Āyurveda is an ancient system of health stemming back to the Vedic period in India. The first written references to the principles of the Āyurvedic healing practice are 5000 years old, but it is understood that the oral tradition extends back even further. A holistic approach to wellness, Āyurveda (the “science of life”) aims to balance and harmonise the mind, body, senses and spirit, promoting longevity, connection to nature, and greater spiritual clarity. Āyurveda’s primary focus is the prevention of disease, aiming to maintain a healthy body and mind so that disease doesn’t occur. In the case that disease does arise, āyurveda will treat the problem and set up prevention against reoccurrence.
Āyurveda stresses the role of the pancamahabhuta’s (five great elements), in making up everything, and everyone in the universe. Ether (akaśa), air (vāyu), fire (agni), water (apas), and earth (prithvi) are present within everything without exception – nothing can exist without the interaction of all five elements. However, the quantity of each element present within any being varies and this is where we see differentiation in qualities. The same rule applies to the make-up of human beings. Āyurveda pairs up the pancamahabhutas into three dosha’s, or bodily humours. Vāta (ether and air), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (water and earth) are all present in every person, however usually one or two of the doshas will be predominant. These inconsistencies in quantity from person to person are what define us as individuals and carve our physical and psychological features.
We are each born with a certain balance of doshas, which is our natural state, known in Āyurveda as “prakriti”. However, due to a broad range of temporal, social, and lifestyle factors, our doshic balance often shifts away from its natural state. This current state of being is known as “virkriti”. The aim of Āyurveda is to return a state of natural harmony and balance – essentially lining up our vikriti with our prakriti. This is done through diet (ahara), lifestyle (vihara), and through the use of various herbs.
According to Āyurveda, a disease state (Roga), is due to a disequilibrium of the doshas, whereas, one is in a state of health when the doshas are in a position of balance. Due to multiple factors of contemporary life, maintaining a state of balance is a difficult task, however āyurveda outlines three main causes of doshic discord: improper use of the senses (asātmyendriyārtha samyoga); improper use of the intellect (prajñāparādha) – making certain lifestyle choices even if you know they are bad for you, such as smoking cigarettes; and, temporal factors (parināma), such as weather, time of year, or time of life.
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