What is Ayurveda
the science of life
Pronounced “EYE-yer-VAY-da”, Ayurveda in Sanskrit means “the science of life” and is considered by many scholars to be the oldest healing science. This ancient knowledge originated in India more than 8,000 years ago and is often called the “mother of all healing.”
Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences. Ayurveda is the science of self-healing and Yoga is the science of self-realization. I always have said, Ayurveda, simply put, is taking your yoga practice off of your mat and into your daily life.
Ayurveda views health and dis-ease as the end result of how we interact with the world in terms of our beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. Whether these are derived from old traumas or present lifestyle choices, these ultimately determine our actions. Actions in harmony with our inner nature create health, while those disharmonious actions create dis-ease. Ayurveda and yoga together teach us how to develop greater harmony with our environment through the each of our senses. Our senses are the gateway to our soul. This process aids in the release of old wounds, and reminds us how to love and care for ourselves more deeply.
The Five Elements of Nature
Ayurveda recognizes that each human being is a microcosm (a small reflection) of the macrocosm (the universe).
We are each made up of the same elements that make up everything around us, plants, sun, moon, water, and animals, and together we move (or not) with the rhythms of nature; we rise with the sun, sleep with the moon, and take joy in the foods that each season brings us.
Journeying back to optimal health with Ayurveda is living a simple life, through Sadhana, wholesome, everyday practices that allow us to awaken to our true nature as Spirit. Sadhana practices balance the five elements (air, ether, fire, water, and earth) in the body and mind through the use of food, sleep, exercise, lifestyle, yoga, herbs, color, aromas, meditation, chakra therapy, along with other five senses therapies.
Ether, akasha, is the most expansive and subtle of all elements. It has the qualities of being cold, light, dry, and mobile. It is defined as space and is the space the other elements fill. In the body, it relates to the hollow or empty spaces in the body, like channels, pores, and the ears that perceive sound. It connects everything. Without form or boundaries, Ether is the space of unlimited possibilities.
Air, vayu, has the same qualities of Ether, light, dry, cold, and mobile. It is the movement in nature such as ocean tides and wind. In our physical body, Air is the movement of oxygen and nutrients to the cell and waste out of the cell, the air we breathe, nerve impulses, circulation, and movement of our joints. Air supports our energy, prana or vital life force and in the mind it supports the movement and coordination of our thoughts.
Fire, agni, represents light, heat, and transformation. Where there is movement, there is friction, where there is friction there is fire. Fire governs the metabolism, absorption, and digestion of all sensory impressions we take in through our five senses. Fire is carried throughout the body in the blood and plasma as heat and in our mind support the strength of our intellect, discrimination, and perception.
Water, apas, is cohesion and holds everything together. It has the qualities of being cold and heavy. It supports fluidity so that we can move slowly and gracefully. Water is plasma, urine, our lymphatic system, and how subtle molecules are carried from one part of the body to the other. Water is responsible for emotions such as unconditional love, compassion, empathy, deep feelings, and attachment.
Earth, pruthivi, is stability and the building block of nature. It has the qualities of being cold, heavy, stable, and dense and is more difficult to move than the other elements. Earth makes up the structures within us; bones, cartilage, hair, skin, nails, teeth, muscles, and organs. In the mind, the earth gives stability, contentment, and structure to thoughts and ideas.
The Three Doshas
The Vata dosha holds the energy of the air and ether elements and governs movement, nerve impulses, breathing, pulsation of the heart, creativity, and flexibility.
Those with a Vata constitution are imaginative, detailed-oriented, on-the-go, and have an active mind. Vata moves like the wind and changes direction often. When those with a Vata nature lack a consistent schedule it disturbs the body’s internal energy, prana. This leads to anxiety, nervousness, feelings of overwhelm, insomnia, constipation, dry stools, bloating, gas, and dry skin.
Vata does best when stable, regular routines help to channel and focus their large, natural amount of energy. With structure, Vata’s are able to accomplish a great deal within a very short period of time and can be more productive than any other doshic type.
The Pitta dosha holds the energy of the fire and water elements and while its principal quality is heat, it is also light, slightly oily, sharp, and unstable.
Pitta is the force that is responsible for the strength of our intellect and governs the digestion, absorption, assimilation, and metabolism of any sensory impressions.
Those with a primary pitta constitution are more courageous than the other doshas. They are ambitious, goal-oriented, productive, natural leaders and have good public speaking skills. Out of balance, they are prone to loose stools, inflammation, anger, resentment, criticism, and jealousy.
Pitta does best when it takes in cooler foods, spends time in nature, doesn’t overschedule themselves, and takes time to appreciate the joys in life.
Kapha holds the energy of the earth and water elements and is moist, cold, heavy, dull, sticky, dense, static, smooth, and soft.
Kapha gives us nourishment, stability, support, lubrication and makes up the bulk of our bodily tissues. Kaphas have good stamina, excellent memory, and govern watery emotions such as compassion, love, deep feelings, modesty, forgiveness, and patience. Out of balance Kaphas experiences symptoms such as congestion, allergies, weight gain, water retention, lethargy, depression, and attachment.
Kapha does best when they wake before the sun, take in small quantities and lighter qualities of food, have a regular exercise regimen, take in regular visits to the sauna or steam rooms and live in a space that is free of excess.