Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic system which translates to 'the science of life' from the original Sanskrit root word 'Ayur' which means 'life' and 'Veda' meaning 'knowledge'.
According to Ayurveda, each individual has unique needs when it comes to maintaining and achieving optimal health throughout their life. We each require a specific combination of foods, lifestyle, climate, activity and treatments to reach wellness and balance.
To understand our individual formula for optimal life, we first need to understand our unique dosha constitution. Our 'dosha' or bio-energies are formed of the five elements that are present in the universe and within each of us. These are earth, water, fire, air and ether.
Dosha is a Sanskrit word that relates to the five elements which exist in our universe, in all living things and within us. The five elements are earth, water, fire, air and ether and these are grouped into three dosha's called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata dosha is air and ether combined. Its qualities are similar to those that we know to be found in air and ether such as cold, light, rough, dry, moving.
Pitta dosha is fire and water combined. Its qualities are similar to those that we know to be found in fire and water such as hot, fast, sharp, moist and light.
Kapha dosha is earth and water combined. Its qualities are similar to those that we know to be found in earth and water such as heavy, slow, cool and smooth and moist.
Ayurveda states all living beings are made of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Within each of us is a unique balance of each dosha - no two people can be the same, it’s like our DNA, we are unique!
Your dosha is set at conception and stays with you throughout your lifetime, this is called your Prakruti or natural state.
The usual lifestyle factors such as sleep, environment, season, diet and stress can take a toll on our mind and body. When this happens it can result in an imbalance to our dosha. Usually one or more of the doshas fall out of balance and this is called your Vikruti.
Living in harmony with our unique doshas helps to stay healthy both inside and out. Ayurveda can guide us on how best to live in harmony with our dosha type which can help prevent illness and lead us towards optimal health.
Learning about the properties of each dosha can help us understand ourselves better and guide us to living in harmony with our true nature.
Each dosha has its own recommendation for the best time to sleep, wake up and length of sleep we need including morning and night-time rituals.
The external environments we find ourselves in can impact our health. This can include a place of your work, home or school. You may be feeling too hot, too cold, too damp or too dry in these spaces. It may be excessively noisy and disruptive, there may be pollution, wind/rain. These can impact our physical and mental state which affect the doshas.
Diet - food and drink
The foods we eat and drink, the ingredients, herbs, and spices used, the six flavours (sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent), portion size, frequency and even timings of our meals all play a part on our health.
The four seasons we experience in most western counties relate to the doshas and can aggravate the doshas. We can see the doshas represent themselves in the seasons e.g., Autumn, and early Winter is Vata season (dry, windy cool, drying and falling leaves) Winter and early Spring is Kapha season (muddy, wet, cold, sluggish, heavy), late Spring and summer is Pitta season (hot, moist, sunshine). As we move through the seasons, the climate, weather and culture we live in will play a role in the movements of the doshas within us.
Stress can establish itself not only mentally but physically and emotionally too. Stress can lead to unstable emotions and lead us to react such as anger, and anxiety. Stress can also harbour in part of our body which may lead to stomach conditions, aches, pains, rashes and skin disorders. Stress inhibits itself both physically within the body and expresses itself in many ways as well as mentally.
How we go about our daily lives can play a part in going out of balance. If we are doing something in excess or maybe not enough then we can find ourselves creating an imbalance. Working without proper breaks, rest or nourishment can lead to exhaustion, insomnia, or loss of appetite. On the flip side not enough movement, exercise (of mind and body) may lead to lethargy, depression, or weight gain.
We can learn more about living in harmony with our dosha by reading books on Ayurveda or consulting an Ayurvedic Practitioner who can help with proper dosha diagnosis and may provide a diet and lifestyle programme. Useful material can also be found on YouTube which is great as a starting point.
I hope this little introduction to Ayurveda was useful to you and please get in touch with me if you would like to know more or have questions.
The Ayurvedic Institute
College of Ayurveda
Ayurveda College, California