The History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is one of the world’s most ancient medical systems, it originated in India around 5000 years ago. The word Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit meanings ‘Ayuh’ (life) and ‘Veda’ (knowledge) thus literally it is named as ‘the science of life’, ‘the knowledge of living’ or ‘the art of longevity’.
Ayurveda has its origins in the Veda which developed from the ancient sages and scriptures of India. Ayurveda is considered a part of one of the four Vedas – Atharvaveda.
This traditional Indian medical system is not only to treat diseases but is also an art of daily living designed to prevent diseases and to maintain healthier and happier longevity. The treatment measures of Ayurveda usually involve the use of diet, medicine including herbal remedies, massage techniques with medicated oil and lifestyle management.
The Three Doshas
According to Ayurveda, Pancha mahabhutas (five great elements; space, air, fire, water and earth) manifest as the three Doshas (humours) and all the biological, psychological and physio-pathological functions of the body, mind and consciousness are governed by the three Doshas. The three Doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha and they are present in all of us. These Doshas when stable will generate a healthy constitution. However the best balanced state of the Doshas is different in each individual. Furthermore an imbalanced or disturbed state of the Doshas is believed to be a major cause of diseases and the type and nature of diseases are decided by the Dosha which is influenced by the imbalance.
Each one is composed of two main elements.
Vata has predominantly space and air and it is the principle of kinetic energy and controls the movement of all body functions. It governs breathing, blinking, muscle and tissue movement, the pulsation of the heart and all the movements in the cytoplasm and cell membrane. Vata has the attributes of dry, light cold, rough, subtle, mobile and clear.
Pitta has predominantly fire and water and it controls the balance of kinetic and potential energies in the body. It governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, body temperature and all transformation. Pitta has the attributes of hot, sharp, light, liquid, mobile and slightly oily.
Kapha has predominantly water and earth and it is the principle of potential energy and controls the stability and lubrication of the body. It supplies the water for all bodily parts and systems and it moisturises the skin and maintains immunity. Kapha has the attributes of heavy, dull, cold, oily, liquid, smooth, dense, soft, static, sticky hard and gross.
In Sanskrit, Prakruti is defined as the constitution and the term Prakruti means ‘nature’, ‘creativity’ or ‘the first creation’. Every human has three Doshas and the combination of these three Doshas makes a human’s Prakruti at the time of conception and it does not change during one’s lifetime. The majority of individuals have one or two Doshas predominant but very rarely a few individuals are born with equally balanced Doshas which means these people experience a wonderful healthy life. The present state of three Doshas in an individual is called Vikruti and if the present state of the three Doshas is the same as Prakruti this results in a balanced and healthy state. However it is more likely that there is a difference between Prakruti and Vikruti resulting in an imbalance which can lead to an unhealthy state. Vikruti reflects any of the aspects of diet, lifestyle, environment, emotions and age etc.
The basic attributes of the three Doshas are as follows.
Vata type people are generally either too tall or too short with thin frames which reveal prominent joints and bone-ends and their veins and muscle tendons are visible. The skin is cold, rough, dry and cracked. The hair is curly and scanty. They have a tendency to be constipated and their hands and feet are often cold. Vata type people are creative, active, alert and restless. They talk fast and walk fast. They feel fear, anxiety and nervous when Vata is out of balance.
Pitta type people are medium height and the body frame may be delicate. The skin is soft, warm and less wrinkled than Vata type of skin. The hair is thin and silky and there is tendency toward premature greying of hair and hair loss. They have strong appetites. Pitta type people tend toward excessive perspiring. Pitta type people have a good power of comprehension and they are very intelligent and sharp and tend to be good orators. They have anger, hatred and jealousy when Pitta is out of balance.
Kapha type people have a well-developed body. However they tend to gain weight easily. The skin is soft, lustrous, oily and cold and the hair is thick, dark and wavy. They tend to move slowly and their sleep is sound and prolonged. Kapha type people have good stamina and they are tolerant, calm, forgiving and loving. They exhibit traits of greed, attachment, envy and possessiveness when Kapha is out of balance.