Ayurveda is much more than just medicine. It is a way of life- a lifestyle that one adopts for optimum health. The core of Ayurveda is focused on prevention which is based on achieving a perfect balance between the mind, body and spirit. In essence, we are what we consume, and our health reflects our surroundings and personal choices.
All matter is made up of five elements: air, ether (space), fire, water and earth. We, as humans, have these elements within us because we are made of matter.
Combination of these elements results in the three body humours (or doshas)- vata, pitta and kapha. Vata comprises Ether and Air, Pitta of Fire and Water and Kapha of Earth and Water. The doshas show up in all our characteristics, from the way we eat and digest food to the way we sleep. Not just the physical aspects, but it also affects our mental, and emotional well-being like what our emotional strengths and weaknesses may be.
Why is it important to understand your doshas?
We are all born with a certain combination of doshas. Every person has a unique dosha combination, with one dosha more predominant than the others and this ratio determines their Ayurvedic constitution, or Prakriti.
However, it changes throughout our life due to season, nutrition, stress level, physical activity, emotional state and a host of other factors. The health will be vibrant if the proportion of doshas in the current condition are close to the birth constitution. On the other hand, a difference between these phases suggests an imbalance. Vikruti is the term used to describe this imbalance or swaying away from Prakriti.
Balance is key in Ayurveda, and it is achieved by balancing the three doshas- vata, pitta, and kapha.
How are doshas relevant?
When in balance, vata, pitta, and kapha govern body functioning, while when out of balance, they create ailments.
Vata ensures that the bodily movements are free of impediments. Absorption, cell ion exchange, nervous system conduction, all sorts of excretions, respiration and musculoskeletal processes are functions of the vata in the body.
Pitta is vital in balancing two diametrically opposed elements of fire and water. Acids, for example, are fluids in their existential form, but they burn. This principle in the body is governed by pitta. It causes transformations, operates as a source of heat energy and digests food at both the gross and cellular levels. It provides the body with warmth, vision and colour.
The opposing elements of water and earth are held together by the cohesive and lubricating energy of kapha. It makes the body stable, with muscle, tendons, ligaments and fats holding the structures in place. Kapha also serves as a protective covering for joints, the brain (CSF) and the spinal cord, as well as a fluid shock absorber.