What is Ayurveda?
So, let’s start by talking about what is the meaning of Ayurveda? Ayurveda in fact is a study or science that was developed thousands of years before modern science provided scientific evidence for the mind body connection. Ayurveda translates from Sanskrit to English as The Science of Life- Ayur means life and Veda means the science to put it simply. Ayurveda originated over 5000 years ago, and its roots come from the Vedas or holy scriptures of Hinduism, and it is believed to be the oldest healing science forming the foundation of all others and is considered the most holistic medical system available.
It is a system of healthy living and disease treatment that offers a wealth of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realising their full human potential. Ayurveda is regarded as one of the world's oldest holistic whole-body healing systems. Ayurvedic philosophy is based on the belief that health and wellness are dependent on a delicate balance of the mind, body, and spirit. Its primary goal is to promote health rather than to combat disease.
Ayurveda is guided by two main principles. The first is the mind and body are inextricably connected. The second is that nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind.
Ayurveda also offers many other practices for expanding self-awareness and cultivating our innate sense of balance within the body. Meditation is one of the many powerful tools the ancient Vedic physicians prescribe for balancing the mind and body. Once you have a better understanding of your unique body type or ‘dosha’ you'll be able to understand how your mind and body work in harmony with the universe and you will understand how to have good health and when something disrupts this balance. Our emotions, genetics, and seasons all play a role in achieving this balance. The beauty of Ayurveda is that it recognises each individual as a unique person, rather than bundling everyone into the same category and providing one-size-fits-all diagnosis and treatments.
Yoga and Ayurveda are regarded as sister sciences. Quite often those who are devoted to the practice of yoga, will have lean more towards Ayurveda. Both go hand in hand and can be used as a guide for health and wellness for the rest of one's life. Because Ayurveda, like yoga, is an ancient teaching derived from scriptures and written and translated from Sanskrit, each science overlays the other. Yoga also considers not just the physical body but the energy and the astral body, where chakras come to play and work as a beautiful physical discipline to support the concept of Ayurveda.
So, what does keeping the body in balance mean?
Ayurveda is all about maintaining this delicate balance and often in Sanskrit the word used is ‘Swastha’. This means being in one’s optimum state of natural health. To feel happy, energetic, and 100% aware, you need to be in good Swastha. By understanding our connections to the laws of nature, the mind, body, and breath (prana), Ayurveda leads us to finding this equilibrium and become ‘swastha’ to make the most of our body and our life.
One of the most important things that stands Ayurveda apart from modern medicine and modalities is that it believes in treating the underlying cause and not the symptoms and helps us keep our bodies balanced by understanding our connection to the laws of nature. So here we learn how Ayurveda recognises the 5 elements that exist as earth, air, fire, water and ether as the fundamental building blocks.
Every cell contains all five of these elements. Once again, the connection between body and planet emphasizes the importance of prevention and maintenance of good health through close attention to your body and mind, as well as the elements that exist within us. Ayurveda accomplishes this through proper diet, lifestyle, and the use of herbs. And this is done in accordance with one's personal constitution or 'prakriti'- body type.
Determining your dosha? (Your body type)
So how to determine your dosha, or body type is the first most important part of Ayurveda. To understand our own body constitution is paramount and only after can you then understand the concept of being in balance. Usually identifying of the dosha is done with an Ayurvedic doctor, who would feel your pulse, and through examination of body, face, and assessing mental and emotional characteristics. However, you can also do this by completing this self-assessment quiz to give you a good indication of your dosha.
Each person has a unique pattern of energy, an individual combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics, that contributes to their own constitution. This constitution is determined at conception by several factors and remains constant throughout one's life. Our emotional state, diet and food choices, seasons and weather, physical trauma, work and family relationships are all examples of emotional and physical stresses. Once these factors are understood, appropriate actions can be taken to negate or minimise their effects, as well as eliminate the causes of imbalance and re-establish one's original constitution.
Natural order is balance; imbalance is disorder. Disease is disorder; health is order.
Within the body, order and disorder are constantly interacting. Once the nature and structure of disorder are understood, it is possible to restore order. The entire cosmos, according to Ayurvedic ethos, is an interchange of energy from the five elements. These are the elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth. The three doshas of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are combinations and variations of these five elements that manifest as physical body patterns.
