Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of natural and holistic medicine. When translated from Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “the science of life” (the Sanskrit root ayur means “longevity” or “life” and veda means “science”).
While allopathic medicine tends to focus on the management of disease, Ayurveda provides us with the knowledge of how to prevent disease and how to eliminate its root cause if it does occur.
The knowledge of Ayurveda was passed on orally through a lineage of sages in India until it was collated into text more than five thousand years ago. The oldest known texts on Ayurveda are the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and the Ashtanga Hrudaya. These texts detail the affect that the five elements found in the cosmic system - earth, water, air, fire, space – have on our individual system, and expound on the importance of keeping these elements balanced for a healthy and happy life.
According to Ayurveda, each person will be influenced by certain elements more than others. This is because of their prakriti, or natural constitution. Ayurveda categorizes the different constitutions into three different doshas:
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- Vata dosha, in which the air and space elements dominate
- Pitta dosha, in which the fire element dominates
- Kapha dosha, in which the earth and water elements dominate
The dosha affects not just the shape of one’s body but also bodily tendencies (like food preferences and digestion), and the temperament of one’s mind and emotions. For example, the earth element in people with Kapha dosha is evident in their solid, sturdy body type, their tendency for slower digestion, their strong memory, and their emotional steadiness. Most people’s prakriti is made up of a combination of two doshas. For example, people who are “Pitta Kapha” will have the tendencies of both Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha, with Pitta dominating. By understanding the qualities of our natural constitution we are better able to do what is needed to keep ourselves in balance.
Ayurveda places great importance on one’s pathya, or lifestyle (eating habits and daily routine). Ayurveda also provides guidance on how to adjust our lifestyle based on the change of seasons.
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