The Science of Life (Longevity) Ayurveda
Ayurveda is an ancient scientific holistic healing system and sister science to Yoga. This science forms the foundation for all other healing systems throughout the world. Taoism, Tibetan, Buddhism, and many other cultural medicines parallel Ayurveda. In the Vedic texts, it is said that, Ayurveda was discovered by direct perception of truth through deep meditation. The value in Ayurveda comes from its individualized healing approach. This science includes knowledge of herbs, foods, aromas, gems, colors, yoga, mantras, lifestyle, and surgery.
Ayurvedic Consultation and Modern Application
Health is not simply the absence of disease, rather it is the perfect harmony of physical/mental health, career and life purpose, spiritual relationships, and Spirituality. Through pulse reading and verbal inquiry the practitioner will determine the original constitution (Prakriti) of the individual. The Ayurvedic practitioner will look at every aspect of a persons life to discern where the imbalance(s) (vrikriti) come from. Lastly, they will provide a practical guide to modifying diet, lifestyle, mental attitude, routine, etc. to reestablish harmony. This holistic approach acknowledges that we each have a unique center of balance. To learn what constitution you have fill out the questionnaire at the bottom of the page. For a more in depth look at this 5000 year old science, continue reading.
“The first cause of illness is loss of faith in the Divine” -Charaka
“Realizing one has the ability to take control of ones own health is a key factor in healing” -Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha.
Ayurveda: The Science of Life
The Eight Branches of Ayurveda
- Internal Medicine (Kayachikitsa)
- This is the study of the soul, mind, and body. Psychosomatic theory acknowledges that the mind can create illness in the body and vice versa. The seven potential constitutions are delineated here. The machinery of modern medicine only has the ability to detect illnesses in their final stages. Ayurveda is able to detect illnesses in their earliest stages, before they are dangerous . Deficiencies and excesses (Vikriti) are balanced based on the original constitution of the individual (Prakriti). Over 2000 medicinal herbs are classified. A cleansing therapy know as Pancha Karma (five actions) completely removes toxins. This is achieved through special diets, oil massage, and steam therapy. Special forms of emesis, pergation, and enema remove excesses from their sites of origin. Lastly Ayurveda rejuvenates the body’s cells and tissues.
- Ears, Nose, and Throat (Shalakya Tantra)
- This study reveals 72 eye disease, surgical procedures for all eye disorders, and for diseases of the ears, nose, and throat.
- Toxicology (Vishagara-vairodh Tantra)
- Topics include air and water pollution, toxins in animals, minerals, vegetables, and epidemics; as well as keys for recognizing these anomalies and their antidotes.
- Pediatrics (Kaumara bhritya)
- This study includes prenatal and postnatal care of the baby and mother. Including methods of conception, choosing the childs gender, intelligence, and constitution; and childhood diseases and mid wifery.
- Surgery (Shalya Tantra)
- Over 2000 years ago, sophisticated methods of surgery were known. The information was spread through Egypt, Rome, Greece, and eventually throughout the world.
- Psychiatry (Bhuta Vidya)
- This branch of Ayurveda specifically deals with mental diseases. Herbs, diet, and yogic therapies (breathing/mantras) are used to balance patients.
- Aphrodisiacs (Vajikarana)
- This is a study of two major areas: Infertility (those hoping to conceive) and spiritual development (those wishing to transmute sexual energy into spiritual energy)
- Rejuvenation (Rasayana)
- Prevention and Longevity are the topic of this branch. “In order to develop longevity, ethics, and virtuous living must be embraced” -Charaka, Grandfather of Ayuveda
Introduction into Ayurveda
The foundation of Ayurveda rests on the recognition that we are each a unique combination of the five basic elements: Ether(Space), Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. The five basic elements make up the three Doshas(Constitutions):
- Vata/Vayu (Ether/Air)
- Pitta (Fire/Water)
- Kapha (Water/Earth)
Depending on which Dosha(s) are dominant in your original constitution (Prakriti) your body, mind, and Spirit will reflect the elemental qualities of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Typically we have one or two dominant doshas, although some people have a balance of all three. The combinations are as follows:
Furthermore in the combinations of one or more there will be a dominant such a: Vata/Pitta vs. Pitta/Vata or Kapha/Pitta vs. Pitta/Kapha. Later in the article we will talk about how to determine your Prakriti. A questionnaire will be provided for you to fill out.
