Ayurvedic medicine is one of the most time-honored healing systems in the world. It is considered a holistic healing system, which means that the whole body is addressed no matter what the issue. Ayurveda was first developed in the country of India thousands of years ago. In the U.S., it is considered complementary or alternative medicine.
Finding Harmony and Balance with the Universe
Ayurvedic philosophy says that healing and overall well being is dependent upon a balance of energies in the body, mind and spirit. Practitioners believe that everything in the universe is connected, from people to plants to situations and environments. Good health is related to being in harmony with the universe itself. If there are any disruptions, illness and bad health can result.
Because of this, the focus of Ayurveda is on maintaining health rather than just fighting illnesses. That said, specific Ayurvedic treatments can be formulated to target a health issue after it arises.
Some of the factors that can disrupt the balance in a person’s life and health might include:
- Genetic predisposition
- Climate and environment
- Seasonal changes
- Work or family life changes
- Emotional issues
Your Unique Prakriti
Prakriti refers to your basic makeup and constitution. It is how your particular body system functions to keep you healthy. Everyone is different, and each person’s characteristics all combine to create their prakriti. While prakriti is believed to be fairly fixed throughout a lifetime, how you eat and treat your body can change and influence it over time.
The Five Elements
We are all comprised of five basic universal elements:
The Three Doshas
These five elements form three life force energies, or doshas. They are:
Kapha – comprised of water and earth
Pitta – comprised of fire and water
Vata – comprised of space and air
These doshas govern how the body functions and performs. Every person has a unique mixture of them, but typically one dosha is dominant. Ayurvedic practitioners look for imbalances in the doshas, which they believe are at the heart of why illness manifests. Each dosha governs different bodily functioning. Balance of the doshas is one of the keys to health.
Kapha Dosha (water and earth)
This dosha is related to bodily strength, the muscles, the immune system, and body weight. Those with Kapha as their main dosha are prone to:
- Respiratory issues/asthma
Common disruptors to Kapha Dosha include:
- Excessive sleeping
- Overindulging in sweet foods
Pitta Dosha (fire and water)
This dosha governs metabolism, digestion and hormones related to eating and appetite. Those with Pitta Dosha as their main active force are prone to:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Crohn's disease
- Negative emotions
Common disruptors include:
- Foods that are spicy or sour
- Not getting enough rest
- Too much sunshine exposure
Vata Dosha (space and air)
Vata is considered the most dynamic of the doshas. It oversees cellular functioning as well as the mind, heart, breathing, thinking, blood flow, and waste expulsion.
Those with Vata Dosha as their primary life force are more prone to:
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Nervous system disorders
- Skin issues
Common disruptors include:
- Lack of sleep
Once the practitioner has determined your prakriti, primary dosha and the unique configuration of all three doshas, treatment can commence. There is often a focus on cleansing the body and intestines of ama, or undigested food, through a process called panchakarma. This may include detoxification (usually through ingesting teas), medicinal oils, enema, laxatives, or other purgative.
Additional treatments may be prescribed to boost the immune system, relieve symptoms, or promote emotional or spiritual healing. These can include:
- Herbs, vitamins, minerals, and metals
- Plant-based oils and spices
- Diet and lifestyle changes
Ayurvedic medicine can be a powerful, effective way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Studies have found that it may help with a range of health issues including the prevention of diabetes, obesity and cancer. If you’re looking for a health system that’s intuitive, preventative and holistic, Ayurveda just might be for you.