The Sanskrit term Ayurveda translates to “knowledge of life,” and the principles of this ancient wisdom remind us that the entire web of life is intricately interwoven. With a unique emphasis on total wellness, the art, and science of Ayurveda work to harmonize our internal and external worlds.
Our five senses serve as the portals between the internal and external realms, as the five great elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth dance the dance of creation around and within us. Ayurveda groups these five elements into three basic types of energy and functional principles that are present in everybody and everything. Since there are no single words in English to describe these principles; we use the Sanskrit words Vata, Pitta, and Kapha to describe their combinations.
Everything that we experience, be it a physical substance, a thought, or an emotion, has certain qualities. The ancient texts of Ayurveda classify these qualities — called gunas in Sanskrit — into 10 pairs of opposites, making 20 qualities total (for example, heavy vs. light). Theoretically, everything in the universe can be described in terms of these guns, or qualities, including the doshas. The foundation of Ayurvedic treatment relies upon recognizing when gunas have become excessive or deficient, as this is known to cause doshic imbalance and lead to disease. Ayurveda applies the opposite qualities to return to balance.
Agni, the universal principle of transformation that manifests as our digestive fire, mediates between the internal and external, transforming food into bodily tissue and waste; interpreting information into experiential knowledge; and discerning between nutritious material and waste product. Ayurveda kindles the agni of the body to digest toxins which have manifested due to internal or external stresses, ensuring optimal functioning of the physical and mental being.
Leveraging these basic principles, Ayurveda customizes preventative wellness to the unique constitution of every individual. In addition, ancient Ayurvedic doctors produced detailed descriptions of acute and chronic conditions (complete with causes, signs, and symptoms), and developed extensive holistic treatment protocols. Preventative care and treatment of disease falls under Ayurveda’s eight branches, which include:
In addition, Ayurveda offers one of the world’s most comprehensive cleansing protocols, known as panchakarma. This ancient practice uses five primary therapies to release and eliminate accumulated toxins from deep within the tissues, and return the doshas to their proper seats in the body.
Ayurveda offers renewed access to our natural intelligence. As the original circadian medicine, Ayurveda holds the key to resolving dis-ease creating a disconnect. Thus, this ancient medicine offers the promise of a more harmonious future for the people and planet.
The vata dosha is said to be made up of the air and ether elements. This means that it has qualities which are similar to these elements. Vata is very much like the wind–it is light, cool, dry and mobile. In the body, those people with a vata nature experience more of these qualities. Their bodies tend to be light, their bones thin, and their skin and hair dry. They often move and speak quickly. When out of balance, they may lose weight, become constipated and have weakness in their immune and nervous systems.
These qualities also reflect in their personality. Those with a vata nature tend to be talkative, enthusiastic, creative, flexible, and energetic. Yet, when out of balance they may also become easily confused and overwhelmed, have difficulty focusing and making decisions and have trouble sleeping. This becomes more apparent when they are under stress. Emotionally they are challenged by cool emotions like worry, fear, and anxiety.
The pitta dosha is said to be made up of the fire and water elements. Fire is more predominant, and those people with a predominant pitta nature have many of the qualities of fire within them. Pitta tends to hot, sharp, and penetrating. It is also somewhat volatile and oily. The oily nature of Pitta is related to the secondary component of water. People with a Pitta nature reflect these qualities. They tend to feel warm and have somewhat oily skin, penetrating eyes, and sharp features. They tend to have moderate weights and good musculature. When out of balance they tend toward diarrhea, infections, skin rashes and weakness in the liver, spleen, and blood.
These qualities also reflect in their personalities. Pitta people tend to be highly focused, competitive, capable, courageous, energetic and clear communicators who get right to the point. They like to solve problems and when under stress they dig in their heels. They can however also become overly intense and speak with a sharp tongue. They make great friends but feared enemies. Emotionally they are challenged by the heated emotions of anger, resentment and jealousy.
Within the kapha dosha there is a predominance of the water and earth elements. Like these elements, kapha tends to be cool, moist, stable and heavy. In the body these qualities manifest as dense, heavy bones, lustrous, supple skin, low metabolism, and large, stocky frames. In addition, those with a kapha nature tend to feel cool. When out of balance, kapha individuals are prone to gaining weight and tend to have weaknesses in their lungs and sinuses where there is an accumulation of mucous. Those of kapha nature are also most prone to non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
The elements of water and earth also reflect in the personality. The heavy, stable nature of kapha reflects in a stable personality which is not prone to quick fluctuations. Those with a kapha nature handle stress very well, often not even noticing that it exists. They don’t like change, are generally conservative, and would prefer to keep things just the way they are. Those with a kapha nature are also comfort seekers. This relates to the soft, watery nature of kapha. Too much comfort, however, can lead to a lack of motivation and feeling of becoming stuck. When kapha is out of balance, the heavy emotions of depression and lethargy result.
The word panchamahabhuta is made up of three words: ‘pancha’, ‘maha’ and ‘bhuta’. ‘Pancha’ means five, ‘maha’ means great and ‘bhuta’ means that which exists. All the living and non-living objects in the universe are made up of panchamahabhuta. [Charaka]. Therefore, panchamahabhuta are the five fundamental elements responsible for creation of the universe, including humans. Each individual has a unique panchabhautika constitution. This constitution remains in state of equilibrium in health and any imbalance results in disease. It is crucial for healthcare provider to identify panchabhautika imbalance and should have the capability to restore equilibrium.