Ayurveda is a holistic healing system more than 5,000 years old with roots in the Vedic culture of India. Aspects of Ayurvedic medicine can be found in Tibetan, traditional Chinese and Greek medicine. Some of these ideas are described in ancient Ayurvedic texts such as the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita.
The word Ayurveda consists of “Ayur” which means life and “veda” which means science or knowledge. So, Ayurveda is the science of life. It believes that every person is made from five basic elements – space, air, fire, water and earth. These elements combine in the body to create three life forces or energies. These energies are known as doshas.
The vata dosha contains the space and air elements and is considered the most powerful dosha. It is the energy of movement and controls very basic body functions (cell division), the mind, breathing, blood flow, heart function, and the ability to get rid of waste through your intestines. The pitta dosha contains the fire and water elements. It controls digestion, metabolism, and certain hormones linked to appetite. The kapha dosha contains the water and earth elements and is the energy of lubrication and structure. It controls muscle growth, body strength and stability, weight, and the immune system.
Each person has a mix of the three doshas, but one is usually stronger than the others. When balanced, vata promotes creativity and flexibility. When imbalanced, vata produces fear and anxiety. When balanced, pitta promotes understanding and intelligence. When imbalanced, pitta arouses anger, hatred and jealousy. When balanced, kapha is expressed as love, calmness and forgiveness. When imbalanced, it leads to attachment, greed and envy.
Ayurveda focuses on having these energies in balance. When there is minimal stress and the flow of energy within a person is balanced, the body can more easily defend against disease.