Vata is the subtle energy associated with movement, created of space and air. It controls breathing, eye movement, muscle and tissue movement, and all movements of the cell membranes and the beating of the heart. Vata, when balanced, encourages and creativity and versatility. When vata is out of balance, it creates anxiety and fear. A person with a high vata dosha has a quick mind and creativity. Their mind can grasp concepts quickly but easily forget them at the same time. Vata people are alert, restless, and very active; they walk, talk, and think quickly, but they are easily worn. They have less confidence, boldness, and tolerance for change, and they frequently feel unstable and ungrounded. Vata can be found in the colon, the brain, the ears, the bones, the joints, the skin. Vata people are more prone flatulence, twitches, aching joints, dry skin nerve disorders, constipation, and mental fog are also common vata concerns. Air borne diseases also affect them, such as pneumonia and even arthritis Vata in the body tends to increase with age, Vata skin types see finer lines faster and dryness of skin much quicker.
Many of the attributes of fire are present in Pitta types. Fire is scorching, piercing, cutting, and agitated. Pitta people, on the other hand, have warm bodies, sharp intellect, and deep ideas. When they are out of equilibrium, they can feel agitated and irritable. The pitta body type has ruddy or coppery skin and is of medium height and build. Their skin is less wrinkled and warmer than vata skin. Their hair is smooth, and they are prone to early greying and hair loss. Tip of their nose can often be reddish. Pitta-dominant people have a fast metabolism, good digestion, and a voracious appetite. They enjoy a wide variety of foods and beverages, with a preference for hot spices and cool beverages. Sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes, on the other hand, help to balance their constitution. Pitta people sleep soundly and for a long time. Pitta types are mentally attentive, intelligent, and have strong comprehension and retention. When they are out of balance, they become easily agitated and confrontational, and they prone to rage and unpredictability. Pitta dominant people prefer to be leaders and they desire material wealth. Disorders involving the imbalance of Pitta (fire) are health issues such as inflammatory diseases, skin rashes on the skin, burning sensations, ulcers, fever, irritations such colitis, or sore throats are all common symptoms.
Kapha is the dosha for lubrication and the energy that forms the body structure the bones muscles and tendons and provides the glue that holds the cells together. Kapha transports the fluids for all the bodily parts and systems, and it lubricates the joints, and keep the skin moisturised. When the Kapha dosha is in balance it expresses love, calm and forgiveness an when out of balance leads to attachment greed and envy. Kapha dosha is blessed with strength and stamina, endurance and they exhibit a sweet loving disposition and are stable and grounded, generally have oily skin and good hair. People with this dosha gain weight easily and have a slow metabolism they tend not like to exercise, but when they do they have incredible stamina. They have thick skin and their bodies and muscles are well developed their eyes. are large and attractive with thick long lashes, their sleep is deep and prolonged. Kapha types are attracted to sweet salty and oily foods but their constitutions are balanced most by bitter astringent and pungent foods.
Key concepts of Ayurveda
Agni- the digestive fire is a key element as In Ayurveda digestion is one of the most important parts of the bodily function, digestion is everything. So regardless of your dosha, if your digestion is strong, you will have good health and be able to heal better. Digestion can be improved by understanding your dosha and through your diet. The concept of digestive fire is a key factor in understanding our physiological makeup.
Our ‘prakriti’ balance versus our ‘viktruti’ imbalance.
In Ayurveda there are of Agni and each one of these digestive fires is associated with a dosha. So let’s understand these different Agni types:-
Vishama agni, connected to Vata dosha, Vishama agni rectification is mostly concerned with relaxing vata and enhancing our lives' warmth and steadiness. Vishama agni is strongly influenced not just by what we eat, but also by how we eat and live, as vata is the most subtle of the three doshas. In actuality, subtle therapies such as pranayama, yoga, vata-calming lifestyle practises, and a focus on daily routines help vishama agni tremendously. Establish a routine: rise, eat, and sleep at consistent times each day, and do your best to maintain a vata-calming daily routine.
Tikshana Agni is associated with Pitta's bright, hot, sharp, penetrating, and subtle qualities, which generally sustain agni but can inflame it, resulting in tikshna agni's hypermetabolism. In this circumstance, nutrition is frequently burnt and travels quickly through the digestive track, leaving the tissues malnourished. An excess of these characteristics can result in manda agni rather than agni, much like pouring liquid onto flames.
Manda Agni is related to Kapha, simply indicates that there is too much Kapha in the digestive tract, which frequently results in unanticipated weight gain and a sluggish and slowed metabolism. Manda agni is frequently felt by those affected and results in a slow and heavy digestive fire. Manda agni sufferers gain weight regardless of what they consume, but they rarely eat much. This is because their metabolic systems run so slowly. They are generally not hungry in the mornings and frequently feel sluggish and bloated from the previous night's meal.
