What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is the science of “Aliveness” that teaches us how to maintain balance and harmony within our bodies so everything remains in just the right proportion. Learn how to be aware of which “Life Ingredients” help you achieve “Aliveness” as opposed to stretching life lacking optimums health and vitality.

Ayurveda Is the millenary Indian healing System. According to the teachings, Ayurveda comes from an invisible source. It was brought down to Earth by the Sages of the times through meditation. Ayurveda is believed to come from “AVIAKTA”, the Un-manifested, the source of everything to which its door is Brahma. This explains why so many things in this science don’t have a rational explanation (to our understanding).

Ayurveda has helped people to sync with nature and thrive in an ever-changing environment for thousands of years, its been kept alive despite the different scenarios throughout history. While the British ruled in India, in 1835 Ayurveda was banned in favor of European medicine, Thankfully for us, in rural parts of the country they continued to use this tried-and-tested system and Ayurveda survived underground until 1947 when India became a free nation, and  Ayurveda could receive again full recognition as a medical system. 

During the New Age movement of the 20th Century, Ayurveda started to make its way westward, helped along by the expanding popularity of yoga and Eastern spiritualism. Thanks in no small part to the teachings of respected physicians and herbalists like Drs. Vasant Lad, Deepak Chopra, and David Frawley, Ayurveda has gained notoriety among a growing population of health-conscious individuals around the world.

Many ramifications of healing methods have inspired their core systems in the Ayurvedic tradition. Along with traditional Chinese medicine which shares similar concepts, Ayurveda is believed to be the oldest one.

Ayurveda translates as the “Knowledge of Life” -Ayur- meaning Life and -Veda- meaning Knowledge in ancient Sanskrit. Ayurveda was passed orally from one generation to another until it was finally written. The first text in Ayurveda was “Charaka Samhita” a core source for many other manuscripts.

The principle behind Ayurveda is to find and keep a perfect balance between mind, body soul, and sense organs. These are the 4 pillars and are inextricably linked, meaning that an imbalance in one will affect the others. As a holistic practice, Ayurveda strives to prevent illness and to treat disease by observing its causes and reversing the imbalances that have caused it in the first place. We not only refill or deplete our being from what we eat but also from what we think, what we feel, what we ingest through our senses, ears, touch smell, and taste. All this determines the balance of our Doshas.

In Ayurveda, a person is seen as being made up of five primary natural elements: ether (or space), fire, water, air, and earth. These elements manifest and combine in the body in certain physiological and physical ways. How these elements express themselves are called Doshas − Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Dosha-balancing is at the very heart and scope of Ayurveda.

In basic terms, each Dosha is responsible for specific functions in the body. Vata, for example, is associated with the air and ether. It is responsible for movement − including circulation, respiration, elimination, and nerve impulses. Pitta is said to be associated with water and fire and is responsible for metabolism, including cellular metabolism. Finally, the Kapha Dosha is governed by water and earth. It is responsible for growth and protection, including the protection of the cerebral and spinal fluid and the mucosal lining of the stomach. It is also responsible for the growth of new tissue.

Each individual is unique within the Ayurvedic model, and thus each person expresses the Doshas differently. Knowing your Prakarti, the predominant Doshas you were born with, and the Vrikrti, imbalance of the Doshas, will help you in finding the proper diet suitable to you and the therapies or herbs to palliate and alleviate the aggravated Dosha and bring it back to balance, therefore to health!

Ayurveda’s Definition of Health

According to Charaka; health is the quality when our Body, Sense Organs, Dhatus (Tissues), Malas (waste products), bodily functions are all properly working and our Mind is happy and content.  

The five Elements and the Doshas 

Ayurveda teaches us to work with our constitution, which is a unique blend of the five elements— Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth — as is the universe itself. All of us need the right amount of the vital nutrients that make up these elements to ward off disease and maintain balance, while the exact proportions depend on our individual constitutions.

These combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called Doshas. They help us find our unique mind-body balance (Prakriti). These elements control how the body works. Each one has a different body function. They are Vata Dosha (space and air) in control of movement; Pitta Dosha (fire and water) in control of transformation; and Kapha Dosha (water and earth) in control of building and storing. Each one of our cells has the quality of these three Doshas in different proportions.

The Prakriti or constitutional type will also tell the Ayurvedic practitioner the kinds of diseases and risk factors that a person would likely be vulnerable to. Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three Doshas. But one or two can usually be stronger. 

As an energetic system, Ayurveda aims to remedy the internal imbalances that prevent us from being the healthiest we can be. It is founded on the idea that each person’s Dosha, needs to be addressed accordingly through Diet, Nutrition, Lifestyle, and Therapies. 

The concept of AGNI

The Ayurvedic concept of fire, or Agni, is critically important to our overall health. Agni is the force of intelligence within each cell, tissue, and every system within the body. Ultimately, it is the discernment of Agni that determines which substances enter our cells and tissues, and which substances should be removed as waste. In this way, Agni is the gatekeeper of life. In fact, according to Ayurveda, when the Agni is extinguished, death soon follows. Ayurveda identifies a vast range of functions for which Agni is directly responsible, but it also teaches us that impaired Agni is at the root of all imbalances and diseases. Hold on. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment: impaired Agni is at the root of all imbalances and diseases! This resource is meant to help you understand why Agni is so important, to learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of both healthy and impaired Agni, and to direct you to some practical tools for tending to your own Agni. 

