Have you ever longed for a straightforward map illuminating the elusive path to vibrant health, meaningful purpose, and an enduring sense of peace, contentment, and joy? Look no further. Ayurveda literally means “knowledge of life” and its scope is truly no less encompassing. While the tradition is thought to be over five thousand years old, Ayurveda remains as relevant as ever—and it is enlivened every day as individuals around the world engage its timeless wisdom in their day-to-day lives.
Ayurveda is a remarkably individualized system of medicine. The tradition is rooted in the idea that each of us is born with a completely personal blueprint for optimum health. From birth onward, it is this reference point—your constitution—that, in many ways, defines who you are. No two constitutions are exactly alike; therefore, no two human beings can have precisely the same expression of ideal health.
In Ayurveda, everything is medicine and everything is poison; what might be beneficial to you could harm someone else, and visa versa. It all depends on the context of who you are, and what patterns are currently at play in your particular system. Ayurveda is fundamentally opposed to one-size-fits-all remedies. While there are certainly some practices that are considered to be beneficial for most everyone, Ayurveda places the focus firmly on you, the individual concerned. This is why your Ayurvedic Profile™—an assessment of your constitution, your current state of balance, and a set of personalized recommendations to support you in your journey towards optimal health—can be such an empowering resource.
Ayurveda is an unequivocally holistic tradition that reaches far beyond the realms of physical health, healing, and the prevention of disease. It has a remarkable capacity to help each of us sync up with our truest inner nature, honor and develop our strengths, hone in on our challenge areas, redirect detrimental tendencies, and offer real support wherever it is needed—so that we can better maintain balance in the face of adversity. At its root, Ayurveda is a way of life that can help each of us to claim and celebrate our capacity for a fully embodied sense of wellness.
The Sanskrit word for health, svastha, describes an authentically harmonious interaction of many parts within the whole—such that the mind, soul, and senses are infused with an abiding sense of Self, wellness, and even bliss. Achieving this quality of life may seem a lofty ambition, especially when human beings throughout the world are riddled with stress, anxiety, and chronic disease. But Ayurveda provides a treasure chest of elegant and insightful tools that can be used to assess the degree of discord (no matter how slight or severe), determine its root, and ultimately, begin reclaiming our health.
The Lenses of Ayurveda
As a starting place, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of some of the lenses through which Ayurveda views the universe. These are foundational tools for understanding the laws of nature, identifying various states of health or imbalance, and for charting a course toward improved well-being.
The Five Elements
Ayurveda recognizes five elements as the fundamental building blocks of nature—earth, water, fire, air, and ether (space). Every substance, every cell, contains all five of these elements. That said, in a given substance, one or two elements are typically predominant over the others.
The Twenty Qualities
Ayurveda also identifies twenty qualities (the gunas) that can be used to describe every substance or experience. These qualities are organized into the following ten pairs of opposites:
Heavy vs Light
Slow (Dull) vs Sharp (Penetrating)
Cold vs Hot
Oily vs Dry
Smooth vs Rough
Dense vs Liquid
Soft vs Hard
Stable vs Mobile
Gross vs Subtle
Cloudy (Sticky) vs Clear
Then there are the three doshas (bodily humors): vata, pitta, and kapha. Each of them embodies a particular combination of elements and qualities to create a functional entity—an energetic force of nature. The doshas, or some combination of them, can be identified in various seasons, climates, landscapes, activities, plants, and animals. In the context of our bodies, all three doshas are necessary to facilitate important physiological functions. But if they accumulate beyond healthy limits (those determined by one’s constitution), the doshas can also wreak havoc on our health.
The Three Doshas
All three doshas are present in everyone, but the ratio between them varies a great deal from one person to the next. We will get to that in a moment, but first, here is an overview of the essential nature of each dosha.
Vata is the energy of air and ether, movement and impulse, creativity and connection. This dosha governs breathing, the pulsation of the heart, muscle movement in general, nerve impulses, sensory perception, communication, and our capacity to experience flexibility, joy, and expansive consciousness.
In excess, vata can cause fear, anxiety, physical and emotional constriction, ungroundedness, poor circulation, constipation, dry skin, cracking joints, emaciation, insomnia, twitches, tremors, and other abnormal movements.
Pitta is the energy of fire and water, digestion and transformation. This dosha governs appetite, digestion, absorption, assimilation, intelligence, charisma, courage, and ambition.
In excess, pitta can cause anger, jealousy, inflammation, excessive heat, heartburn, loose stools, migraines, rashes, bruising, bleeding disorders, sharp hunger, an overactive metabolism, and difficulty sleeping.
Kapha is the energy of water and earth, structure and cohesiveness, grounding and stability. This dosha governs nourishment, growth, lubrication, regeneration, fluid balance, fat regulation, strength, stamina, memory, and our ability to feel compassion and contentment.
In excess, kapha can cause attachment, greed, resistance to change, lack of motivation, heaviness in the mind and body, excessive sleep, depression, a sluggish metabolism, congestion, water retention, hardening of the arteries, and the formation of masses and tumors.
A New Paradigm
According to Ayurveda, your constitution (prakriti, in Sanskrit) is the particular combination of vata, pitta, and kapha that is established within you at conception, cemented at birth, and that remains constant over the course of your lifetime. It represents your natural state of equilibrium, your blueprint for perfect health, and it influences your physiology, your physique, your likes and dislikes, your tendencies and habits, your mental and emotional character, as well as your vulnerabilities toward imbalance and disease. Therefore, understanding your constitution can be truly enlightening.
But if vata, pitta, or kapha become imbalanced, and this baseline state of health is disturbed, the doshas can also cause a great deal of harm. When this occurs, recognizing which doshas are at play and where they have accumulated is a critical first step in discerning how to return to balance. This is why your current state of balance (vikriti, in Sanskrit), which reflects the present level of the doshas in your system, is equally important. In contrast to one’s constitution, the current state of balance can and does change over time, as we move through different climates, different seasons, and the various stages of life. It is also impacted by our daily routines, diet, exercise, relationships, stress levels, and our evolving life circumstances. In fact, it is not uncommon for one’s current state to undergo minute changes from one day to the next, or even over the course of a single day.
Together, your constitution and your current state of balance provide an invaluable context from which to consider your path forward. A seasoned Ayurvedic practitioner uses all of this information to identify the root cause of any departure from one’s natural state of equilibrium, and to determine how balance can best be restored.
The following providers at SageMED provide Ayurvedic Medicine consultations
The above information was adapted from information from www.banyanbotanicals.com, a quality source of information and Ayurvedic products. SageMED has no ownership or financial affiliation with Banyan Botanicals.