I enrolled four weeks in July to August 2018 in Greens Ayurveda Pharmacy program, learning the fundamentals of Ayurveda with a focus on ayurvedic herbal medicine. I wish to share the wisdom of this ancient medicine in this series.
What is Ayurveda
Ayurveda is composed of two Sanskrit words: ayu means life and veda means science, hence the name means the “science of life.” It is a system of traditional Hindu medicine developed in the Indian subcontinent some 8,000 years ago. It deals with creation as a whole, with emphasis on the biological living being, and this holistic ancient science can guide us on how to live in balance with our own unique human nature and with the world around us.
At present, the three surviving treatises, known as Samhita, of Charaka, Sushruta and Vaghbata provide the mo/tablest detailed understanding of Ayurveda. Sushruta’s definition of health (above) gives us a holistic picture of what is health. The phrase means: one is in perfect health (swastha) when the three humors (dosha), metabolic processes (agni), body tissues (dhatu), eliminative system (mala kriya) are in balanced order (sama), and whose spirit (atma), senses (indriya) and mind (manas) are pleasantly disposed, blissful and contented (prasanna). Life is a period when the four aspects of body, senses, mind and soul function together in cooperation and harmony. In dis-eases these aspects disintegrate and depart. Ayurveda elucidates this integration, continuation and disintegration by preservation and promotion of vitality and wellbeing in a healthy individual, and treatment and management of disease in an unhealthy individual. Ayurvedic treatments are based on a combination of herbal therapies, foods, bodywork, and lifestyle changes tailored to each person’s constitution. Over time, eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine have developed. They are known as Ashtanga Ayurveda: internal medicine, surgery, treatment of head and neck disease (ENT), toxicology, psychiatry, obstetrics and paediatrics, aphrodisiacs and rejuvenation.
In coming posts, I will explain individually the concepts of the terms dosha, agni, dhatu, mala and ama, and Ayurvedic perspective of mental and spiritual health. Let’s start of with the concept of dosha, or body humours.
Panchamahabhuta (PMB): Five Great Elements of Nature
The universe is made up of five elements, and human beings are no exception. These five elements are Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These elements are associated with different properties, functions, and are present in different proportions in different structures and functions of the human body.
|Bhuta||Element||Quality||Function||Sensory Modality||Body Elements|
|Akasha||Space||Subtle, empty, clear, light||Provide lightness and porosity||Ear, hearing||Channels, cavities|
|Vayu||Air||Subtle, dry, rough, light||Provide movement||Skin, touch||Circulation, respiration, transport|
|Agni||Fire||Hot, sharp, light||Provide fire for digestion, metabolism and vision||Eye, vision||Digestion, intellect|
|Jala / Ap||Water||Liquid, moist, mobile, heavy, soft||Provide lubrication, moistness and softness||Tongue, taste||Plasma, lymph, reproductive secretions, ojas|
|Prithri||Earth||Solid, stable, heavy, hard||Provide stability, compactness and structure||Nose, smell||Bone, muscle|
The three physiological entities, Vata, Pitta and Kapha result from the combination of the five elements in different proportions. If the PMB represents the basic structure, then the tridosha represents the functional structure that governs the physical, physiological and behavioural dimensions of all living organisms. Therefore, human constitution (prakruti), diseases, food and medicines can all be classified as Vata, Pitta or Kapha. Nothing is absolute pure; every thing is a permutation of the tridoshas. The tridoshas are susceptible to impairment or imbalance. In an imbalanced state (vikruti), they may disturb structural or functional elements of living beings and cause diseases and disorders (dosha vaishmya). Thus, the tridoshas play an important role in the aetiology, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
|Dosha||Bhuta||Quality||Energetic Principle||Body Locations||Functions||Age||Season||Diurnal Time|
|Vata||Akasha + Vayu||Dry, cold, light, subtle, mobile, clear, astringent||Kinetic energy, movement||Colon, small intestine, stomach, skin||Body movements, nervous system, respiration, elimination, secretions; nervousness, anxiety||Old age||Monsoon||2-6 am/pm|
|Pitta||Agni + Jala||Unctuous, hot, sharp, light, liquid, flow, pungent/sour||Thermal energy, metabolism||Duodenum, stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, eyes, skin||Digestion, assimilation and metabolism; intellect||Teenage and adult||Summer||10-2 am/pm|
|Kapha||Jala + Prithri||Heavy, cold, soft, unctuous, stable, sticky, sweet||Potential energy, stability & growth||Chest, lungs, throat, mouth, joints, stomach||Lubrication, immunity, strength, vigour; attachment, greed, love||Childhood||Spring||6-10 am/pm|
Prakruti: Your Birth Constitution
Prakruti is the innate body-mind constitution of a person, which is determined by relative predominance of dosha in the inter-uterine life of a foetus. It is fixed at birth, and remains unchanged throughout life. Three factors that determine prakruti are: (1) diet and lifestyle of the mother during pregnancy; (2) character of uterus during pregnancy; and (3) time or season during conception. Based on different combinations of the tridoshas, there are seven major types of constitutions: V, P, K, VP, VK, PK and VPK. Each constitution type is defined by certain physical, physiological and psychological traits (lakshana). Prakruti is assessed by the physician’s observation of the patient’s physical appearance and behaviour, diagnostic questionnaire, or pulse examination. A person having a maximum number of traits of any of the tridosha is said to belong to that category.
Why is it useful to know your prakruti? Knowing your prakruti is a wonderful tool for understanding oneself and others, and it empowers a person in preventive and promotive self-healthcare by making appropriate dietary and lifestyle choices to allay the risk of prone-to diseases. prone to some types of disease. To cure those disorders, some hints related to day to day life “dincharya” and seasonal behavior “Rutucharya”are given. . From a physician’s standpoint or for curative health, it is one part of the information used in deciding the type and dosage of medicines and therapies for a patient. The pharmacodynamic action of a drug in the body depends on the prakruti of the person and drug.
Your Prakruti, or constitution, is the map to discovering the foods and lifestyle that will balance you.
— Dr. Vasant Lad from the Ayurvedic Institute
Discover your Prakruti today. Click HERE to take a quiz!0