Ayurveda is a medical system that originated in India over 5,000 years. It is a system of health care developed through centuries of observation and clinical practice which has investigated the physiology of the body and pathogenesis of disease. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that translates as "the science of life,” which reveals that it is not just about treating disease but offers a holistic approach to living a balanced and healthy life.
Ayurveda believes that everything in the universe is made up of five great elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Every substance in our world is made up of these five substances, including our own bodies. In Ayurvedic physiology, these five elements combine to form three dynamic energies called Doshas. These energies are constantly moving in dynamic balance, maintaining all our bodily systems and ensuring they work together in harmony. These Doshas are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata means "to move, flow or command” and is a force made up of elements ether and air. It governs all movement in the body: breathing, blinking of the eyelids, movements in the muscles and tissues, pulsations in the heart and the movement of impulses in nerve cells. Vata also governs such feelings as freshness, nervousness, fear, anxiety, pain, tremors, and spasms. The qualities of Vata are drying, cooling, light, agitating, and moving.
Pitta is a force created by the dynamic interplay of water and fire. These forces represent transformation. Pitta governs all metabolic functions in the body: digestion, absorption, assimilation, body temperature and skin coloration, the luster of the eyes, intelligence, and understanding. Psychologically, Pitta arouses anger, hate, and jealousy. The qualities of Pitta are oily, sharp, hot, light and liquid.
Kapha comprises the elements of water and earth. Kapha lubricates the joints; provides moisture to the skin; helps to heal wounds; fills the spaces in the body; gives biological strength, vigor and stability; supports memory retention; gives energy to the heart and lungs, and maintains immunity. Psychologically, Kapha is responsible for the emotions of attachment, greed, and long-standing envy. It is also expressed in tendencies toward calmness, forgiveness, and love. The qualities of Kapha are unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft and stable.
According to Ayurveda, every individual is born with a unique combination of these Doshas in their body. Called Prakruti, this basic constitution is fixed throughout our lifetime. The combination of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha that is present in the sperm & ovum combine at the time of fertilization to create a unique individual. Each of us then has different combinations of Vata, Pitta and Kapha in our bodies. This is how Ayurveda can explain the subtle differences between individuals and explains why everyone is unique and that two persons can react very differently when exposed to the same environment or stimuli. Your Prakruti is unique to you just as your fingerprint and DNA.
Ideally, your constitution remains fixed throughout your life. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Every person is subjected to the constant interaction with their environment which will affect the person's constitution at any time. The qualities in the environment and in our food can accumulate in our bodies and can disturb the dynamic balance between the Doshas. For example, if your Prakruti is Vata then your body will already be dry, cold, light & active because these are the dominant qualities of Vata. If you live in a cold climate and eat dry, cold & light foods then these qualities will accumulate in your body and cause Vata to become imbalanced. It is these imbalances that can lead to illness.
Ayurveda teaches that these imbalances can be addressed by means of diet and lifestyle to return your body to a balanced and healthy state. The profound promise of Ayurveda is that through changes to diet & lifestyle, not only can we prevent disease but live a long, healthy life in balance and harmony.
In my 35 years of clinical practice, both here and in India, I have seen the profound benefits of this health science help thousands of people achieve balance in their lives.