What is Ayurveda? Ayurveda translates as “knowledge of life” and is the ancient medicine of India. It is believed that Ayurveda is over five thousand years old and came about at the same time as yoga. The Ayurvedic system is an intricate web of natural medicine, with its principle practice being rooted in the idea that each person has a unique make up, meaning – their treatment for health, also needs to be just as unique.
Ayurvedic practitioners identify this unique make up as a person’s “constitution”. You may have heard the expression “food is medicine”? Well, in Ayurveda, food is medicine but – it can also be poison. What we eat has a direct impact on our constitutional health. In similar ways, our relationship with sleep, stress and the world also has a direct effect. Unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda does not just look at a person’s symptoms but also their “harmonious health”, such as the mind and soul.
This ancient medicine system uses an array of tools to understand a person’s constitution. These tools include the laws of nature – the five elements, the gunas and – the doshas. We will look at each of these in turn.
- The Five Elements
Ayurveda understands that earth, water, fire, air and ether (space) are required for a balanced natural environment. They are the foundations of our planet and everything on it. However, different quantities of these 5 elements will be present in different things. For example, the ocean has a different make up to the trees. This is taken into consideration when assessing someone’s health. A practitioner can identify which element is too apparent in their body / mind / life and which is not present enough.
- The Gunas
Ayurveda uses these 12 words or “qualities”, to understand a person’s blueprint. The qualities are grouped into opposing pairs and can be used to describe the reason for their ailment and what can act as a cure.
These opposing pairs give the Ayurvedic Practitioner an idea of what could be wrong in their patient’s life. For example, if the patient has a naturally fiery nature (they snap at people, are quick to argue and seem frustrated at life) but they live in a hot climate, eat spicy food and drink hot liquids – one could say, as they are already “hot” in nature, their “hot” lifestyle is only aggravating their excess heat. A practitioner’s suggestion would be to prescribe a “cooling” lifestyle: cool drinks, avoiding spicy food, keeping cool in the day time (enjoying shady areas etc).
- The Doshas
The Ayurvedic system works with three Doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each Dosha describes a person’s average constitution. Unlike Western medicine, which identifies body types as one of three categories, Ayurveda understands that an individual is made up of all three Doshas – just in different quantities.
For more information on the Doshas and to find out which of the Doshas is most apparent in your blueprint – you can take this online quiz:
In a nutshell, Ayurveda is about cultivating balance, in both health and lifestyle. For more information on Ayurveda and how it can complement your wellbeing, we would recommend this book, which you can find on Amazon: