Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that literally means the “the science of life” or “the wisdom of life”. Ayurveda is a holistic medical system that originated in India about 5,000 years ago. Its principals are timeless and universal, and they can be applied to anyone, anywhere in the world.
To restore balance and maintain the quality and longevity of life is the purpose of Ayurvedic medicine. According to Ayurveda health is not merely physical, it is also an optimal state of spiritual, mental and emotional wellbeing. In recent years Allopathic medicine has begun to embrace the concept of holistic health, which has always been the core of Ayurveda.
“One who has balanced doshas [the three psycho-physiological energies of each individual’s constitution], balanced agni [digestive fire], properly formed dhatus [bodily tissues], proper elimination of malas [waste products], well functioning bodily processes, and whose mind, soul, and senses are full of bliss, is called a healthy person”. (Sushruta Samhita, 15.38)
Ayurveda describes the food, herbal medicines and lifestyle that are beneficial or harmful to our life and consciousness, taking in consideration our unique constitution.
The Five Elements
Ayurveda describes the whole universe in terms of the five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These elements are energetic forces which create natural phenomena such as hurricanes, volcanic explosions, wind storms and mud slides through their interactions with each other.
Thankfully the weather is not always that rough inside the human body and these same elements are also responsible for regular, well functioning physiology. For example all the empty spaces in the human body are aspects of the Ether element- like the spaces in our nose, ears, abdomen, intestines etc. The Air element is responsible for all movements in the body. Fire rules over metabolism; Water is present in all the fluids of the body and finally Earth represents the solid structure of any living being.
The Three Doshas
The Sanskrit word dosha translates as ”fault” or “impurity”, indicating that when this organizing structure goes out of balance health problems arise.
Each dosha consists of 2 of the 5 elements:
Vata governs breathing, muscle movement, the beating of the heart and cellular movement. Vata relates to creativity and adaptability when balanced; and fear, anxiety, spaciness and irregular, anomalous movements when out of balance.
Pitta rules digestion, assimilation, metabolism, body temperature and all transformative processes. When Pitta is in balance it supports intelligence and understanding. Aggravated Pitta creates anger, jealousy, envy and inflammatory conditions.
Kapha is responsible for the water supply in the body. It lubricates joints, keeps the skin supple and rules over immunity. A balanced Kapha generates a feeling of love, calmness and compassion. When Kapha is out of balance it expresses itself as greed, attachment, congestive disorders and weight gain.
Each dosha is characterized by several additional attributes: For example, Vata is cold and light; Pitta is hot and sharp; Kapha is heavy and oily.
The genes, diet, lifestyle, emotional and mental condition of a person’s parents at the moment of conception determine the combination and proportions of Vata, Pitta and Kapha in that individual’s constitution. When the constitutional ratio of the three doshas changes due to lifestyle, diet or trauma symptoms of dis-ease will appear.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle, Therapies and Remedies
To keep an individual’s constitution balanced Ayurveda suggests a regular daily routine appropriate to each person’s unique makeup along with tailored dietary recommendations. Daily routines include exercise, self massage with warm oil, meditation and relaxation time. Breathing exercises, known as Pranayama, are often suggested to restore balance. Finally herbal remedies to pacify doshas’ imbalances are prescribed.
Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes the importance of a balanced digestive fire, which is responsible for digestion, absorption, assimilation and transformation of food. When agni is low, health declines and food is poorly absorbed, thus creating a sense of fatigue and sluggishness. On the other hand, when agni is too strong it can produce a burning sensation in the stomach, heartburn and other similar ailments.
To support agni we can use warming spices specific to our constitution, avoid drinking cold water, make lunch our biggest meal and take time for regular walks.
Gazing at the flame of a candle or a bonfire, spending time in the early morning or evening sun also stimulates our internal fire, which is also the fire of life
Marina Baroni is a member of NAMA – National Ayurvedic Medical Association. She received her Diploma in Ayurvedic Sciences from the Ayurveda Institute of America. She specializes in Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle, Ayurvedic herbal remedies and women’s health.
Marina provides Ayurvedic holistic healing services to individuals seeking treatment in the greater Los Angeles area including Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Hollywood and Culver City California.
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