Many scientists consider Ayurveda to be the oldest healing science. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “Science of Life. Ayurvedic knowledge originated in India over 5,000 years ago and is often referred to as the “Mother of all Healings. It dates back to ancient Vedic culture and has been passed down orally from experienced masters to their disciples for many thousands of years. Some of this knowledge was printed several thousand years ago, but much of it is inaccessible. The principles of many natural healing systems now familiar in the West are rooted in Ayurveda, including homeopathy and polar therapy.
Your constitution and its inner balance
Ayurveda places great emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health through close attention to life balance, proper thinking, diet, lifestyle and the use of herbs. Knowledge of Ayurveda allows us to understand how to create this balance of body, mind and consciousness according to one’s individual constitution and how to make lifestyle changes to achieve and maintain this balance.
Just as each person has a unique fingerprint, each person has a specific energy pattern–an individual combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics that make up his or her own constitution. This constitution is determined at conception by a number of factors and remains unchanged throughout life.
Many factors, both internal and external, act upon us to upset this balance, and are reflected in the change in a person’s constitution from its balanced state. Examples of these emotional and physical stressors include emotional state, diet and food choices, time of year and weather, physical injuries, work and family relationships. Once these factors are understood, appropriate actions can be taken to negate or minimize their effects, or to eliminate the causes of the imbalance and restore the original constitution. Balance is the natural order; imbalance is disorder. Health is order; disease is disorder. There is a constant interplay between order and disorder in the body. When one understands the nature and structure of disorder, one can restore order.
Balancing the three basic energies of the body
Ayurveda identifies three basic types of energy or functional principles that are present in everything and everyone. Since our language does not have separate words to convey these concepts, we use the original Sanskrit words vata, pitta and kapha. These principles can be related to the basic biology of the body.
Energy is needed to create movement, to get fluids and nutrients into the cells, allowing the body to function. Energy is also needed to metabolize nutrients in cells and to lubricate and maintain cell structure. Vata is the energy of movement; pitta is the energy of digestion or metabolism; and kapha is the energy of lubrication and structure. All people have the qualities of vata, pitta and kapha, but one is usually primary, the other secondary, and the third is usually the least prominent. The cause of disease in Ayurveda is seen as a lack of proper cellular function due to an excess or deficiency of vata, pitta or kapha. Disease can also be caused by the presence of toxins.
In Ayurveda, body, mind and consciousness work together to maintain balance. They are simply seen as different facets of one being. Learning how to balance body, mind and consciousness requires an understanding of how vata, pitta and kapha work together. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the entire cosmos is the interaction of the energies of the five great elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Vata, pitta and kapha are combinations and permutations of these five elements, which manifest as patterns present throughout creation. In the physical body, vata is the subtle energy of movement, pitta is the energy of digestion and metabolism, and kapha is the energy that forms the structure of the body.
Vata is the subtle energy associated with movement, consisting of Space and Air. It controls breathing, blinking, muscle and tissue movement, heart pulsation and all movements of cytoplasm and cell membranes. In balance, vata promotes creativity and flexibility. Disturbed vata causes fear and anxiety.
Pitta is expressed as the metabolic system of the body, consisting of Fire and Water. It regulates digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism and body temperature. In balance, pitta promotes understanding and intelligence. Disturbed pitta causes anger, hatred, and jealousy.
Kapha is the energy that forms the structure of the body – bones, muscles, tendons – and provides the “glue” that holds together the cells formed from Earth and Water. Kapha supplies water to all parts and systems of the body. It lubricates the joints, moisturizes the skin, and supports the immune system. In balance, kapha is expressed as love, tranquility, and forgiveness. Imbalance leads to attachment, greed, and envy.
Life presents us with many challenges and opportunities. While there is much that we have little influence over, we do have the ability to make decisions about certain things, such as diet and lifestyle. To maintain balance and health, it is important to pay attention to these decisions. A diet and lifestyle appropriate to one’s individual constitution strengthens the body, mind, and consciousness.