The philosophy of Ayurveda, a 3,000 year old healing and spiritual practice, addresses health through the lens of elemental balance. The term Ayurveda translates to life (ayur) knowledge (veda). The goal of this practice is to promote balance throughout the body, mind and spirit.
The physical healing perspective of Ayurveda is based off of the spiritual belief that consciousness is a combination of elemental energy.
This theory is explained as follows; before the world ‘became’ there was a unified consciousness. A silent vibration of potential sound that created the ether element. This element is the essence of space, and as it moved, it created the element air. The subtle movements of ether also created friction, and this heat energy manifested as light and then the element of fire. As the fire liquified and altered the ether, water was deducted and the solid alteration of this transition gave birth to the earth element. Thus, creation was the unification of each element.
It is important for the reader to understand this philosophy as Ayurveda teaches that all matter is comprised of these elements and so the healing of mankind is found within the balance of these elements.
The different elements within the body reign over different biological, psychological and physiological functions.To determine the balance of these elements, Ayurveda recognizes three doshas. Doshas are the dominating elemental combinations within the body. The three doshas are vata, pitta and kapha. Vata consists of air and ether, while pitta is fire and water. These two doshas are contrasted by kapha which is predominantly water and earth. These doshas have responsibility in the urges and preferences of the individual as well as the biological responses and emotional balance. They are the foundation as to the psychosomatic essence of the individual.
Vata claims the subtle energy within the metabolism and biological movement. This dosha governs breathing, movements within the muscles and tissues, pulsations of the heart, contractions and expansions. This elemental combination holds a dominant place within the large intestine, pelvic cavity, bones, skin, thighs and ears.Often imbalances can be detected in these areas. The feelings associated with the vata dosha are that of fear, nervousness,anxiety, pain , tremors and spasms, and freshness.
Pitta governs the digestion, assimilation, absorption, nutrition, metabolism, skin coloration, and lustre in the eyes. The stomach, small intestine, sweat glands, blood, fat, eyes and skin are all seats of this dosha. The pitta element is known to arouse intelligence, understanding, anger, hate and jealousy.
Kapha fills the elements within the body and creates resistance in the tissues, lubrication in the joints, vulnerary actions, biological strength, stability and vitality as well as immunity and memory retention. Kapha is most present in the chest, throat, head, sinuses, nose, mouth, stomach, joints and liquid secretions. Kapha also has a role in the attachment, long term envy, greed, love, forgiveness and calmness. Ayurveda makes the release of ‘stuck emotions’ and reactions, a priority in the healing practice.
Attached below is the chart for determining the elemental balance existing in your own body.
Introspection and examination of the body and emotional balance within the individual can lead to understanding the surplus or deficiencies within the elemental composition. These imbalances are cleansed through the panchakarma therapy and rebalanced through diet, tantra, meditation and yoga. The philosophy of Ayurveda, the wisdom of life, is a sister practice to yoga, which translates to ‘union’. This relationship is valuable as the body must be cleansed so that the mind can be free. If Ayurveda is the science and intention of the body and mind connection, yoga is the practice and strengthening of this connection. Meditation is crucial to both explorations of the science as it represents the inner stillness and balance within the individual.
It can be hard to understand fully what the branches of Ayurveda entail. With all of the physical roots, one may wonder more about the higher body-less elements of the practice. Not unlike the structure of man, Ayurveda views the universe as a composition of elements, as all living things are a reflection of this composition. It is taught that there are two energetic qualities from which all was created and in which, all is. There is the energy of Purusha and Prakriti.
Purusha is the masculine, passive, formless and unmanifested pure existence. Prakruti is the feminine, creative, and action of manifesting nature.
The balance of Purusha and Prakruti creates Mahad, cosmic intelligence. From this intelligence comes the ego, Ahamkar, the identifying sense of ‘I am’. And stemming from the ego is the characteristics of ‘I’. There is Satva, the essence and stability of the identified. Satava is the sensory organs, motor organs and the mind. The physical allowance. Also from Ahamkar is tha Tamas, the inertia to be translated by the satava (sound, touch sight, etc). Between Satava and Tamas, Rajas (movement) is recognized.
This view of the cosmic energy, the elemental balance in all, and the encouragement to cleanse, balance, explore and expand the individual’s vessel on multiple levels was my attraction to Ayurveda. It never made sense to me to leave out the body from worship. It is recognized that pain and illness are distractions and have major influences on the mind and body. If the cleansing pancha karma rituals are embodied, meditations and yoga are practiced, and diet and sleep is balanced: then care had been initiated, mindfulness and discipline had been practiced and the conscience attention that is brought into the lifestyle would have paved the way for abundance and gratitude.
Recognizing the elemental layers to all, brings awareness to the grand design as well as purpose in the imbalances (as each element has a action and symptoms to the action; ie. vata, air, movement). More importantly though, is the individualized balance. The personal assessment and appreciation of the individual so that each person may balance to their degree of necessity.
Implementing this science and philosophy in my life has increased the gratitude that I feel and express as well as my acceptance for imbalances around me. As there is a duality in all.
Understanding balance, makes way for the acceptance of imbalances.
Exploring health, provides a platform for healing illnesses.
Finding inner peace allows for the denial of that which would cause war.