The 20 Qualities

Ayurveda describes everything within and around us through 10 pairs of opposites known as the 20 qualities (e.g. Heavy/Light, Slow/Sharp, Cold/Hot, Oily/Dry, Smooth/Rough, Dense/Liquid, Soft/Hard, Stable/Mobile, Gross/Subtle, Cloudy/Clear). We know that being exposed to too much of any one thing in our diet or environment negatively impacts us; in the same way, too much of a given quality (e.g. the cold) causes an imbalance, which we can then remedy by exposing ourselves to the opposite Quality (e.g. heat) to tip the scales back to a balance. 

AMA or Toxins the cause of Disease 

In Ayurveda, the Mind and the Digestive system can be responsible for health or disease. We don’t believe we are what we eat, but we are what we can Digest, Absorb and Eliminate, this being physical or emotional matter (Depana, Pachana, and Anuloma in Sanskrit)  The unprocessed matter, will become AMA (toxins) origin of a disease. 

To avoid AMA, the “10 principles of Diet” should be observed and AGNI (inner digestive fire) should be functioning in optimal balance as a vitiated Agni (irregular appetite, habits, patterns) will create toxin accumulation.

Ayurveda is clear on this: ALL good health starts with digestion; with the proper metabolism of food. Accordingly, one of the most important things we can do for our health every day of the year is to eat wisely. Food is considered just as powerful as medicine

10 principles of Diet according to Charaka

  1. Eat according to your constitution. Each Dosha is balanced by certain tastes. Ayurveda based its nutritional advice on the balance of these 6 tastes. Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, Astringent. Each taste contains properties of the 5 Elements, which combined assist in the balance of your particular Dosha. Choosing foods according to your constitution, paying attention to food, and eating as per your capacity are some of the Ayurvedic eating habits that could bring about a great deal of change in your overall well-being. 
  2. Eat Foods According To Season. Always choose foods according to the season, is an often repeated advice, which is a great healthy eating habit to inculcate in your life. Prefer cooling foods and herbs in summer and warming in Winter. (chili, Pepper, ginger,
  3. Do Not Overeat, Or eat again before the previous meal has been digested. You must know where to stop and never eat without real hunger.
  4. Choose Sattvic foods. Sattvic diet emphasis on seasonal foods, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, and ripe vegetables.
  5. Be present while Eating. Do not watch TV, phones, or read newspapers while you are eating. Distracting environment diminishes your body’s ability to digest what you have eaten.
  6. Eat Slowly. Do not gobble your food, eat slowly. Chew your food well. This enables the better breakdown of food, and also gives time for the digestive enzymes in your mouth to do their work properly. If your food is not digested well, it may lead to a host of digestive woes, tummy problems, and even weight gain.
  7. Only eat when you are hungry. Many times you are not hungry because your digestive fire is diminished. Consume a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger with few drops of lime and a pinch of salt. All these ingredients help in activating the salivary glands to produce the necessary digestive enzymes that help in the digestion and absorption of the food you eat.
  8. Don’t eat Incompatible Food. According to Ayurveda, certain food combinations disturb the normal functioning of gastric fire and upset the balance of doshas and lead to problems like indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation. 

Understanding Imbalances

Discovering your current state of balance will show you the present level of the doshas in your system. In contrast to one’s constitution, the current state of balance can and does change over time as we move through different climates, different seasons, and the various stages of life.

  • A Vata imbalance occurs when Vata is in excess. This can cause fear, anxiety, physical and emotional constriction, ungroundedness, poor circulation, constipation, dry skin, cracking joints, emaciation, insomnia, twitches, tremors, and other abnormal movements.
  • A Pitta imbalance occurs when pitta is in excess. This can cause anger, jealousy, inflammation, excessive heat, heartburn, loose stools, migraines, rashes, bruising, bleeding disorders, sharp hunger, an overactive metabolism, and difficulty sleeping.
  • A Kapha Imbalance occurs when Kapha is in excess. This can cause attachment, greed, resistance to change, lack of motivation, heaviness in the mind and body, excessive sleep, depression, a sluggish metabolism, congestion, water retention, hardening of the arteries, and the formation of masses and tumors.
  • It is also possible for more than one dosha to be out of balance at a given time, or for all three doshas to be imbalanced.

The three Gunas

The three Gunas (Rajas, Sattva and Tamas) correspond to the process of creation of all things — they make the world go round! Essentially, everything that exists is born, lives, and dies — then starts over again. As such, Sattva is purity, creation, Rajas is action, activity, and Tamas is death or destruction.

These energies apply to everything including ourselves and the food we consume. This should influence the choices we make when it comes to our diet. Ayurvedic cooking concentrates on Sattvic foods, which are perfectly ripe, fresh and natural, as well as easily digestible. In practice, this translates to a wealth of delicious soups and stews cooked in simple ways and designed to promote gut health and promote a tranquil mind.

In contrast, Rajasic foods — meat, eggs, and onion, for example — can be overstimulating and lead to stress and anxiety. Tamasic foods — i.e. processed, refined, or reheated food — can make you feel heavy and lethargic. As such, Ayurvedic recipes contain as many Sattvic foods as possible, while incorporating small amounts of Rajasic and Tamasic elements to maintain the balance.

In individuals, the Sattvic quality might represent a time of day when they feel perfectly balanced, whereas the Rajasic corresponds to feeling overstimulated and anxious, and the Tamasic designates a lack of energy or motivation.