Known as the “Science of Life”, Ayurveda touches upon several features of how to live a healthy, happy, satisfying life. It lays out a very specific definition of “health” (svastha), integrating the body, the mind, and the spirit to bring about a truly wholistic approach to living. The framework for this approach lies in aligning our Lifestyle practices with Nature’s rhythms as a way to tap in to our own physical, mental, and spiritual healing power. Simply put, each one of us is already pre-programmed for promoting long-term health; Yoga and Ayurveda are powerful pathways to awaken this incredible wisdom!
According to these ancient sciences, the pillars of wholistic health are simple, “back to basics” lifestyle practices which include everything from diet, movement, and breath, to specific self-care rituals such as self-massage. Each of these practices are rooted in the energetic expressions of the five elements (doshas, gunas, etc.); they not only regulate our body and mind, but also our understanding of Nature itself.
The building blocks of the cosmos include the 5 elements, panchamahabhutta; they are the core of the Ayurvedic approach. This ancient philosophy views the cosmos, and therefore us as living beings, as a constant interplay of the five elements (air, ether, water, fire, earth). Therefore, in order to understand our own true Nature, it is essential to understand how the dynamic qualities of the elements can either promote harmony and health, or imbalance and dis-ease.
Our mind and body, and therefore our health, are rooted in the five elements; it is why we feel our best when we are aligned with nature in every way. We nourish ourselves with foods from the Earth; Water makes up more than 70% of our total body mass. Fire provides the body with warmth and radiant energy; Air flows freely, giving movement to biological functions and feeding each cell with oxygen. Space is ever-present in the background, providing the other components with a chance to interact this way.
The five elements are further manifested into 3 main bio-energies called doshas. The doshas govern all physical and mental processes and provide every living being with an individual blueprint for health and wellbeing throughout his/her lifecycle. The doshas work through the body to maintain homeostasis.
Vata: the master control system; regulates functioning of the nervous system.
Pitta: the metabolizer; manifests in endocrine and metabolic (digestion) system.
Kapha: gives structure to the body; nourishes the tissues and provides support.
Your constitution is a unique blueprint for determining how you react to everything you take in through the senses and the mind: sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, emotions, thoughts, Understanding your consitution will help you understant the kinds of things/actions that will help restore harmony. Harmony is the state of all doshas being in their state of truth, Prakriti.
Knowing your constitution or body type is like having a roadmap that guides you in the correct directionof being your best self, allowingyou to more easily fulfillyour potential and experience more joy.
Also know as "Morbidity", Vikriti is is the proportion of the Doshas in you as you currently are.
The state of the doshas is dynamic; they are in a constant state of flux. By tuning in to the changes that this flux provokes, we can support the body and mind into balance. Understanding which quality is out of balance, and using an opposing quality to balance it, supports the innate wisdom of homeostasis within the organism.
The fundamental principles of Ayurveda are so simple, easy, and profound. If you only remember the qualities (20 Gunas( of the elements and of the doshas, it is relatively easy to stay in balance and to maintain your health and wellness. According to Samkhya, the Theory of Causation tells us that "Like increases like, opposites oppose"; therefore opposite qualities heal.
How to maintain harmony of all doshas?
- Follow the rhythms of nature: daily, sesonal, age....
- Dinacharya / Sadhana
- Appropriate Lifestyle
- Cultivate sattva
- Yamas / Niyamas
- 8-Limbed Path
- Honor Prakriti
Agni, the cornerstone of health
The intelligence of the metabolism, which includes the preparation, breaking down, assimilation, and elimination of food is referred to as Agni. This "digestive fire" is responsible for making this complex process optimal, and when operating the right conditions, can contribute to overall happiness and wellbeing.
When Agni is not functioning properly, food is not digested properly and causes an impairment of the metabolism. The result of impaired metabolism is toxic waste, which results in clogging of channels and ultimately leads to dis-ease.
If agni is not proper, food has no value to the body (i.e. body cannot absorb).
Agni transforms matter into energy, nutrients into tissue, and food into consciousness.
Any food that is undigested becomes a toxic substance called Ama; putrefied food molecules get stuck on the tissues of the body and cause ubstruction of the mind and body. Ayurveda believes that Ama is the root cause of all disharmony and disease in the organism. Vikriti is the presence of Ama in the doshas.
Ama leaves the body through our waste products, malas, mainly stool, sweat, and urine.
The Essence of Our Positive Vitality
During the digestive process, the metabolism (Agni), is resposible for the proper nourishment of our tissues. In Ayurveda, there are seven tissue layers, called dhattus, which originate from the essence of the food we eat. The dhattus are arranged in a hierarchy, such that the proper nourishment of the level below is dependent on the proper nourishment of the level above.
Thus, it is imperative to maintain Agni so that proper nourishment at all levels is supported. The journey of the food we eat takes 35 days total (5 days per each of the 7 layers) until the most refined essence of food, ojas, marks the end of this very complex refinement process.
The lifestyle practices and rituals of Ayurveda and Yoga are designed to support our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing so that this process is optimal and correct.
Ojas is our innate immunity; our natual ability to fight off disease. It is responsible for physical and mental strength, inner and outer beauty, a powerful immune system and strong energy reserves of the body.