By the end of reading Ayurveda 101 – An introduction to Ayurvedic principals, you will have a basic understanding of the Ayurvedic system.
We will cover:
- A brief Overview
- The Doshas and the Five Elements
- The Digestive Fire – Agni
So lets get stuck in…
A brief overview
Ayurveda is known as ‘The Science Of life’.
Originating in India, having been tried and tested for some 5000 years, Ayurveda is also known as the Sister Science to Yoga, it was designed to optimise health and vitality in body, mind, and spirit.
The purpose of implementing this practice into our existence is to allow us to fulfil a long and healthy life, where we can achieve our life purpose, which according to Ayurveda consists of:
Dharma – our meaningful duty in work and relationships
Artha – our need to support ourselves financially
Kama – fulfilling our desires physically and psychologically
Moksha – achieving salvation through spiritual growth
The system of Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. Its aim is to keep the body, mind and energy flow in balance.
Illness and disease only occur when an imbalance is present in any of them.
Not only is Ayurveda used to treat illness and disease, but it is also used as a preventative measure, so as the saying goes, “prevention is the cure!”
Ayurveda aims to get to the root cause of health problems by looking at all things that could possibly cause an imbalance in someone based on the Ayurvedic system. It addresses environmental factors such as, diet and eating habits, exercise and lifestyle habits, seasonal changes, toxins in the body, social activities…the list continues.
It assesses how these environmental factors relate to individuals, based on their dosha or constitution,
but more on that later…
The Ayurvedic health system is very different to the western medicine approach which generally treats symptoms with prescriptions, missing the root cause of the problem and often failing to look at the person holistically.
Its reassuring to know that modern science is now catching up with the ancient wisdoms of the east and the study of epigenetic’s now prove how environmental factors and lifestyle choices affect our health long term.
Whats more exciting, is that we now know that we have the power to influence our own epigenome process, by choosing to take our lifestyle choices into consideration. This can result in a reversal of damage we may have done, meaning we have the power to heal ourselves and prevent illness from occurring in the first place.
Ayurveda’s emphasis on using lifestyle changes, diet, herbs and spices to prevent and cure disease in the body is a sustainable and accessible way to manage our health.
From this modality we can take our lives, health and healing into our own hands, get to know our true nature and how to live well.
The Dosha’s and the 5 Elements
Ayurveda uses a particular system and set of rules to determine what needs to be addressed, implemented or changed in order to keep the body, mind and energy in balance and free from disease.
The system is based on the fact that all substances including matter, energy and even us, are formed from five fundamental elements.
In Ayurveda these are Fire, Earth, Space, Air and Water. Each of the five elements are represented by 20 main qualities or ‘gunas’, and these qualities all have a specific impact on the body and mind.
Based on the fact that we as humans are made up of these five elements, Ayurveda says that we fall into one of three constitutions or dosha’s.
The three doshas are:
A person can have just one dosha or a can be of dual constitution, where you will fall under two of the dosha’s yet be predominant in one. It is also possible to be tri-doshic, which is the strongest constitution to have, as it is the easiest to manage.
In Sanskrit your constitution is known as Prakriti, which means nature, so essentially working out your dosha helps you to know your true nature or true self, and allows you to live in accordance with your true nature, this enables you to continue on the path to achieving your life purpose.
As you can see each dosha is made up of two of the five elements. Falling under a particular dosha or constitution means that our cells, tissue and organs are also made up of the same stuff and will respond to all other substances in varying ways.
The Dosha metaphor…
Imagine your dosha is jug filled with water.
When the jug is full our constitution is balanced, but if the jug overflows or is under filled, this is when problems in the body and mind will arise.
With the knowledge of the ‘gunas’ or qualities in substances and activities it is possible to counteract this over or under flowing, and bring the person back to balance so that their entire system can thrive.
Ayurveda uses the rule that ‘like increases like’, so certain substances and activities, containing the same qualities will increase the dosha, on the contrary opposite substances and activities will decrease the qualities of the dosha’s.
So let’s take for example the fact that Pitta is made up of fire and water therefore Pitta is naturally fiery in nature.
So if a Pitta person is continually exposed to heating substances and environments, like a hot climate, and spicy foods, then their heat will continue to increase. Then their jug will overflow and they will have an excess of Pitta and become unbalanced.
A pitta imbalance may look like excess heat in the body, acid reflux, indigestion, anger or irritability.
So in order to counteract this, remedies will be prescribed to reduce pitta in the body. So eating more cooling foods, staying in the shade, avoiding stimulus that may irritate etc.
Once you know your dosha, you start to have a much better understanding of who you are and why things may affect you in certain ways, it becomes a fascinating and insightful journey to learn and experiment with foods, activities, and lifestyle habits. Knowing what to avoid to stay balanced really makes a difference to our entire experience of life and allows us to become the best version of ourselves!
Digestive Fire – Agni
Digestion plays a big role in maintaining good health in Ayurveda. Being considered one of the three pillars of life, along with managing sleep and managing the senses and sexual energy all Ayurvedic treatment will begin by assessing these three things first.
Another metaphor for you…
Ayurveda says that digestion is like a fire in the belly, and in order for the digestion to be working at its best, it needs to well maintained and kept burning brightly.
Whilst what we eat is of great importance, we also need to take in to consideration HOW we eat food to make sure that we can actually digest the food properly to get all its nutrients and energy.
There are many things which can affect our digestive fire, and if left unchecked it can lead to a whole host of unpleasant symptoms including constipation, bloating, wind, and heart burn, this then leaves a person feeling lethargic and with a overall lack of energy and could result in further more serious health complications.
Poor digestion means we lack the vitality and energy needed to fulfil our life purpose.
In our busy lives, we often eat unconsciously, we grab what we can, when we can, without much thought behind how and what we eat.
If we wish to live a life of vitality and good health, it is useful to think about our eating habits more like a practice, something that we need to be very mindful off, just like our yoga practice.
Knowing ones dosha is especially helpful in this process, so we know what foods to avoid, and what foods that will make us feel better and stay balanced. There are also many habits around our eating that should be addressed to make sure that our digestive fire is working at its optimum level.
To delve deeper and learn how to increase your digestive fire check out my article:
To sum up
Ayurveda is a holistic system of health, which enables us to fulfil our full potential, and life purpose. It is a natural method to maintaining balance in the body and mind which enables us to live well, and free from disease. By working out our dosha, getting to know our true nature and making adjustments to our lifestyle we can live a life where the body, mind and soul function at its best and are full of energy and vitality!
So there you have it, an introduction to Ayurvedic principals! I hope you enjoyed this article.