Ayurveda is the ‘science of life’ - ‘Ayur’ means life and ‘veda’ means science or knowledge. Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of natural living and holistic medicine.
While allopathic medicine tends to focus on the management of disease, Ayurveda provides a system so natural to the human system to prevent disease. If the disease is present, it eliminates the root cause.
The knowledge of Ayurveda originated from the sages in India who passed it down through generations verbally, 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 effect that the five elements of nature - earth, water, air, fire, space, have on our individual system and expound on the importance of keeping these elements in balance for a healthy and happy life. According to Ayurveda, for each individual, certain elements will be more dominant. This is because of their prakriti, or natural constitution.
Ayurveda categorises the different constitutions into three different doshas (vital bioenergies):
- 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 specific combination of the doshas within each individual help determine the individual's physical and mental characteristics, while imbalance among the doshas is the cause of disease. The dosha affects not only the shape of the body but also the bodily tendencies (like food preferences and digestion), and the temperament of one’s mind and emotions. For example, the earth element in an individual with a dominant 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, ’Pitta Kapha’ individuals 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 balance our human system and function well.
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.