Ama- Ama is a Sanskrit word that translates as "unripe," "uncooked," or "undigested." It is, in essence, an unmetabolized waste product that the body is incapable of using. To some extent, the production of small amounts of ama is a normal part of the digestive process, as long as it is adequately expelled. On the other hand, if ama is not cleansed and removed on a regular basis, it becomes a severe concern. Indeed, ama is believed to be the source of all disease, Due to the completely opposing qualities of ama and agni, the connection between ama and disease makes logical sense. In simpler terms Ama are toxins.
The 7 Dhatus- The seven dhatus are the seven systems of the body. In English, the terminology plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow / nerve, and reproductive tissue are used. They are referred to in Sanskrit as rakta, mamsa, medas, asthi, majja, and shukra. These structures comprise the body. They are, however, far more than their one-dimensional meanings. They are essential for understanding the interactions between tissues in the body and serve as entry points for doshas when they trigger disease. This in itself is a complex study and one that Ayurvedic doctors would study.
- Rakta: Blood
- Mamsa: Muscle
- Meda: Fat
- Asthi: Bone
- Majja: Nervous Tissue
- Shukra & Arthava: Male & Female Reproductive Tissues
Put simply, once we have digested and processed our meal, the nutrient-dense "liquid" of that digested food (referred to as Ahara Rasa) begins to circulate through each of the seven tissues, replenishing them in order – beginning with Rasa and ending with the reproductive tissues, Shukra (male) and Arthava (female) (female). As the Ahara Rasa continues, each consecutive dhatu becomes more demanding, making it harder to nourish than the previous dhatu. This implies that the Rasa dhatu is the simplest to nourish, whilst the Shukra and Arthava dhatus are the harder to nourish. By practising the Three Pillars of Ayurveda, we can easily and successfully nurture all seven tissues of the body, with the understanding that each tissue contains the appropriate Agni (transformative essence) to process that nourishment. Ojas is completed when the deepest layers of tissues are nourished, restoring vitality and well-being to our bodies and our mind.
'What exactly is Dinacharya?' It's crucial to first comprehend the meaning of the word and how Sanskrit words work. In Sanskrit, din means ‘day’ and charya means ‘behaviour’ or ‘discipline’. In its simplest terms, Dinacharya is the quintessential Ayurvedic daily routine. Through the concept of this daily routine, we can live life to the fullest, maximise our wellbeing and keep the body in top working order. Dinacharya strives to keep the body and mind in perfect equilibrium throughout the day, as one of the most fundamental parts of Ayurveda is balance. While creating optimal conditions for the body and mind might be challenging, Dinacharya strives to balance vata, kapha, and pitta.
Awaken before the sun rises
While we understand that this may be difficult for some, if you want to live an Ayurvedic lifestyle, you may need to get used to that early alarm! As indicated previously, the vata time of day is one of silent connection, and by rising early, you give yourself time to connect with your inner self. This peaceful thought time is considered critical in the Dinacharya because it provides the body with energy for the day ahead.
The early morning hours are typically dominated by the vata dosha, which is also responsible for elimination in the body. Thus, the optimal time to perform your ablutions This practise assists in clearing out any kapha that may have accumulated during resting hours, allowing us to feel awake and prepared for the day ahead.
Meditation and pranayama
Mornings are recommended for this, self-reflection time. Try to set aside a few quiet moments to yourself each morning for meditation to start your day off peacefully.
Exercise and activity
Exercise for body and mind health, and the morning is an ideal time for a brisk walk or yoga practice. If you prefer to increase your blood flow and engage in more strenuous activities, a good time to do so is immediately following your largest meal.
Self-Massage or Abhyanga
Self-massage is an essential component of Dinacharya and is commonly performed in the morning and evening. According to some, it balances the body's energy and improves longevity by calming the nervous system, toning muscles, and promoting well being. Simply work your way down the body with heated oil using your fingertips and palms for a relaxing addition to your daily routine. Self-massage before bed can also assist to alleviate vata dosha and increase sleep quality.
After oil massage, a bath or shower is suggested. The water temperatures is important for each dosha. Warm for Vata, cooler for Pitta and hot for Kapha types.
Meals should be taken on a timely manner. Ayurvedic principles dictate that we should eat in accordance with both our dosha/constitution and the season. When eating, chew your food carefully to ensure proper digestion and always eat mindfully. Due to the fact that the digestive system will have completely awakened by midday, the body will have adequate time to process the food consumed without interfering with your sleep cycle. Therefore, schedule your biggest meal ideally at lunchtime if possible.
So this is Ayurveda, explained in a short summary, it truly is a wonderful system of health, with so much propound wisdom to learn and gives you all the tools to manage your health together with your family’s health.
Ayurveda Wellbeing Writer