon (Earth) represents the binding energy that keeps the molecules together and helps them grow.
The energies are coded in three biological forces or transform in three subtle forms known as doshas or Prakriti: Vata is the driving force energy or energy of movement; Pitta is the energy of conversion and transformation, and Kapha is the energy of solidity or unity. These energies exist in plants, animals, humans, and in everything created or lives in the Universe.
Vata – Energy of propulsion or movement
Pitta – Energy of conversion and transformation
Kapha – Energy of cohesion or unity
Evolution of the Soul: Purification
Vata represents air and space, the energy of movement. Vata is the most influential of the three doshas, the moving force behind the other two.
Vata is responsible for all physiological processes involving motion, such as circulation, respiration, body sensation, speech, excretion, childbirth, nutrients through the gastrointestinal tract, and activities of the nervous system and mind (including creative thinking and enthusiasm). Vata metabolic type and lifestyle patterns are variable because the energy fluctuates back and forth.
The doshas are a collective of energies and substances within the body created by the five essential elements. They are also called body constitutions, body humors, personality types, or somatotypes by psychologists Kretchmer and Sheldon.
They are responsible for body structure, transformation, and transportation. The doshas regulate all physiological and psychological processes in life form.
Each dosha is composed of two elements. Some individuals may have one predominant dosha, a combination of any two or all three; the seven types of doshas are:
Psychologically, they learn very quickly. There is, however, a tendency for short-term memory issues, and they may experience poor concentration. A Vata individual may appear to be unstable when it comes to making decisions because they constantly change their minds.
In nature, Vata is seen in bamboo trees- skinny and tall; cheetah – the fastest running animal; and snakes with irregular movement.
Elements: Fire and Water
Evolution of the Soul: Peace and Mercy
Pitta is fire and water — it represents the principle of conversion. It is the fire in the digestive system that governs the digestive functions of chemical and metabolic transformation in the body. Without fire and water, food cannot digest.
Pitta promotes the production of heat, converts iodine to triiodothyronine in the thyroid gland, digests ideas, and stimulates the intellect.
Pitta individuals are of medium build in size and height. They often gain weight after age 35. Their hair is slightly oily and may turn gray prematurely. Their skin is somewhat oily and prone to acne, pimples, or infections; they sunburn easily. Their immune and circulatory systems are generally good.
Emotionally, a Pitta constitution can be overly critical to themselves and others: destructive, impatient, hostile, and prone to rage. They can also be short-tempered with occasional outbursts and a tendency toward hatred, jealousy, and anger.
They have robust metabolic systems and very good digestion, resulting in a healthy appetite. They usually consume large amounts of food and drink. They have a natural craving for sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes and cold drinks.
They tend to sweat excessively; body temperature may be high with warm hands and feet. Psychologically, they are quick learners, great organizers, intelligent, great speakers, quick thinkers, and have good long-term memory.
In nature, Pitta shows in animals such as lions and tigers – very aggressive and controlling; frogs with excellent vision; and pine trees, ambitiously growing.
Elements: Earth and Water
Evolution of the Soul: Trust and Wisdom
Kapha represents the elements of earth and water and is the principle of solidity or cohesion. It is the energetic binding force that provides structure to everything, from an individual atom or cell to the well-built musculoskeletal frame. Kapha forms muscle, adipose, and bone tissues. It holds the cells together; it gives strength, stability, and endurance to both physical body and psychological mind. Kapha is the body fluid principle related to mucous, lubrication, and the carrier of nutrients into the arterial system. It lubricates the joints and skin to keep them moist and helps heal wounds. It gives energy to the heart and lungs, maintains the immune system’s health, and supports memory retention.
Emotionally, they are very relaxed, stable, easygoing, loyal, forgiving, and loving.
The appetite of Kapha is regular, and the digestive system and metabolic process tend to be slow. They often crave pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Stools are soft and may be pale in color; bowel movement is slow, and sleep is deep and prolonged.
Kapha is generally healthy, peaceful, and happy and has strong determination. They are slow to react, slow to comprehend, and slow in everything they do: thinking, speaking, walking, and getting angry.
When out of balance, Kapha types can be depressed and have no motivation to initiate a task.
In nature, Kapha is observed in swans (very slow), elephants (enormous and slow), and in oak trees (very large).