Qualities of Elements
Before we take a look at each individual Dosha to understand them on a physical, mental, spiritual level, let’s take a look at how the elements manifest. There are 20 major qualities or 10 set’s of opposing qualities:
- Heavy/Light Guru/Laghu
- Slow/Quick Manda/Tekshna
- Cold/Hot Hima/Ushna
- Oily/Dry Snighda/Rusha
- Smooth/Rough Shlakshna/Khara
- Solid/Liquid Sandra/Drava
- Soft/Hard Mridu/Kathina
- Stable/Moving Sthira/Cala
- Subtle/Large Sukshma/Sthula
- Non-Slimy/Slimy Vishada/Picchila
Vata/Vayu (Dry, Light, Cold, Rough, Subtle, Moving)
The major elements of Vata are Ether and Air. This Dosha controls all movement in the body, from the muscles, to the nerves, the flow of blood, the thoughts, and the movement of food/waste. The “seat” of Vata is in the large intestine, although it is also present in the bones, waist, thighs, ears, and skin. When in balance Vata dominant people are creative, natural healers, intelligent, energetic, open, artistic, and imaginative. When imbalanced, they are fearful, worried, anxious, suffer from insomnia, their skin is dry, tend to be constipated, and have bone problems. Typically, their frame is thin and either very tall or short. They may talk very fast or become easily tired. They are quick to learn and quick to forget.
Pitta (Hot, Slightly Oily, Light, Odorous, Liquid, Sharp)
The major elements of Pitta are Fire and Water. This Dosha controls the digestion and breakdown of food in the body. The presence of fire in the body can be understood as the enzymes and acids that breakdown food in the stomach and small intestine. The seat of Pitta is in the small intestine where the transformation and absorption of food occurs. It can also be found in the navel, sweat, lymph, blood, eyes, and skin. When in balance Pitta people are warm, and have clear penetrating thoughts. They tend to be leaders, teachers, or athletes, and are deeply passionate. Their body type is moderate with a muscular build. When they are imbalanced they over heat, become impatient, irritable, hot tempered, and too critical. They typically develop heat related illnesses like ulcers, infections, rashes or acne, eye problems, and high blood pressure. Pitta dominant people have an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge and learning. When they decide on something their will power is iron clad.
Kapha (Oily, Cold, Heavy, Slow, Smooth, Slimy, Static)
The major elements of Kapha are Water and Earth. This Dosha controls the anabolic processes in the body such as rebuilding tissues, lubrication of joints, and the nourishment of cells. The seat of Kapha is located in the stomach, although it also manifests in the chest, throat, head, bones/joints, small intestine, plasma, fat, nose, and tongue. Kapha type people when balanced are loyal, calm, and compassionate. They learn slowly and retain information for a very long time. Physically their bodies are strong and have larger bones. Their voices are also deep in tone. When Kapha is imbalanced they tend toward water excesses such as: water retention, being overweight, having bronchitis, experiencing mucus discharge through nose, throat, or lungs. Mentally when there is excess, they will be lethargic, too attached, and overly sentimental. They may also be greedy and hoard things for themselves.
What causes Imbalance in Ayurveda?
