By Vishakha Moghe
The 6000-year old science of Ayurveda began when the rishis and sages while wandering in the hills and valleys, observed how much in tune with nature their bodies were. They sought to reveal the deepest truths of human physiology and health. This ancient system of life (ayur) knowledge (veda) evolved from a deep understanding of creation (utpatti).
Why is Ayurveda unlike the other medical sciences?
- 1) Ayurveda sees the body as a whole and does not categorize diseases under just one particular system.
- 2) Prevention is the key. Diseases can be prevented by knowing the body constitution and by having a diet and activity regimen that goes hand-in-hand with the body constitution (prakruti).
- 3) In Ayurveda, every individual is unique and no two people can be prescribed the same diet and activity plan.
The basis of all the life processes as explained by Ayurveda are these three entities called doshas.
“Dushayanti Iti Doshah”
That which causes vitiation is called dosha. What is even more important is that dosha causes vitiation when it is in a disturbed form. It clearly means that, doshas, in their normal states, are responsible for health, vigour and longevity. The three doshas that form the basis of Ayurveda are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The doshas derive from the Five Elements and their related properties. Vata is composed of Space and Air, Pitta of Fire and Water, and Kapha of Earth and Water.
The doshas change in accordance to our actions, lifestyle, diet, seasons, emotions and thoughts but the actual “prakruti” that is present since birth never changes. The dosha remains balanced when we make diet and lifestyle choices according to their state in our body. Imbalance, on the other hand arises when we constantly support unhealthy patterns by eating and living in a way that is unhealthy to our doshic state. Vikruti is the term used to describe this imbalanced deviation away from prakruti.
To briefly explain the condition of doshas, there are primarily three states:
Balance: It means equilibrium; all three doshas are present in their normal proportions.
Increase: It means aggravation or excess; one or two doshas are in their more-than-normal proportions.
Decrease: It means depletion or reduction; one or two doshas are in their less-than-normal proportions.
Majorly, diseases are caused when there is an imbalance in our predominant dosha . Further said, the increased or aggravated state leads to the greatest number of imbalances. The causes could be a seasonal variation, a dosha-aggravating diet and/or mental stress. A balance can then be restored by understanding your unique constitutional make-up and knowing how to harmonize your internal environment.
Vata is the entity that is responsible for “movement” of all sorts, like circulation, transportation and body movements. Just as in nature, the wind in balance provides movement and expression to the natural world, the balanced Vata individual is active, creative, and gifted with a natural ability to express and communicate. When the wind in a Vata type rages like a hurricane, negative qualities quickly overshadow these positive attributes. Common signs of Vata imbalance include anxiety and bodily disorders related to dryness, such as dry skin and constipation.
Causes of Imbalance:
- 1. Eating dry, cold and stale foods.
- 2. Drinking alcohol, coffee in excess.
- 3. Going to bed late at night.
- 4. Irregular meal timings on a regular basis.
- 5. Excessive physical exertion.
Pitta is very closely related to fire so all processes like digestion and metabolism are carried out by Pitta dosha. Pitta provides the body with heat and energy through the breakdown of complex food molecules. It governs all processes related to conversion and transformation throughout the mind and body. Psychologically, Pitta governs joy, courage, willpower, anger, jealousy, and mental perception. It also provides the radiant light of the intellect.
The balanced Pitta individual is blessed with a joyful disposition, a sharp intellect, and tremendous courage and drive.
Causes of Imbalance:
- 1. Eating hot, spicy and pungent foods.
- 2. Sleeping late at night.
- 3. Excessive exposure to the sun.
- 4. Over-working.
- 5. Excessive consumption of alcohol, hot beverages like tea and coffee and smoking cigarettes.
Kapha dosha is the entity that builds up the body and lubricates it. It provides the body with physical structure, form and smooth functioning of all its parts. Physiologically, Kapha moistens food, gives bulk to our tissues, lubricates joints, stores energy, and relates to cool bodily fluids such as water, mucous, and lymph. Psychologically, Kapha governs love, patience and forgiveness.
Causes of Imbalance:
- 1. Over-eating especially sweet foods.
- 2. Lack of exercise or no physical activity.
- 3. Spending too much time in cold environment.
- 4. Avoiding mental activity or intellectual challenges.
The key to remember is that like increases like, while opposites create balance.
For a healthy, disease-free life, it is important that every individual understands their constitution and indulges in diet that has properties opposite to that of their body-type.
About the Author
Vishakha is an Ayurvedic practitioner, yoga counselor and a passionate traveler. She lays emphasis on living a healthy life by nourishing the body and mind with wholesome and natural food, meditation and yogic techniques. An Indian at heart, she aims at propagating the goodness of the Indian culture across the seven seas and stimulating thoughts by creating a hunger for knowledge.