Understanding Ayurveda – The Science of Daily Life
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian healing system and life science. It is both a science and an art as it contains wisdom about how to thrive as a psychological, emotional and spiritual being as well as knowledge about body functions and disease processes. Ayurveda explores life in all its layers and pays more attention to an organism’s energies and their functions than to the structures which contain them. It concerns itself less with quantity of life than with life’s quality, and with those qualities in our environments and ourselves that promote an individual’s state of health or ill health on every level of existence. Ancient Ayurveda, with its understanding of life and consciousness, does not appear archaic or obsolete but a key to the medicine of the future. In the modern developed world, our problems are mainly psychological. We have adequate food, clothing and shelter which prevents us from getting most physical diseases. Yet, though most of us have no major physical problems, we still suffer from psychological unrest. This unrest may manifest as feelings of loneliness, not being loved or appreciated, anger, stress, or anxiety. It can lead to the weakening of our physical energy and prevent us from doing what we really want to do. Our very way of life breeds unhappiness. We have an active and turbulent culture in which there is little peace or contentment. We have disturbed the organic roots of life, which are good food, water and air, and a happy family life. We live in an artificial world dominated by an urban landscape and mass media, in which there is little to nourish the soul. We ever desire new things and are seldom content with what we have. We run from one stimulation to another, rarely observing the process of our lives that is really leading nowhere. Our lives are patterns of accumulation in which we are never still or at rest. Modern medicine is more a quick fix to keep us going in our wrong. We take a quick pill hoping that our problem will go away, not recognizing that it may only be a symptom of a life out of balance, like a warning light that we had better heed.
Ayurveda, on the other hand, teaches harmony with Nature, simplicity and contentment as keys to well-being. It shows us how to live in a state of balance in which fulfilment is a matter of being, not becoming. It connects us with the wellsprings of creativity and happiness within our own consciousness, so that we can permanently overcome our psychological problems. Ayurveda provides a real solution to our health problems, which is to return to oneness with both the universe and the Divine within. This requires changing how we live, think and perceive.
The Biological Humors of Vata, Pitta and Kapha (Prakriti)
If we look at the different people in the world around us, we observe that all of us are not simply alike. The standard or average person is a statistical abstraction who does not really exist. Each one of us is different in many ways, both physically and mentally. Each person possesses a unique constitution different from that of any other person. The shapes and sizes, temperaments and characters of people have enormous variations that must affect our health and happiness. We must understand our own nature for our own happiness and well-being in life. Similarly, we must understand. the nature of others, which may be different than our own, for harmonious social interaction. The food that is good for one person may not be good for another. One person may thrive on spices, for example, while another similar person may not be able to tolerate them. Similarly, the psychological conditions favourable for one person may not suit another. Competition may stimulate one person to greater achievement but intimidate another and make him fail. Without understanding our particular constitution, we must fall into poor health and disease. No standardized medicine can adequately deal with all our individual variations. Only a system that can discern our different constitutional types has this capacity. Ayurveda contains such a well-developed science of individual types as its core wisdom. One of the great beauties of Ayurveda is that it so clearly helps us understand all our individual variations, special abilities and idiosyncrasies. Health is more than freedom from disease, and is something to do with balance and strength. But, since each of us is unique, how do we proceed?
From macrocosm to microcosm; ‘as above, so below’. As within, so without. This aphorism encapsulates the Ayurvedic principle that everything in the external universe has its counterpart in the internal universe of the human body, mind and spirit. This everything includes the five great elements of which the entire cosmos is made up of. These great elements (panch mahabhoot) are Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The Vedic seers formulated a system for the maintenance and restoration of health for use by their fellow mortals and called it Ayurveda. On the physical plane, where for the most part we live and breathe and have our being, the biological versions of the elements combine their qualities, functions and energy in pairs, to form three functional energies, humours and Doshas.
“Tridosha” means three Doshas. The Doshas are not things to be touched or tasted, but their actions and qualities can be perceived by our senses so we know they are present when we learn what qualities to associate with them.
The elements pair off to form the Doshas thus: Air and Ether combine to form the functional energy of ‘Vata’, which in Sanskrit means ‘air’ and also ‘wind’.
Fire and Water combine to form Pitta, which means fire.
Water and Earth combine to form Kapha which means water. Every individual has a certain combination of these Doshas, known as prakriti, which sets him/her apart from every other individual. The functioning of the body is maintained by the interaction of these three Doshas. The Doshas are both essential to the body’s functioning and liable to throw it out of balance. When performing their ascribed tasks and moving on and out of the body and staying in relative balance one with the other, they are the foundation of health. If any one of them accumulates it will eventually and inevitably give rise to problems of a physical and/ or mental-emotional nature. How they do this and what problems they might have caused in an individual is in the core of treatment in Ayurveda. The three Doshas are inextricably linked and must maintain a balance for health to prevail.
How we help you?
We help you know your Dosha/constitution (prakriti) through consultation and once we know your prakriti, the next step for us is to pin-point the reasons for your imbalance. This does not necessarily mean you have any symptoms which we call illness, but includes all the physical, psychological/emotional and spiritual distress you experience as a result of imbalance. The health of your body involves getting a balance between the Tridoshas that constitute your physical prakriti. Likewise, a healthy mind will maintain a Dosha-specific balance that is peculiar to you, and the spiritual health you achieve will show the balanced Dosha. Our team of Vaidyas would analyse the disease process within you and come out with an individualised suggestion which may include a daily and seasonal routine, food habits and if required, medicines. Remember, all foods and remedies are good for some people some of the time, but nothing is appropriate for everyone at all the times. Learn more of you with us and you will know what is more appropriate for you; live appropriately and you will find yourself living as healthy as you possibly can. Getting the right blend of Vata, Pitta and Kapha to bring about physical, mental and spiritual harmony within you helps us achieve the cherished health bliss for you. Get it right from our team of Vaidyas now!