As we addressed earlier in the article, imbalance is caused from excess and deficiency of one or more of the Doshas. The Doshas are like the three legs of a table. Naturally if one leg of the table is deficient (lower) atleast one other will be in excess (higher). The way to bring balance is to identify what is causing the imbalance. There are three external factors that will cause this: 1. Time of day or season (noon is Pitta, fall is Vata) 2. Inadequate/excessive/untimely sensory experiences (excessive loud music, overeating, too much information) 3. Actions (excessive talking, lack of exercise) Internal imbalance are as follows: Diet (Pitta eating spicy foods, Kapha eating ice cream) mind (Vata worried about something, Pitta studying too much), emotions (Kapha expressing greed, Vata feeling scared) , and body (kapha sleeping in, Vata running in the cold wind). There is a hierarchy for what has the strongest imbalancing effect:
- Constitution outweighs environment
- If you are kept balanced environmental factors are less likely to upset you. ex: Balanced Vata in the cold dry fall is less likely to become worried or suffer from insomnia (Fall is normally a challenging season for Vata)
- Lifestyle outweighs environment
- Following a lifestyle that keeps your doshas balanced protects you from environmental stresses. ex: Cold weather will not serious effect Vata if they take measures to keep warm (dressing appropriately)
- Internal intake of foods/drink outweighs external exposures
- Seasonal temperatures will not effect a person who eats a diet to balance ones dosha ex: Pitta who eats cooling foods such as watermelon in summer will not feel effects of hot temperatures.
- Mind and emotions outweigh physical factors
- A calm peaceful mind and cheerful attitude will keep away physical imbalances. ex: Attachment, worry, and anger lead to physical illness. A peaceful joyous disposition will prevent bodily diseases
- Degree of factors is MOST significant
- An excess of any one cause of an imbalance will create an illness. Too hot a summer day, too much worry, too much junk food, etc. will override any balancing factors.
- Combinations outweigh individual
- Two or more agents acting on a person will be more problematic than one.
Here are a few guidelines for filling out your questionnaire. Answer all the questions based on your whole life. For example if you have had dry skin all your life, but you just started using a lotion and now you don’t, choose dry skin. It is very helpful to have a life long friend help you answer the questions. Encourage them to try it themselves. If you would like to know what your current deficiencies/excesses (vikriti) are, fill out another sheet based on today’s experience. Neither David or Shannon are certified ayurvedic practitioners. We do however, apply the basic principle of opposites balance (1. If it cold out, eat warm, dress appropriately 2. If its hot out stay away from spicy food at the hottest part of day in the summer 3. If its windy and dry outside, rub some oil on your body before bed) In order to benefit from Ayurveda, you need to see a certified practitioner. If you want to start today, follow the guidelines for each Dosha bellow. For digital version visit here.
Guidelines for Vata
If Vata is your dominant Dosha, these general guidelines will help to keep you in balance. Seasonally speaking, the hardest time of the year for Vata is Fall/Winter (Cold, Windy, Dry) At this time of the year it is very important to take care of yourself. This means: Have a predictable/consistent routine, eat warm moist foods (lots of soups), avoid raw/dry foods (raw greens, crackers, bread), dress in plenty of layers to keep warm (hats/gloves), use raw organic unrefined sesame oil for dry skin, and plan time to meditate/relax (anytime you are moving, vata is imbalanced).
Guidelines for Pitta
If Pitta is your dominant Dosha, these general guidelines will help to keep you in balance. Seasonally speaking, the hardest time of year for Pitta is Spring/Summer (Hot, Dry) To stay in balance: Drink plenty of water, stay out of peak sunlight (getting too hot), avoid over spicy foods (sour/salty/pungent) take a cool shower, regulate how much technology and information you are taking in, limit alcohol intake (fire water), limit hot liquids, and overly oily food (fried food), exercise moderately, and meditate. Notice if you are getting angry, irritated, or hot tempered easily. Eat plenty of green foods to balance heat in the body. (cucumber, watermelon, aloe vera)
Guidelines for Kapha
If Kapha is your dominant Dosha, these general guidelines will help to keep you in balance. Seasonally speaking, the most challenging time of the year for Kapha is Winter/Early Spring (Cold/Wet) To stay in balance: Drink warm liquids, eat plenty of vegetables (raw or cooked), avoid heavy oils, mucus forming foods (milk, beer, cheese, breads), limit nuts and seeds, exercise is a must (stay active!), limit intake of sweet foods, volunteer time for others (give your time), stay away from cold drinks, and meditate daily.
For a more in depth explanation, feel free to contact us!