The term ‘Ayurveda’ is a Sanskrit word and it means ‘knowledge of life and longevity'(1). It is an alternative medicine system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent(2). It is believed that the origins of Ayurveda date back to the IVC or ‘Indus Valley Civilization’, or even earlier. Because the practice of Ayurvedic medicine is contrary to many of the teachings of what we know as ‘western medicine’, it has often been regarded as quackery! However, because Ayurveda is a practice that has evolved over more than two millennia, it has influenced the medical histories of many modern-day nations and their own medical models.
Given the unique emphasis on total wellness, the science of Ayurveda work seeks to harmonize our internal and external worlds(3).
Exactly that the entire web of life is intricately interwoven is what the principles of this ancient wisdom remind us!
A core theoretical principle of Ayurveda is balance. To be certain, “Balance is emphasized, and suppressing natural urges is considered unhealthy and claimed to lead to illness.”(4)
Ayurveda recognizes that each of a human being’s five senses serves as a doorway for interpretation between the internal and external realms of our existence. Using our senses, we interpret the five elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Ayurveda groups these five elements into three basic types of energy and functional principles that are present in everybody and everything. Since there are no single words in English to describe these principles; we use the Sanskrit words Vata, Pitta, and Kapha to describe their combinations.(5)
The ‘yoga sutras’, a reference to the Bhagavad Gita, a scripture of great wisdom, and considered the Bible of Hinduism—speaks of the three gunas (6). These are the three basic characteristics or attributes that exist in all things, including your body and mind. Twenty gunas exist which are considered to be inherent in all living matter. Hence, there are said to be ten pairs, as each guna has an alternative. (i.e – hot/cold)
Ayurveda recognizes three bodily systems. According to Ayurveda, the human body is composed of tissues (dhatus), waste (malas), and biomaterials (doshas). (7). The doshas or tridosha are vata (space or air, equated with the nervous system), pitta (fire, equated with enzymes), and kapha (earth and water, equated with mucus). A parallel set of mental doshas termed satogun, rajogun, and tamogun control psychology. Each dosha affects particular attributes and roles within the body and mind; the natural predominance of one or more doshas thus explains a person’s physical constitution and personality.(8)
As the concepts surrounding Ayurveda are foreign or unknown to many, some reflection is in order. As we previously mentioned that balance is a core principle of Ayurveda, it makes sense that imbalance is construed as ‘disease’. The foundation of Ayurvedic treatment relies upon recognizing when gunas have become excessive or deficient, as this is known to cause doshic imbalance and lead to disease. Ayurveda applies the opposite qualities to return to balance.
Because there is a large amount of knowledge regarding Ayurveda to be understood, making sense of core philosophies aids in our understanding of how it may be applied to our own healthcare!
Footnotes / Endnotes:
Gregory P. Fields (5 April 2001). Religious Therapeutics: Body and Health in Yoga, Ayurveda, and Tantra. SUNY Press. p. 36.
Wujastyk, Dominik (2003). The Roots of Ayurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings (3 ed.). London etc.: Penguin Books.
.National Ayurvedic Medical Assoc. – ‘What is Ayurveda?’ – https://www.ayurvedanama.org/what-is-ayurveda/
Photo Attribution –
- ‘Ayurveda|Johns Hopkins Medicine’ – Integrative Medicine -https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/ayurveda