How does Ayurveda work?
Ayurveda is based on the 5 elements and sees the world through the glasses of these elements. How much you have of each of these elements, determines the qualities, but also what goes out of balance first and what symptoms they cause.
The Five Great Elements
Ayurveda believes that everything in this universe is made up of five great elements or building blocks. These are earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
Earth represents the solid state of matter. It manifests stability, permanence, and rigidity. In our body, the parts such as bones, teeth, cells, and tissues are manifestations of the earth. Earth is considered a stable substance.
Water characterizes change and represents the liquid state. Water is necessary for the survival of all living things. A large part of the human body is made up of water. Our blood, lymph, and other fluids move between our cells and through our vessels, bringing energy, carrying away wastes, regulating temperature, bringing disease fighters, and carrying hormonal information from one area to another. Water is a substance without stability.
Fire is the power to transform solids into liquids, to gas, and back again. In other words, it possess power to transform the state of any substance. Within our bodies, the fire or energy binds the atoms together. It also converts food to fat (stored energy) and muscle. Fire transforms food into energy. It creates the impulses of nervous reactions, our feelings, and even our thought processes. Fire is considered a form without substance.
Air is the gaseous form of matter which is mobile and dynamic. Within the body, air (oxygen) is the basis for all energy transfer reactions. It is a key element required for fire to burn. Air is existence without form.
Ether is the space in which everything happens. It is the field that is simultaneously the source of all matter and the space in which it exists. Ether is only the distances which separate matter. The chief characteristic of ether is sound. Here sound represents the entire spectrum of vibration.
Every substance in our world is made up of these five substances. All substances can be classified according to their predominant element. For example, a mountain is predominantly made up of earth element. A mountain also contain water, fire, air and ether. But these elements are very small compared to the earth. So, its classification is the earth.
Ayurveda defines a human as the assemblage of the five great elements plus the "immaterial self."
Doshas / Constitution Types
Doshas are the energies that make up every individual, which perform different physiological functions in the body.
The three doshas are always intertwined in what they do:
• Vata is the carrier
• Pitta pushes or provokes
• Kapha strengthens or resists
The 3 Dosha types:
1. Vata Dosha - Vata, which relates to Prana or life-energy as a whole, is the moving force that keeps everything in the body circulating and working. It's the energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat. Vata moves forward in a propulsive motion, making us active and on the go. We must deal with Vata first and make sure that our lives are moving in the right direction.
- Dosha In balance: There is creativity and vitality.
- Dosha Out of balance: Can produce fear and anxiety.
2. Pitta Dosha - Pitta is the transformational force that causes things to change from one condition to another, like food becoming tissue through the digestive fire. It's the energy that controls the body's metabolic systems, including absorption, nutrition, digestion and your body's temperature. Pitta brings about a change of level or manifestation. It causes things to move up or down and brings in the new. We deal with Pitta second to make sure that we are digesting our life-experience properly.
- Dosha In balance: Leads to contentment and intelligence.
- Dosha Out of balance: Can cause ulcers and anger.
3. Kapha Dosha - Kapha is the sustaining force that upholds previous conditions, whether of health or disease. It's the energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.
Kapha holds back and preserves both inhibiting the horizontal movement of Vata and the vertical movement of Pitta. It also provides the fuel that the other two doshas rely upon to produce their energy, which serves to stabilize them. We deal with Kapha third in order to guard our base.
- Dosha In balance: Expressed as love and forgiveness.
- Dosha Out of balance: Can lead to insecurity and envy.
Each person has all three Doshas, but usually one or two dominate. Various Dosha proportions determine one's physiological and personality traits, as well as general likes and dislikes. For example Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types