Ayurveda literally means “Knowledge of Life”. It is a system. from India, offering a comprehensive philosophy of life and health for all parts of human existence, from its most subtle to its most concrete. It is both a preventive and curative form of healthcare, teaching through habit, and practical knowledge, how best to nurture ourselves, physically and psychologically. Yoga is a branch of this Indian system which includes spiritual, purifying aspects and works through breath/Pranayama, Poses/Asanas, chanting and mudra to evoke and maintain optimum life. This 5000 year old holistic Practice is based on how the body, mind, spirit use energy, and how to maintain the balance of those energies. This is its secret.
The simple tools of Yoga and Ayruveda teach maintenance plans that work with each body as a unique mix of energies. Ayurveda states that if life has a purpose then it is to realize a greater consciousness, a Cosmic Consciousness, and to understand our relationship to that by balancing the four fundamental arms or tools of life: Dharma-right action, Kama-correct or positive desire, Moksha-spiritual liberation, and Artha-success and material wealth. The underlying success to all these is health.
Both Astrology and Ayurveda are described in part by use of the five elements: fire, air, water, earth, and for Ayurveda, the addition of ether as a connective energy among all things. Like Yoga, and Astrology, Ayurveda is an archetypal ideology that includes philosophy without a religious orthodoxy, focusing on mind/body concepts and connections to manifest greater understanding, knowledge, and health.
Where Astrology divides the year into energetic forces, of which the elements are a fundamental part, Ayurveda divides the life force into three energies, or Doshas: Pitta, Kapha, and Vata. The word ‘Doshas’ literally means an energy that becomes unbalanced. When the system loses its ability to stay centered, it loses its ability to be healthy. The mix of doshas varies, not only in personal constitutions, but as forces through the seasons, the climate, shifting emotions, times of day, stages of life, and changing circumstances. How we keep these dosha-layers in balance, or not, is how we maintain health. Unlike Western medicine where similar medication is used for everyone with the same disease, Ayurveda uses remedies designed only for one’s particular Dosha mix, and its specific imbalances. Its rules tend to be simple, aligned with nature, and with a spiritual connection.
Beginning the work of awareness through Practice, we perceive mind/body links objectively. It becomes easier to understand how to use these new tools and apply them intelligently. Thousands of years ago, when Ayurveda medicine came into being, we were intertwined with Ma Nature, therefore routines, treatments, and reasoning were formed as practical responses to living well with cycles and seasons. One of the more important routines is to begin and end each day with observance and honor to Universal Source….call it what you will. Letting a few short minutes of joy, gratitude, and peace be part of the daily heart-space changes our world.
Defining Ayurvedic Terms
Agni: Digestive Fire. Ayurveda teaches that all of us have the power to heal most of what ails us, a true Aquarian concept of taking greater responsibility for self. Our diet is regulated by the condition of our agni, or digestive fire. Becoming mindful of what we really want goes a very long way toward satisfying agni, and balancing the body. Listening with more than ears, we become aware of what truly nurtures us.
Ahamkara: I am. In Ayurvedic medicine, feeling hopeless or helpless is dangerous because it deprives the immune system of support from Ahamkara, this is literally the I am of a body, mind and spirit. I suspect Rumi’s path of ‘whole being’ is this Ahmkara.
“This ‘I’ that is mine has an indwelling voice,
a fragment of Universal Soul,
that is to be lived to its fullest if it is to repay the debt of receiving life.”
– Dr. Robert E. Svoboda
Annamaya Kosha: Is associated with the 5 elements of: earth, water, fire, ether, and air. Each of these are associated with particular Yoga physical moves: Earth with standing poses. (Astrologically aligned to Capricorn, Taurus & Virgo. )Water with twists and forward bends. (Pisces, Cancer & Scorpio). Abdominal work, ie heating poses, and balancing are associated with fire. (Aires, Leo & Sagittarius).
Dosha: Life energies or qualities of expression. Life expresses through many qualities. Ayurvedically, it expresses primarily through three doshas, with cells containing all three of these doshas.
Vata dosha controls movement, processing breath, circulating blood, regulates digestion and sends nerve impulses to and from the brain.
Pitta dosha controls metabolism, processing water, air and food.
Kapha dosha controls structure, bone, fat, and sinew.
Although there are only three doshas, they can be combined in ten possible ways to arrive at ten different body and behavioral types. You can find many tests on the internet to find out your basic type, but there are the three single, and six- two type.
Each dosha has its particular qualities, or gunas. Most of us are a mix of the doshas, usually manifesting or experiencing one more than the others. Remember that like increases like. No rules are absolute, but all respond to the law of similarity, that is do not fight fire with fire, rather its opposite, water, or earth.
In winter, kapha qualities, or the water humour, of heavy, cool, stable, and dense become predominant. Stay balanced by eating lighter. spicier foods, avoiding fatty, oily, and/or excessive dairy. In summer, Pitta dosha dominates in the heat, therefore stay away for hot, spicy foods, over-exertion, and anger. In the changeable seasons of fall and spring usually airy vata prevails, unless it is cool and wet. Vata needs a steady pulse to balance its irregularities and extremes.
Gunas: Energies of consciousness. Just as our bodies are made up of the three doshas, our consciousness is made up of three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas. Put simply, sattva affects clarity & consciousness; Rajas is perception affecting creative thought & emotions, and Tamas is the real world, or concrete experience. Like the doshas, these three need to work in tandem for balance and inner co-ordination.
Prakruti: Constitution. Each individual is made up of their own particular combination of the Doshas, determined at conception by parental DNA. This unique constitution is called prakruti.
Prana: Life Energy. It is located in the head. It controls not only mental functions of memory, and thought, but emotions and the psychological understanding of the heart. It enters the blood, controlling oxygenation, circulation, and respiration. It also governs motor and sensory functions, and expresses in the intelligence of the body. Each of the doshas play a vital role in maintaining prana: Pitta governs nutrition and digestion, Vata oversees all life functions, and Kapha maintains cellular longevity. Through maintaining a balance of the three we grow old gracefully, fully, in love with life.
(Notes from Dr. Vasant Lad, ”Ayurveda, The Science of Self Healing.”)
Samskara: Thought-Impressions. Yogically, Ayurvedically, and metaphysically, the control of thought waves is the cure to all disease. Our thoughts create impressions/samskara, which can be like seeds stored away, only becoming active when we create an environment that sets them free to grow. These seeds, like the Daimon, can be latent tendencies, triggering emotional responses that lead us onward. Our thoughts form belief systems. These multiple feedback loops color past, and present, trigger both conscious and subconscious perception. The layers of subtle, and not so subtle loopings, promote balance and health or imbalance and disease.
Vikruti: Means imbalances. When discovering and determining what style of Yoga best serves your body, one of the more important factors is observing your imbalances, or vikruti. To Understand one’s Ayurvedic constitution, Prakruti, it is necessary to consult an Ayurvedic physician, or cultivate great personal awareness. In practicing daily awareness, the body begins releasing information, informing us of new directions. Whatever cultivates a more profound mind/body/spirit awareness gives insight into greater well being. These practices, along with diet, and a shift in habits, re-configure what one does not possess naturally. As wisdom grows, we are willing to change Practices to balance Ayurvedic needs. Taking responsibility for this centering, lays a beautiful floor for the home of our well-being..