Ayurveda – The Science of Life

Ayurveda is the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature. It is an ancient natural wisdom of health and healing, a science of life and longevity. This science of long life stems from the great Vedic civilization of India and stands as the most ancient and comprehensive health system in the world. It is based on the timeless knowledge that expresses itself in perfect balance, the foundation of lasting health, satisfaction and beauty.

The Philosophy

Ayurveda is the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature. It is an ancient natural wisdom of health and healing, a science of life and longevity. This science of long life stems from the great Vedic civilization of India and stands as the most ancient and comprehensive health system in the world. It is based on the timeless knowledge that expresses itself in perfect balance, the foundation of lasting health, satisfaction and beauty.

Ayurveda is a Sanksrit term which means “the science of life” or “the wisdom of longevity”.  Ayurveda views health as much more than the absence of disease. Health in Ayurveda means harmony, and there is no end to the degree of harmony that we can achieve if we put our minds to it. This method of living emphasizes prevention over cure, without neglecting cure. Some complain that Ayurveda works slowly, but slowness is often part of the remedy, especially today when many of us suffer from the disease of haste. Ayurveda balances and rejuvenates us reducing our susceptibility and empowering our immunity to prevent disease from developing.

We humans have not really changed much in our recorded history. Our technology is much more advanced, surely but our bodies and minds are almost identical to those of our ancestors, who suffered from the same diseases and demonstrated the same admirable and despicable qualities that we do. Ayurveda’s unbroken chain of experience has much to say to us today. Its therapies have been tested by thousands and thousands of physicians on millions and millions of patients. Its theories have stood the test of time.

In ancient days, when Ayurveda was being developed, humans were much less able to control their external environment than we can today. They had no choice but to rely on nature. Lacking the technology we have today they cultivated their intuitive abilities, and because they lived in close proximity to nature they found it easy to determine the medicinal effects of plants and minerals. They experimented on themselves and handed down their observations. This collected medical lore was codified long ago in the form of Ayurveda.

The Principles of Ayurveda

Ayurveda can be used to explain the complexities of not only our health (this includes physical, mental and emotional health) but also the world around us and how we interact with that world. According to Ayurveda every person has an inherent and unique constitution, our prakriti. By understanding our own personal basic nature in this way, it can contribute to a nurturing attitude towards ourselves and the world around us, giving us insight and wisdom into maintaining our own health and that of the world around us.  One of the fundamental principles is that to move away from our unique constitution creates health imbalances.  These early signs of imbalance serve us and if addressed we can move very swiftly back to balance.  If these early signs are ignored and we move further out of balance, they can manifest as disease.

Ether, earth, fire, water and air, the first material of life are the basis of the Vedic sciences. Existing in the body of all living organisms, the 5 basic elements congregate in a certain pattern. These are known as the doshas. The proportion of the doshas in you is known as your prakriti. Your prakriti is your fundamental constitution, your most balanced state. To determine your own Ayurvedic constitution scroll down and take our questionnaire.

All three doshas, or biological humours are present in varying degrees in everyone, but one or two usually predominate. A Vata person is characterized as unpredictable, enthusiastic, impulsive, and imaginative. Physically, Vatas are slender, have prominent features, and cool, dry skin. In contrast, the Pitta type of personality is predictable, intelligent, passionate, and articulate with a medium build. A Kapha personality is characterized by a heavyset body type and is loving, compassionate, affectionate, tolerant and forgiving in nature.

When these doshas go out of balance, then imbalance results. Vikriti is the present unbalanced state of the dosha which must be addressed. The purpose of all Ayurvedic treatment is to balance one’s Vikriti so the doshas are in harmony. Five factors that cause aggravation are: diet, lifestyle, emotions, exercise (too much, too little, or the wrong kind), and external influences of the seasons, weather, or trauma.

Vitiated Vata can result in hyperactivity, restlessness, anxiety, insecurity, fear, doubt, nervousness, insomnia, spaciness, dizziness or ungroundedness. Physical manifestations are constipation, bloating, abdominal distension, gases, dehydration and emaciation, to name a few. When Pitta is disturbed, it manifests as anger, rage, irritability, frustration, impatience, jealousy, violence, and being critical or judgmental. Physically, Pitta can cause diarrhea, nausea, acid regurgitation, skin disturbances such as hives, rash, increased perspiration, bleeding tendencies, inflammation, infection, and increased body heat. Disturbed kapha dosha is revealed through attachment, greed, depression and trouble letting go. It results in cold, congestion, weight gain, heaviness, shortness of breath, water retention, edema, and solidification of tumors, fibroids and lumps.

