Introduction to Ayurveda
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda literally means the "science of life" and it originated in India more than 5,000 years ago as the traditional holistic healing system. Ayurvedic knowledge originated in pre-historic times and was taught orally in Gurukuls following the Guru-Shishya parampara, and it developed significantly during the vedic period, finding its first written mentions in the Vedas, specifically the Atharva Veda.
This ancient science works as both preventative and curative medicine, combining daily self-care rituals, nutritious diet, yogic practices and a lifestyle that syncs with nature to strike a balance between the mind, body and soul.
What makes Ayurveda sustainably effective is the underlying principle of health based on how our bio-individual bodies interacts with the environment, enabling one to understand how to create this balance of body, mind and consciousness as per one's own individual constitution.
What is Prakriti?
Just like everyone has a unique fingerprint, each person has a particular pattern of energy - a distinctive combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics which comprises an individual's constitution. This constitution is determined at conception and stays the same throughout a person's lifetime, similar to the modern concept of bio-individuality. In Ayurveda, this is what defines your Prakriti.
When you are truly in balance, healthy, and without any symptoms or disease, you are in the optimal state of Prakriti. However, many factors, both internal and external, act upon us to disturb this balance and are reflected as a change in one's constitution.
What are Doshas?
Ayurveda identifies three basic types of energies or constitution (there aren't any specific English words to define this), that are present in everyone and everything; in Sanskrit they are called Vata Dosha, Pitta Dosha & Kapha Dosha. The principal of Ayurvedic philosophy is that the entire cosmos is an interplay of the energies of the five fundamental elements - Space, Air, Fire, Water & Earth. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are simply permutations and combinations of these five elements manifesting as patterns in all of creation.
Vata - is the subtle energy associated with movement, composed of Space & Air.
Pitta - expresses as the body's metabolic system, made up of Fire & Water.
Kapha - is the mass that forms the body's structure and provides the "glue" that holds cells together, formed by Water & Earth.
Everything is influenced by the energies of these five elements including, living and non-living things, time of day to the current season, to our emotions and thoughts. These permutations and combinations of different elemental energies is what forms a framework for your body type, personality and lifestyle choices.
Balancing Ayurvedic Doshas
A common misconception is that when we attempt to bring ourselves back into alignment, we are trying to equalise our Vata, Pitta and Kapha energies, which is not the goal. Balance means that Vata, Pitta & Kapha are restored to our unique Prakritik state of being. Balance is the natural order, imbalance is the disorder...also called disease!
Once you have understood the basics of Ayurveda, your health and lifestyle patterns start to become quite lucid and simple to look at from an Ayurvedic lens. 'Why does my skin feel drier in winters versus summers?', 'Why do different people behave differently in the same situation?', 'Why do I gain weight easily as compared to my sister, she eats more than I do?', 'What makes me catch cold and cough every fall while my partner doesn't, we live in the same house?'; all these and many more of life's curiosities are answered through understanding your Ayurvedic Doshas.
While many of us may have one dominant Dosha that rules our Prakriti, some of us may be dual doshic or even tri-doshic.
The beauty of Ayurveda is that it looks at each person as a bio-individual and does not believe in "one-size-fits-all". Everyone of us has our own unique expression of the universal elements.