The word Ayurveda in Samskrit is a combination of two words “Ayus” meaning longevity and “Veda” meaning Science. So Ayurveda is the “Science of Longevity or Life“.
The aim of Ayurveda is the attainment of Moksha or liberation which is tha last of the four Purushaarthas, the other three being Dharma, Artha and Kaama. A healthy body is the basic requirement for the attainment of Purushaarthas. Ayurveda guides man to keep the body and mind fit to attain the Purushaarthas.
Ayurveda relies on two basic siddhaantas or theories namely
1. The Paanchabhautika Siddhaanta or the theory of the five elements and
2. The Tridosha Siddhaanta or the theory of the three humors
The Paanchabhautika Siddhaanta (The Theory of Five Elements)
The five basic elements of this universe are Prthvi (earth), Ap (water), Tejas (fire), Vaayu (air) and Aakaasa (ether). They pervade the universe both in their gross and subtle forms in all living and non-living things. This means humans and the cosmos, though different in many aspects, are yet similar in their basic constitution. The difference lies only in the composition of the five elements that make up an object. For instance, chick pea or channa is predominant of vaayu bhuta, cow’s milk is predominant of prthvi and ap.
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 dominance to form what is known in Ayurveda as Vata Dosha. Vata governs the principle of movement and therefore can be seen as the force which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration and elimination etc.,
The elements with Fire and Water in dominance 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 mucosal lining of the stomach is another example of the function of Kapha Dosha protecting the tissues.
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 see 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 person’s 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.
The Tridosha Siddhanta (The Theory of The Three Humors)
The word “Dosha” in Samskrit means “that which vitiates or aggravates”. Vaata, Pitta and Kapha are the three doshas that make up our body physically and physiologically and are the cause for our health and disease. Vaata is predominant of vaayu and aakaasa bhutas. Pitta is made up of tejas and a little ap. Kapha is predominant of prthvi and ap. When these three doshas are in equilibrium in our body, they bring about health and when out of balance, cause disease. Our daily routine, the diet we take, our activities and above all the environment we live in – all account for the balance and imbalance of the doshas in our body. The daily and seasonal routines, diets and regimen told in Ayurveda maintain the harmony of the three doshas.
The ayurvedic principles believes that the structural aspect of the body is made up of five elements, but the functional aspect of the body is governed by three biological humours.
Ether and air together constitute vata; fire and water, pitta; and water and earth, kapha. Vata, pitta and kapha are the three biological humor that are the three biological components of the organism. They govern psycho- biological changes in the body and physio- pathological changes too. Vata-pitta-kapha are present in every cell, tissue and organ.Everyone has the three humors or doshas present in their constitutional makeup, but in unique combinations and any imbalance in this constitution may lead to diseases.
For example, excess Vata can manifest as dry skin and insomnia; excess Pitta as heart burn, a skin rash, acne and peptic ulcers; as respiratory congestion involving phlegm, obesity, sinusitis and asthma.
There are many external and internal factors which may result into the variation of the three doshas.Emotional factors like excessive fears and anxieties can aggravate the Vata humor. Excessive anger and aggression can disturb the Pitta dosha. Excessive emotional clinging or possessiveness and general lethargic attitudes are said to cause a disturbance in the Kapha humor. The diet that we primarily follow has a powerful impact on the balance of the three Doshas, as well. Too much light and dry food can cause Vata (air) to go out of balance, too much hot and spicy food can aggravate Pitta (fire) and excessive heavy and oily food can cause Kapha (water) to go out of balance.
The Composition of Our Body
Our body is composed of the three Doshas, the seven Dhaatus (tissues) and the three Malas (wastes). The three doshas are the Vaata, Pitta and Kapha.
Other important basic principles of Ayurveda which are briefly mentioned here are
The Sapta Dhaatus (The Seven Tissues)
The word “Dhatu” in Samskrit means “that which sustains or holds”. Our body is made up of seven dhaatus. They sustain our body, nourish all the organs, take part in metabolism, help in assimilation, absorption, excretion and thereby maintain our health. Though Ayurveda cannot be interpreted in modern terminologies owing to its uniqueness, the nearest possible correlation is given here.
The Tri Malas (The Three Wastes)
The word “Mala” in Samskrit means “dirt, waste”. There are three malas that are the metabolic wastes. They are
1. Mootra – urine
2. Sakrt – faeces
3. Sveda – sweat
The elimination of these wastes is also important for the maintainance of good health.
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.
These are different types of enzymes responsible for digestion and transforming one material to another.
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.