Principles of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a holistic healing science which comprises of two words, Ayu and Veda. Ayu means life and Veda means knowledge or science. So the literal meaning of the word Ayurveda is the science of life. Ayurveda is a science dealing not only with treatment of some diseases but is a complete way of life. 
Ayurveda aims at making a happy, healthy and peaceful society. The two most important aims of Ayurveda are: 
+ To maintain the health of healthy people
+ To cure the diseases of sick people
A Person is seen in Ayurveda as a unique individual made up of five primary elements.
These elements are ether (space), air, fire,water and earth. 
Just as in nature, we too have these five elements in us. When any of these elements are imbalanced  in the environment , they will in turn have an influence on us. The foods we eat and the weather are just two examples of the influence of these elements . While we are a composite of these five primary elements, certain elements are seen to have an ability to combine to create various physiological functions.
The elements combine with Ether and Air in dominence to form what is known in Ayurveda as Vata VatapittakaphaDosha. Vata governs the principle of movement and therefore can be seen as the force which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration and elemination etc.,
The elements with Fire and Water in dominence combine to form the Pitta Dosha . The Pitta Dosha is responsible for the process of transformation or metabolism. The transformation of foods into nutrients that our bodies can assimilate is an example of a Pitta function. Pitta is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue systems as well as cellular metabolism.
Finally, it is predominantly the water and earth elements which combine to form the Kapha Dosha. Kapha is responsible for growth, adding structure unit by unit. It also offers protection , for example, in form of the cerebral-spinal fluid,which protects the brain and spinal column. The mucousal lining of the stomach is another example of the function of Kapha Dosha protecting the tissues.
Chakra Yoga Doshas
We are all made up of unique proportions of Vata,Pitta and Kapha. These ratios of the Doshas vary in each individual and because of this Ayurveda sees each person as a special mixture that accounts for our diversity.
Ayurveda gives us a model to look at each individual as a unique makeup of the three doshas and to thereby design treatment protocols that specifically address a persons health challenges. When any of the doshas become accumulated, Ayurveda will suggest specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing the dosha that has become excessive. Also herbal medicines will be suggested , to cure the imbalance and the disease.
Understanding this main principle of Ayurveda , it offers us an explanation as to why one person responds differently to a treatment or diet than another and why persons with the same disease might yet require different treatments and medications.
Other important basic principles of Ayurveda which are briefly mentioned here are:
1. Dhatus- These are the basic tissues which maintain and nourish the body.


They are seven innumber namely- rasa(plasma), raktha(blood), mamsa(muscles),meda(fatty tissue), asthi(bone), majja(marrow) and sukla(reprodutive tissue). Proper amount of each dhatu and their balanced function is very important for good health.
2. Mala- These are the waste materials produced as a result of various metabolic activities in the body. They are mainly urine, feaces, sweat etc. Proper elimination of the malas is equally important for good health. Accumulation of malas causes many diseases in the body.
3. Srotas- These are different types of channels which are responsible for transportation of food, dhatus, malas and doshas. Proper functioning of srotas is necessary for transporting different materials to the site of their requirement. Blockage of srotas causes many diseases.

Together with knowledge of the doshic imbalances, the dhatus (tissues) involved, the state of the agni (digestive fire), and other diagnostic means, assessment of the srotas is one of the means in Ayurveda by which diseases can be distinguished. By knowing which srotas are affected and the nature and extent of their disturbance, one can understand a great deal about the disease process.The Charaka Samhita describes thirteen srotas.Three srotas connect the individual to the external environment, by bringing air , food, and water into and out of the body.  Seven srotas are associated with the seven bodily tissues (sapta dhatus). Another three srotas direct wastes out of the body. That makes thirteen. However other ancient authorities recognize three additional srota relating to lactation, menstruation, and the flow of thoughts through the mind. This brings the total number of srotas to sixteen which is the accepted description.

4. Agni- These are different types of enzymes responsible for digestion and transforming one material to another.


Agni, by name of Agni-vyapar is an agent that helps in the digestion and metabolism of food stuffs and drugs. There are many types of Agni in the body. There may be specific types of Agni’s for specific type of Para going on in the body at different level. But it has been classified into three broad headings –

(i )  JATHARAGNI     (ii)      DHATWAGNI     (iii)      BHUTAGNI

Further they may be classified as one, seven and five types respectively. First is jatharagni . It is related with the gastro-intestinal digestion and absorption. In addition it has been considered to influence the Agni situated elsewhere.

