AYURVEDA | THE SCIENCE OF LIFE From the Sanskrit AYUR - meaning ‘life’ and VEDA – meaning ‘knowledge’ AYURVEDA quite literally means the knowledge of life and to have an understanding of Ayurveda is to have a blueprint for good mental and physical health.
Ayurveda is the world’s oldest holistic health system originating from the Indian sub–continent. It has been used for thousands of years to cleanse and restore balance to the body and mind. Despite it being more than 5,000 years old it couldn’t be more relevant to our modern, busy and stressful lives.
With cases of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, arthritis, IBS, psoriasis, eczema, infertility, menopause symptoms and depression at an all time high, in Ayurveda we have a natural, gentle and effective solution.
According to Ayurveda, illness is caused by an imbalance in the Doshas (the word Dosha literally translates as ‘fault’). The three doshas are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha – they are made up of five elements that are found in all living things on earth:ether, air, fire, water, and earth— the building blocks of all life.
VATA = Ether + Air PITTA = Fire + Water KAPHA = Water + Earth
DETERMINATION OF CONSTITUTION The basic constitution of each individual is determined at conception. At the time of fertilisation, the single male sperm, unites with the single female ovum. At the moment of this union, the permutations and combinations of bodily air, fire and water that manifests in the parents’ bodies determine the constitution of the individual.
SEVEN TYPES OF CONSTITUTION In general, there are seven types of constitutions: 1. Vata 2. Pitta 3. Kapha 4. Vata-Pitta 5. Pitta-Kapha 6. Vata-Kapha 7. Vata-Pitta-Kapha
Every individual has a unique constitution made up of the Doshas (akin to the Western notion of DNA ). You may be 50% Vata, 30% Pitta and 20% Kapha for example. This is one of the reasons Ayurveda is so unique in its approach. The treatment given is specific to the individual – this means that what could be a healing diet and lifestyle for one person could create illness for someone else. While it is useful to understand your Dosha and how to eat and live correctly to keep it in balance, if you are already experiencing symptoms of illness it means one or more of these Doshas have been disturbed and this is when an seeing an Ayurvedic professional can help.
AGNI | THE DIGESTIVE FIRE
According to Ayurveda, all disease is caused by impaired Agni. Agni comes from the Sanskrit word for fire, and so you can think of this as your ‘digestive fire. Your Agni or digestive fire can be too high, too low or up and down all over the place! When our digestion is not working optimally this creates toxins, known as “Ama” which circulate around the body and lead to illness. Toxins can be both from incorrect food and lifestyle choices as well as emotional toxins from unresolved issues or trauma.
The first stage of Ayurvedic treatment involves enhancing the bodies' own system for dispelling toxins, by strengthening Agni. During Ayurvedic treatment herbs are taken to balance one’s digestive fire, and help to dislodge the ama in the body while also supporting the ‘detox’ or elimination process. A diet of easy to digest foods that also address the Dosha imbalance are prescribed for the patient together with lifestyle changes which could relate to a person’s exercise, work and stress management.
Over time, if the patient is able to follow the dietary and lifestyle advice along with their herbs, balance is restored to the Agni, toxins are reduced and eliminated – and the body comes back to into balance.
Ayurveda places great importance on incorporating all of the six tastes in your diet in order to promote balance of all three doshas.
Each dosha is pacified or aggravated by certain tastes. Therefore consuming those tastes in excess will aggravate that particular dosha.
VATA Pacified by Sweet, Sour & Salty Aggravated by Bitter, Pungent & Astringent
PITTA Pacified by Sweet, Bitter & Astringent Aggravated by Sour, Salty & Pungent
KAPHA Pacified by Bitter, Pungent & Astringent Aggravated by Sweet, Sour & Salty
So, to balance our bodies we need to eat more of the tastes we don't naturally have a lot of ( e.g. For a Pitta dominant person or someone suffering with Pitta symptoms we would increase Sweet, Bitter and Astringent tastes and reduce Sour, Salty and Pungent).
Here are some examples:
SOUR - Found in lemon, lime, tamarind, vinegars, pickled and fermented foods.
ASTRINGENT - The Astringent taste is found in green grapes, pomegranates, cranberries, green beans, alfalfa sprouts, and okra.
PUNGENT - Pungent taste is prominent in hot peppers, ginger, onions, garlic, mustard, and hot spices.
BITTER - Found in Rocket, raw cacao, many leafy vegetables, fenugreek and turmeric.
SWEET - The sweet taste is prominent in foods such as wheat, rice, dairy, cereals, dates, pumpkins, maple syrup, cinnamon and licorice root.
SALTY - Found in sea vegetables, sea salt, tamari, black olives, Himalayan salt, rock salt.