Intro to ayurveda


Intro to Ayurveda


Ayurveda is an ancient form of natural medicine, practiced in India for thousands of years. The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit language, “Ayur” meaning life and “Veda” meaning wisdom. Ayurveda is the science of how to live in balance within one’s self and with one’s environment. You can practice Ayurveda in every aspect of your life. From how long you sleep, to your daily routine, exercise, the foods you consume, teas and herbal medicine that balance your constitution, as well as spiritual practices, yoga, detoxification and massage. All of these things can be approached with an Ayurvedic understanding that will result in vibrant health and balance in your life.

The 3 Gunas

            There are 3 qualities that are manifest in all forms of creation. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. These 3 qualities give rise to the mind, life force and form respectively.

Sattva is associated with the color white and is the quality of light, life and love. This quality imparts virtues of faith, honesty, self-control, clarity and purity.

Rajas is associated with the color red and is the quality of passion, activity, agitation and twilight. It is dynamic movement and gives rise to emotional fluctuations of attraction and repulsion, love and hate, fear and desire.

Tamas is associated with the color black and is the quality of darkness, non-feeling and death. It is the lower force that drags us down into ignorance and attachment. It causes dullness, inertia, heaviness and stagnation.

These 3 forces are intertwined in nature and tend to hold their natures for a period of time, such as in the cycle of the day (sattva), twilight (rajas) and night (tamas).

Cultivation of Sattva

Ayurveda states that a sattvic body and mind are less likely to suffer from disease and more likely to continue in a state of balance. You can develop sattva through right diet, lifestyle, physical purification, control of the senses and mind, prayer and devotion. Yet, the cultivation of sattva is not the final goal. It is the stepping-stone needed in order to transcend the body and mind into pure consciousness beyond manifestation. Yet, if one hasn’t developed sattva, one cannot go beyond it. Therefore, the cultivation of sattva in daily life is the first goal to accomplish.

The 5 elements and 3 Doshas

In Ayurvedic philosophy, there are 5 elements that make up the outer world of experience. Ether (space), Air (time), Fire (light), Water (life) and Earth (form). They represent the solid, liquid, radiant, gaseous and etheric forms of matter.

Ether: which is space, is formless and all pervading. It is empty, light and subtle. We need space in order to move, grow, live and communicate.

Air:  moves through space and is dry, light, mobile and clear

Fire: when air moves through space, it creates friction, which creates heat. It is hot, dry, sharp, penetrating and luminous

Water: is necessary for maintaining life. It is fluid, heavy, soft, viscous, cold and dense.

Earth: is solidified consciousness. It is hard, rough, heavy, firm, slow moving and bulky

These 5 elements combine into the 3 basic energies, which are present in varying degrees in all forms of creation.

  1. Ether + Air = Vata dosha
  2. Fire + Water = Pitta dosha
  3. Water + Earth = Kapha dosha

Every person has their own unique combination of all 3 doshas, which makes up their primordial constitution or Prakriti.

Qualities of the 3 doshas

Vata is dry, light, mobile, cold, subtle, clear and dispersing. It regulates all activity in the body. When in balance it promotes creativity and flexibility and evokes feelings of freshness, lightness, happiness and joy. When out of balance it evokes fear, anxiety, worry, nervousness, tremors and spasms.

Pitta is sharp, light, hot, oily, liquid, pungent, sour and spreading. It is the principle of fire and warmth. When in balance it promotes intelligence and understanding and is crucial for learning. When out of balance it evokes anger, hatred, jealousy and criticism.

Kapha is heavy, cool, sweet, soft, slow, static, oily, damp and viscous. It is structure and provides lubrication. In balance it evokes feelings of love, calm and forgiveness. When out of balance it evokes feelings of greed, attachment, lust and envy.

Once you know your constitution, your prakriti, you will have an essential tool to take your healing into your own hands and find balance in your life.


© 2012 Ameya Duprey