By: Tonya Papanikolov
I should preface by saying that Ayurveda is not an easy topic to give someone a crash course on as it is the original and oldest self-healing system on earth and one that we have based much of modern medicine off of. One could spend many years scratching the surface of the vast teachings but I’m going to try and distill the essence of Ayurveda for you here.
Ayurveda dates back to over five thousand years ago when the sages and rishis of India bestowed the teachings to humanity as part of the vast spiritual system of Vedic and yogic knowledge. The teachings were first recorded in the Vedas, the worlds oldest extant literature.
Ayurveda literally translates to ‘life knowledge’, or ‘life science’. It is a holistic system of medicine. The system of yoga was created to deal with spiritual suffering and Ayurveda to deal with mental and physical suffering. It’s not only a system of medicine in the conventional sense of methodology for treating disease- it is a way of life that teaches us how to maintain health and improve both our energy and awareness; how to live life to our full human and spiritual potential.
Ayurveda is based on the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. It is these elements and their ever-changing dynamic dance that allow for the enormous diversity of life. This concept of the five elements is the heart of Ayurvedic science.
The five basic elements manifest in the human body as three basic constitutions, known as the tridosha or simply the three doshas which are: vata, pitta, kapha. These are known as the human constitutions and we each have all three in us, but one usually predominates. Part of understanding and uncovering how Ayurveda fits into our lives is by assessing and become aware of what dosha we are. It is important to note that a constitution will take form when we have an imbalance in our body. We are all born with a tendency to show aspects of a certain constitution when we’re out of balance.
Here are the three doshas:
- Vata (Air + Space) – this dosha is associated with movement and air. People of this dosha are often thin, lower body weight, have dry rough skin, dry hair, a variable appetite, restless active mind, emotional tendency toward anxiety, fear and insecurity. These people are creative, active, alert and restless. They talk and walk fast but they are easily fatigued.
- Pitta (Fire + Water) – associated with body heat and digestion. People of this dosha often have moderate builds, soft oily and warm skin and hair, strong appetites, have an aggressive and intelligent mind, emotional tendency toward anger and jealousy. These people are ambitious and like to be leaders.
- Kapha (Water + Earth) – this dosha is associated with stability, energy, lubrication. Body types tend towards overweight, hair is thick, oily. They have a calm and slow mind. Emotional temperament is calm, greedy and attached, have a tendency toward accumulation, holding and possessiveness. These people tend to be wealthy. They earn money and are good at holding on to it.
The doshas are so much more extensive than the descriptions above, but maybe you see yourself in one of them?This is really just a starting point to help you asses where you are right now. The tridoshas are always interacting and changing, especially in relation to our environment and diet.