          The concept of dhatwagni and bhutagni refers to the intermediary tissue metabolism. The dhatwagni are seven (Rasagni, raktagni, mansagni, medoagni, asthiagni, mazzagni, and shukragni ) and bhutagni are five (prathivagni, apyaagni, agneyaagni, vayavaagni,and nabhasagni)

All these factors should function in a proper balance for good health. They are inter-related and are directly or indirectly responsible for maintaining equilibrium of the tridoshas.
Balance and Harmony of the Three Doshas
When the three Doshas are well harmonised and function in a balanced manner, it results in good nourishment and well-being of the individual . But when there is imbalance or disharmony within or between them, it will result in elemental imbalance , leading to various kinds of ailments.
The Ayurvedic concept of physical health revolves round these three Doshas and its primary purpose is to help maintain them in a balanced state and thus to prevent disease.This humoral theory is not unique to the ancient Indian Medicine : The Yin and Yang theory in chinese medicine and the Hippocratic theory of four humours in Greek medicine are also very similar.
The Qualities of the Three Doshas
The three Doshas possess qualities and their increase or decrease in the system depends upon the similar or antagonistic qualities of everything ingested.
Vata is : dry, cold, light, mobile, clear, rough, subtle
Pitta is : slightly oily, hot, intense, light, fluid,free flowing, foul smelling.
Kapha is: oily, cold, heavy, stable, viscid, smooth, soft
Both Vata and Pitta are light and only Kapha is heavy.
Both Vata and Kapha are cold and only Pitta is hot.
Both Pitta and Kapha are moist and oily and only Vata is dry.
Anything dry almost always increases Vata , anything hot increases Pitta and anything heavy , Kapha.
Puffed rice is dry, cold light and rough - overindulgence in puffed rice therefore is likely to increase Vata in the overindulger.
Mustard oil is oily , hot , intense , fluid , strong-smelling and liquid and increases Pitta in the consumer.
Yoghurt , which , being creamy, cold, heavy, viscid, smooth and soft , is the very image of Kapha , adds to the body's Kapha when eaten.
All Five elemets , as expressed through Vata, Pitta and Kapha , are essential to life, working together to create health or produce disease. No one dosha can produce or sustain life - all three must work together , each in its own way.Ayurvedic 2
The Six teastes  in Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, the sense of taste is a natural guidemap towards proper nutrition. For ages, Six Tastes.jpg Pagespeed Ce M0fipf 7POhumans relied largely upon taste to discover healthy foods in nature and avoid toxicity. Our tastebuds do much more than simply identify tastes; they unlock the nutritive value of foods and provide the initial spark to the entire digestive process.
Food speaks to us directly through taste. A juicy pear may call out to us with a gentle message of delight, while the flaming chili pepper cries out in warning. As we tune into the tastes naturally desired by the body, we tap into the body’s innate wisdom regarding food and nutrition.
Ayurveda identifies 6 Tastes by which all foods can be categorized: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent, and Astringent. While the first four tastes are probably recognizable, the last two may not seem familiar. Pungent taste is hot and spicy as found in a chili pepper, while Astringent taste is dry and light as found in popcorn.
Taste Transparent Primary Actions Transparent Common Sources
  Transparent   Transparent  
Sweet Transparent
Builds tissues, calms nerves
Fruit, grains, natural sugars, milk
Sour Transparent
Cleanses tissues, increases absorption of minerals 
Sour fruits, yogurt, fermented foods
Salty Transparent
Improves taste to food, lubricates tissues, stimulates digestion 
Natural salts, sea vegetables
Bitter Transparent
Detoxifies and lightens tissues 
Dark leafy greens, herbs and spices 
Pungent Transparent
Stimulates digestion and metabolism 
Chili peppers, garlic, herbs and spices
Astringent Transparent
Absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fats
Legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, herbs
Basic Principles of Ayurvedic Nutrition
1) Include all 6 Tastes in each meal
The 6 Tastes offer us a user-friendly guide map for how to nourish ourselves. Rather than looking at nutritional labels for X amount of protein or Y amount of carbohydrates, the 6 Tastes naturally guide us towards our body’s nutritional needs. Each taste feeds our mind, body, senses, and spirit in its own unique way. From a modern nutritional perspective, the 6 Tastes satisfy each of the major dietary building blocks. Sweet foods, for example, are rich in fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and water, whereas Bitter and Astringent foods are high in vitamins and minerals.
The brain sends the body signals when it requires energy in the form of food. By incorporating all 6 Tastes into each meal, we ensure that these signals are adequately met, thus avoiding food cravings or the over-consumption of certain foods..
Including the 6 tastes in each meal doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Adding a squeeze of lemon to cooked dishes, for example, can quickly satisfy the Sour taste, while adding a side salad will fulfill the Bitter and Astringent tastes.
2) Allow your unique constitution to determine the proportion of tastes you eat
The body naturally desires tastes that balance its doshic makeup and shuns tastes of an aggravating nature. In this sense, things are made pretty easy for us: If we simply follow our natural inclinations, we are led to the proper foods. Vata individuals, for example, are naturally drawn to moist, grounding foods, while Kapha individuals favor light, drying foods.
Ayurvedic nutrition recommends including all 6 tastes in each meal, while favoring those tastes that bring greater balance to your particular constitution. A Pitta individual, for example, will favor cooling foods and spices such as dark leafy greens and fennel,which are high in Bitter and Astringent tastes, while requiring a smaller quantity of the Pungent taste.

