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Ayurveda is a holistic healing science, based on the concept of balance representing health. The word itself is derived from two Sanskrit words: Ayu (meaning life) and veda (meaning knowledge)

This science focuses on living life naturally. It teaches how to live in society and in the universe without disturbing the delicate balance of nature. Ayurveda not only addresses illness and treatment, but is a complete way of life which describes the activities, diet, lifestyle, etc. which enhance life.

According to Ayurvedic texts, the human body is comprised of the five elements of nature: ether (space), air, fire, water and earth.

Ether - is space, in particular the cellular, synaptic and visceral spaces which allow the tissues to function efficiently.

Air - governs movement in the body. The sensation that is felt when someone touches the skin is transported to the brain through movement. Other examples include breathing (through the movement in the diaphragm) and the shifting of thoughts and desires.

Fire - represents the qualities of change and transformation. It is therefore the element relative to digestion, absorption, assimilation and body temperature.

Water - takes many forms in the body such as: saliva, plasma, mucus and urine and is necessary for healthy cell function.

Earth - is the element which forms the solid structures of the body (i.e. bones, cartilage, teeth, skin, etc.)

As in Traditional Chinese Medicine the Ayurvedic system views the human body as a miniature of nature and therefore the elements listed above are used to create the structure of the body.

The structural aspects are then combined to create the three doshas (Sanskrit for "forces that disturb") which are responsible for the functional aspects of the body. The three doshas are a combination of two of each of the elements and are used to determine the individuals' primary constitution and the factors which contribute/are detrimental to harmony in the body.

The Doshas

Vata is a combination of the air and ether (space) elements, with air being the predominent force. Its function in the body (as in nature) is to create movement and is therefore involved in the following processes: reflexes and motor functions, breathing, circulation of blood and nutrients, transmission of sensory stimuli, elimination, movement of thoughts and memory recall.

The qualities expressed by Vata are: dry, light, cold, astringent, clear, active and dispersing.

The physical appearance of Vata is:

Physique: light body frame, low body fat, little muscular development, can be very tall or very short

Skin: dry, cool to the touch (ex. cold hands and/or feet - poor circulation), medium/dark skin tone

Hair: dry, coarse, dark, curly

Eyes: narrow or small, brown, gray or slate bue with a dull luster

Mouth: small with thin, narrow lips

The Vata temperment is:

Mental: nervous, anxious, mood swings, insecurity, quick to learn but short retention, creative

Physical: prone to constipation (due to dry quality), fluctuating appetite, light sleeper

Energy: very active and mobile but poor stamina, activity comes in bursts

Remedies for excess Vata:

Exercise: regular, but gentle in movements

Food: warm, mildly spiced, moist, nutritious but well cooked

Taste: sweet, sour, salty

 

Pitta is a combination of the water element and the fire element, with fire dominant. As such, it is the fire that fuels the metabolism and comprehension of mental experiences. Pitta is therefore involved in the following: digestion, absorption and assimilation of food, creating the feeling of hunger or thirst, comprehension and reasoning of thoughts and theories, sensory perception, vision (including luster in the eyes), serves as the furnace of the body - regulating temperature.

The qualities expressed by Pitta are: hot, light, liquid, sour, sharp and oily.

The physical apprearance of Pitta is:

Physique: medium build and good muscular development

Skin: fair, warm, oils (may be prone to blemishes), freckles, tendency toward rashes or reddening

Hair: fine, soft, light in color, straight

Eyes: average in size, lustrous, bright blue, light brown/hazel

Mouth: medium size with average lips

The Pitta temperment is:

Mental: organized, driven, easily irritated, love knowledge and have a good memory, competitive, controlling or dominating traits, enjoy leadership roles

Physical: strong appetite, regular elimination and rapid digestion, generally sound sleepers

Energy: enjoys physical activity, has moderate energy levels with average stamina

Remedies for excess Pitta:

Exercise: moderate, non-competitive

Food: cool to warm, mildly spiced

Taste: sweet, bitter, astringent

 

Kapha is a combination of the water and earth elements with water as the primary element. Kapha provides substance and support for the body and acts as the basis for Vata and Pitta. Kapha is involved in the following functions within the body: lubrication (i.e. joints), bodily secretions, cell structure, stability of the mind, distribution of heat.

The qualities expressed by Kapha are: heavy, dense, cool, slow, liquid, static and oily.

The physical qualities of Kapha are:

Physique: large build, good muscular development, tendency to put on weight due to slow metabolism and digestion

Skin: cool, clammy, smooth, pale, oily

Hair: thick, wavy, shiny

Eyes: large, attractive, brown

Mouth: large mouth with full lips

The Kapha temperment is:

Mental: relaxed, compassionate, slow, takes time to learn but prolonged memory

Physical: strong appetite, slow digestion, may talk and walk slowly, deep sleeper

Energy: good stamina and steady energy, generally disinterested in high energy activities like running and aerobics

Remedies for excess Kapha

Exercise: regular, vigorous

Food: warm, dry, light, spicy

Taste: pungent, bitter, astringent

 

It is important to note that the qualities of Vata, Pitta and Kapha are present in everyone, and are required to co-exist because they govern different organs, processes and bodily functions.

However, one dosha usually predominates and best describes our basic physical appearance, behaviours, attitudes and emotions. To determine your primary dosha, take our What's your Dosha? quiz and learn how to balance your physical and mental state to achieve health and harmony in your life.


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Information provided on this site is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering remedies.

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