Ayurveda is a 5000 year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Although it had been suppressed for long during the regime of foreign rulers, it has of late come back in toto and has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and other parts of the world. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. Early Greek medicine also embraced many concepts originally described in the classical Ayurvedic medical texts dating back thousands of years.More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay healthy while realizing their full human potential. Providing guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and the proper use of senses, Ayurveda reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between environment, body, mind and spirit.
Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation and structure. Known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Earth), these primary forces are responsible for the basic characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shape our nature. If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic and changeable. If Pitta predominates in our system, we tend to be intense, intelligent, goal-oriented and have a strong appetite for life. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical and nurturing. Although each of us has varied combination of all three forces, most people have one or two elements that are more obviously expressed.
For each element, there is balance or imbalance in expression. When Vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation and has difficulty in completing his daily tasks. When Pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader and a good speaker. When the fire element is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive, irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammatory condition. When Kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive and stable but when it is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, weight gain and sinus congestion.
The important goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s physical status in relation to these three basic elements and to determine whether these are in imbalance state. Accordingly the physician offers treatment using diet control, herbs, aromas, massage, music and meditation to re-establish balance of these three elements.