First steps in Ayurveda

Understanding the Basics for Holistic Health

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a system of health that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Known to the West since the 1980s, this science of health teaches us how to restore and maintain the balance of body, mind and consciousness. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning “science of life.” Recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), Ayurveda is much more than just a system of health: it is a science leading to discovery of the self.

Definition of Health

One of the foundations of Ayurvedic medicine can be found in its definition of health, which is described as being much more than the absence of illness: “A person whose body, mind and senses are in permanent balance, in a state of abundance and happiness, can be called a healthy individual.”

Every human being is unique

Ayurveda is a system of health that treats each individual as a unique person. The approach is individualized, and human beings are viewed in their entirety. This means that elements such as the environment, the workplace and changes of climate are only some examples of factors influencing an individual’s health, which Ayurveda takes into consideration in making the appropriate recommendations.

What does it mean when we say that “every human being is unique?” Somewhat like our fingerprints, our psychophysiological constitution, or Prakriti, is distinct from all others.

Each individual has his or her own constitution, made up of what we call doshas. Each of the three doshas represents many different functions as well as a constantly evolving dynamic. These three principles, or doshas, are necessary to the body’s functioning. There is Vata, which is essential for fluids and foods to reach the right cells; Pitta, which digests the foods; and Kapha, which forms and maintains the cell.

More precisely, we may say that Vata represents movement. In physiology it governs breathing, the heartbeat, and peristaltic and cellular movements. Balanced Vata gives rise to creativity and flexibility; when out of balance, however, it produces indecision, fear and anxiety.

Pitta represents metabolism. It governs the digestive fire, active in the digestion of either food or information. Balanced Pitta brings understanding and mental clarity. When out of balance, it is expressed through anger and jealousy.

Kapha represents structure and lubrication. It is responsible for the strength of the system and the natural resistance of its tissues. It furnishes water to the body, lubricates the joints and skin, and maintains immunity. Balanced Kapha is an expression of tranquility, love, and indulgence. Unbalanced, it gives rise to laziness, greed and depression.

Attaining Balance

According to Ayurveda, the dynamic balance of Vata, Pitta and Kapha makes it possible for us to enjoy good health. The aim of the approaches used by Ayurveda is to maintain this balance. These three principles–Vata, Pitta and Kapha–are present in each one of us in different proportions, and this is what explains our individuality.

There are times when we have a sensation of discomfort. No illness can be detected, and yet the discomfort is great enough for us to feel. At such times the balance of the doshas–Vata, Pitta and Kapha—has been disturbed. Ayurveda considers this disturbance as one of the stages of illness.

The skill of an experienced therapist, combined with the regular practice of Ayurveda, can restore balance to the doshas. In this way we can prevent illness and maintain a state of health in which body, senses and consciousness remain in permanent balance.