Ayurvedic treatment entails a personalized approach to balancing the doshas through diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine that is tailored to each individual. By teaching the individual how to manage diet and lifestyle and the properties of their dosha, it takes a preventative approach instead of waiting to deal with illness after it has already manifested. This may involve exercise, yoga, pranayama, meditation, dietary changes, fasting, oilation through massage, sweat baths, nasal medications and herbal tonics.

The therapeutic effects of botanical medicines or herbs has been vastly undervalued in the West despite its continuous use over the centuries in the East. Ayurveda has a rich pharmacy of hundreds of herbs that work in harmony with the body’s innate intelligence. They are natural substances that can be taken long-term without side-effects.

True joy, happiness and beauty come from within when we take the time to be ourselves, to discover who we are. To determine your own Ayurvedic constitution scroll down and take our questionnaire.

Your Ayurvedic Constitution

Your Ayurvedic constitution is the inborn or inherent balance of energies in his or her body and mind. In Ayurveda these are quantified in the understanding of the Doshas. There are three Doshas known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. In harmony the body is healthy but as the doshas move out of harmony the body expresses itself in the form of disease. Each individual has his/her own unique balance of these energies. As a result each individual expresses himself differently in the world. Each person has a different type of body frame, degree of oiliness in the skin, sensitivity to pain and many more characteristics that can be understood by knowing a person’s unique constitution. This is why Ayurveda sees all people as individuals recognizing that one person’s elixirs is another person’s poison.

As an example, people of Kapha nature have skin which is naturally oily, soft, and supple. They also tend toward being heavy, feeling cool and moving slowly. If these individuals use cooling oils like coconut, the cool and heavy quality of the oil will sedate them even more and may cause oozing skin conditions. On the other hand warm, light, stimulating oils can be used to make a much more balancing massage for Kapha individuals.

Determine Your Ayurvedic Constitution

While it is always most accurate to be fully evaluated by a trained Ayurvedic practitioner filling out the following questionnaire can give you insight into the balances of energies unique to your body.

As you fill out the following questionnaire,
Give yourself two points if a statement is clearly true for you.
Give yourself one point is it is somewhat true.
Give yourself no points if it is clearly not true.

Vata Questions

1. I am thin and my body build is “slight.”
2. I have a difficult time gaining weight or I am like a yo-yo going up and down.
3. My skin tends to be dry.
4. I feel cold often compared to others and I do not sweat very easily.
5. My complexion is dull gray or dusty.
6. When my digestion is not normal I tend toward constipation.
7. The shape of my face and jaw line is long and narrow.
8. When I am healthy I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm but focusing can be difficult.
9. I am prone to feeling nervous or anxious.
10. I tend to be a light sleeper and often suffer from insomnia.

Pitta Questions

1. I am of moderate weight and my build is moderate with good muscle tone.
2. My weight is steady and fluctuations are small.
3. My skin tends to be oily.
4. I often feel warm and sweat easily.
5. My complexion is rosy.
6. When my digestion is not normal I tend toward diarrhea or burning digestion.
7. The shape of my face and jaw is angular.
8. When I am healthy I have a lot of energy and I am very focused.
9. I am competitive and enjoy physical and mental challenges.
10. I sleep well and wake up easily. I may be awoken by dreams.

Kapha Questions

1. I am of “stocky” body build and I often carry some extra weight.
2. It is difficult to lose weight.
3. My skin tends to be oily.
4. I often feel cold and sweat easily.
5. My complexion is pale.
6. My digestion is generally good though I may occasionally have some constipation.
7. The shape of my face is round.
8. When healthy I move slowly and have a lot of endurance.
9.  I can tend to feel lethargic.
10. I sleep deeply and sometimes have a difficult time waking up.

Add up the total number of points for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. This will give you the relative dominance of each of the forces in your constitution. You may not necessarily be dominant in one type but may be a unique blend of the three.