Balancing the Doshas Through Taste

  Transparent Most Balancing  Transparent Most Aggravating
  Transparent   Transparent  
Vata Transparent
Sweet, Sour, Salty 
Bitter, Pungent, Astringent
Pitta Transparent
Sweet, Bitter, Astringent 
Sour, Salty, Pungent
Kapha Transparent
Pungent, Bitter, Astringent 
Sweet, Sour, Salty
Three Gunas
In Ayurvedic philosophy, all of creation was developed based on 3 core principles being the laws of: creationmaintenance or organisation and destruction.

In other words, everything in life is born, lives and dies. This is the cycle of life for all humans, animals, our planet, the stars, galaxies, the universe and beyond.

These 3 principles or laws are also called the 3 Gunas (tendencies):
Satva: purity, essence, space - this is the source of illumination, Divine intelligence, creativity and compassion.
Rajas: activity, motion - this has the power to activate, motivate and inspire us to eat, work and play.
Tamas: inertia, motionless - this is the source of resistance, obstructions and obstacles which are equally as important as Rajas.

These are common terms amongst yogis today but their roots are firmly planted in Ayurveda. 

Why do you need to know this?   The answer lies in the fundamental nature of these 3 Gunas.  The 3 qualities or Gunas have a direct effect on our physical health, our mental state and our emotional well being. 

How does this apply in the West to our modern society and living?  To give a general example:

~  a person who is a vegetarian, practices yoga daily, meditates daily, is emotionally stable and has a good work life balance could be described as Sattvic 

~ a person working in the corporate field who is highly committed and driven, spends most of their waking hours at work, works hard and plays hard, is a competitive sportsperson, eats meat every day and often twice or more a day could be described as Rajasic

~ a person who sits at home all day every day watching TV, eating microwaved food, never exercising could be described as Tamasic

Now before you dive into categorising yourself and then judging that which you categorise, know that each of these qualities are important in the grand scheme of things. We need Sattva to be in stillness and connected to ourselves in a way that doing and non doing will simply not get us there. Rajas is important to enable us to get things done!  Tamas is a quality needed for us to stop and take that much needed time out, to reflect, consolidate and re-focus.  The problems arise when we fall into the rut of just one of these qualities. 

To maintain Sattva on a daily basis would limit our ability to be and do in the world. We would have to live in a cave on top of a mountain. For most of us this is not our life purpose.

To maintain Rajas all of the time leads to stress on the physical and mental bodies and ultimately burn out.

To maintain Tamas constantly leads to dullness, no sense of purpose or direction and ultimately depression and low self esteem.

So as you can see, we each need a healthy dose of all 3 of these qualities at the right times in our lives to work, rest and play.
BIGmind Gunas.jpg

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