Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine that has been practiced for over 5000 years, making it the oldest health system in the world. The word “Ayurveda” is derived from Sanskrit and translates to “knowledge of life.” It is a holistic approach to health and well-being that encompasses physical, mental, and social aspects of a person’s life.
One of the defining principles of Ayurveda is the concept of balance. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, a person is considered healthy when their physiology is in a state of equilibrium. This includes a well-functioning digestive system, metabolism, normal tissue function, efficient excretory systems, and a state of enduring inner contentment in terms of the soul, spirit, and senses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also recognizes the holistic nature of health, stating that it is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity but a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.
Ayurvedic medicine’s comprehensive approach to health has gained increasing recognition and popularity over the past two decades, particularly in industrialized countries. People are realizing that Ayurveda not only treats illnesses but also emphasizes disease prevention. Ayurvedic therapies aim to revitalize both the body and soul, enhance overall well-being, and restore strength that may have been lost due to modern lifestyles.
Overall, Ayurveda provides a holistic and timeless approach to health, focusing on the balance and well-being of an individual’s mind, body, and spirit.
In Ayurveda, the three Doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These Doshas are the functional principles that are derived from the combination of the five elements (space/ether, air, fire, water, and earth) and govern the physical and mental characteristics of individuals.
Vata is associated with the elements of space and air. Individuals with a dominant Vata Dosha are generally creative, expressive, and full of ideas. They tend to be enthusiastic but may struggle with consistency and easily get distracted. They have a quick intellect but may have challenges with willpower. Physically, Vata types typically have a delicate bone structure, lower body weight, and dry, rough skin. They are physically active but may have variable appetite and digestion. Vata types often enjoy sweet, sour, and salty foods and may experience cold hands and feet.
Pitta is associated with the elements of fire and water. Pitta-dominant individuals are known for their quick thinking, high intelligence, and ambition. They are natural leaders with a strong drive and a focus on achieving perfection. Pitta types are often energetic and have an athletic physique. They have a fiery aura and tend to have warm hands and feet even in colder weather. Pitta individuals have a liking for both sweet and bitter tastes and are fond of cold drinks.
Kapha is associated with the elements of water and earth. Individuals with a dominant Kapha Dosha are characterized by their careful and methodical approach. They may appear slow or ponderous, but they possess exceptional endurance and strength. Kapha types are patient and tenacious in pursuing their goals. They have a tendency to gain weight easily and have a lifelong struggle with excess weight. Kapha personalities value inner tranquility, peace, and harmony. They find pleasure in simple things and prefer tried and tested experiences.
Understanding an individual’s unique Dosha constitution helps in tailoring lifestyle, diet, and treatment approaches in Ayurveda to restore balance and promote overall well-being. It is important to note that everyone has a unique combination of Doshas, with one or two typically being more dominant.
A disease is defined as the manifestation of the body’s effort to eliminate Aama, according to Ayurveda. When an individual experiences gout, their mobility decreases, leading them to reconsider consuming fried food. Similarly, when someone catches a cold, they avoid cold beverages and exposure to chilly winds. Fatigue prompts individuals to seek rest. Therefore, disease symptoms reflect the body’s attempt to heal, known as “Prayaschita” in Ayurveda, which can be understood as a “penalty for abuse.”
In Ayurveda, a disease serves as a guiding force for healing and a signal for the need to initiate change in order to restore the body’s natural balance. Ayurveda uses the term “Niramaya” to describe optimal health, denoting a state in which the body is free from all forms of Aama.
Ayurveda classifies diseases into two broad categories: those caused by undernutrition and those caused by overnutrition. Treating diseases arising from overnutrition is often more challenging compared to those caused by undernutrition, as eliminating waste is more difficult than consuming an appropriate diet. While consumption is an ongoing process, waste elimination from the body is finite.
Some diseases may result from a combination of both factors mentioned above. For instance, an individual can be obese and experience fatigue, leading to the notion of being overfed but undernourished. Ayurveda attributes this condition to “Agni,” which refers to the body’s metabolism or digestive fire responsible for converting food into energy. If food intake primarily leads to fat accumulation without ideal conversion, it indicates the need to evaluate the gut’s function.
In Ayurveda, the gut is referred to as “Koshta,” which translates to “the big channel through which life enters.” It serves as the pathway through which energy enters our body. The gut is encompassed by the organs of the abdomen, beginning from the mouth and extending to the anal canal.
The phrase “gut feeling” signifies a sixth sense, and it originates from our stomach. The reason why this sensation is associated with the gut and not the lungs or the heart is because the gut contains the second highest concentration of nerve cells after the brain, making it akin to our second brain.
The health of an individual can be assessed based on two states of the gut:
Dry: When the gut is in a dry state, it is characterized by dehydration and constipation. This condition arises when there is an excess of sticky fat content, which can lead to allergies and inflammatory conditions.
Wet: A wet state of the gut refers to smooth bowel movements. In this state, non-sticky fats predominate, facilitating the unrestricted flow of metabolic energy.