Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of natural healthcare that is at least 5000 years old and has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Ayur means life and veda means knowledge or science. Therefore Ayurveda is the science of life. It is holistic, alternative, preventative, therapeutic, based on natural remedies, participatory (meaning that the patient is required and empowered to be responsible for her/his own health), consciousness-based, and personalized (meaning that therapies are custom made to suit each individual’s needs).
Ayurveda does not only address the body but is an integrated approach that takes into account, the mind, body, spirit and the environment. Prevention is at its core, and recognizing humans as part of nature, it strives to create a life of balance that is in harmony with its laws and the environment.
According to Ayurveda, each individual has a unique psycho-physiological constitution (like a genetic blueprint), which is called prakriti. When this natural constitution gets vitiated through incorrect lifestyle and diet, it creates imbalances (vikriti) in our constitution and can lead to ill health.
Ayurveda recognizes three fundamental energies (doshas) that govern our inner and outer environments. These elements, known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind and Space), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Earth), are responsible for shaping the characteristics of our mind and body. We each have a unique proportion of each of these three forces shaping our nature. When Vata is predominant, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, changeable, prone to feeling cold, and have dryer skin.
If Pitta prevails, we tend to be medium-bodied, intense, focused, goal-oriented, ambitious, and have more heat in the body. When Kapha predominates, we tend to be bigger-bodied, easy-going, methodical, nurturing, and prone to accumulating fluid in the body. We all have these three elements in our nature, but most people have one or two elements that are more obviously expressed. A smaller percentage of people are tridoshic, meaning that they have all three elements expressed more or less equally.
Each element can be in balance or go out of balance. When Vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to become scattered and unfocused, and to experience anxiety, insomnia, and dry skin. When Pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is a good leader and a good speaker, disciplined, warm and friendly. When the fire element goes out of balance, a person tends to become angry, reactive, compulsive, irritable and may suffer from inflammatory conditions and indigestion. When Kapha is balanced, a person is stable, supportive, easy going and sweet, but when it is out of balance, a person may become overly emotional, possessive, and experience sluggishness, weight gain, and congestion.
Ayurveda’s goal is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine what is out of balance and offer remedies in order to recreate that state of balance. For optimum health, tissues have to be nourished, nutrition should be absorbed properly, organs of elimination should function effectively, the channels of communication between the organs and the tissues should remain open and circulation should not be hindered. Ayurveda’s remedies include diet, herbs, a specific method of detoxification called pancha karma, oleation, massage, aromatherapy, yoga, exercise, meditation, correct lifestyle, and the observation of various daily and seasonal routines to reestablish balance.