What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, the “Science of Life” teaches us how to cultivate moment to moment awareness to deal with our life issues as they arise. Practical, simple and profound lifestyle practices lead us to inner peace, physical health and sustained well being; which in turn allow us to experience success, creativity, joy, intuitive learning and a myriad of positive and long lasting benefits. For over 5,000 years, this art and science has been taught and practiced all over the world.
Today, the surge in diseases, mental and emotional illnesses, overall suffering and lack of understanding of the root of these causes has shown us that what we are doing is simply not working. The more complicated we try to make “medicine” and curing illness along with the wrong thought that our happiness comes from something outside of us, the further we will spiral into wrong living and ill health. We do not need to keep going like we have been. The divine simplicity of understanding that what we eat and how we live are the complete basis for our present state of mind, body and spirit and is the foundation of living an ayurvedic lifestyle.
Ayurveda simply puts you back in control of your life. Ayurveda gives you a clear understanding of your True Nature, or Prakriti, and of your convoluted or unbalanced present State of being, or Vikruti.
Each of us is born with a Prakriti, which simply becomes unbalanced when our lives move in an unbalanced direction from food consumption, exposure to unhealthy environments, and lifestyle practices that do not support our True Nature. When we eat, work, play and rest in ways that support our Prakriti, we will remain balanced, in harmony with nature and thus experience sustained, joyful and expressive health and wellbeing. We must understand that the root cause of all disease lies within the way we are living and what we are consuming, including what we See, Hear, Touch, Smell and Taste. Our mind must digest every bit of sensory input as well as every emotional experience, thus the body/mind connection is of the utmost importance and is a vital component of total health.
Correcting your nutritional protocol, observing the seasons and your daily life choices you can gain full control of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Instead of being at the mercy of the very factors that are creating the illness or suffering in you, you can take control and create a balanced lifestyle.
You are the Microcosm in the Macrocosm
The ancient “rishis” (enlightened beings) observed Nature, and from their deep states of meditation immersed in the forests thousands of years ago, realized the root of creation and the relationship of all existence. The interplay of the five elements, Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth compose all, and it is the combination of these elements that determines our Prakriti and that of what exists all around us. Ayurveda organizes these elements into three main categories of energy and functional principles that are present in everyone and everything; profoundly simple and complex at the same time.
We refer to these categories as the TriDosha: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Tri is three and Dosha is organization. When in balance the Doshas bind the five elements into living flesh and sustain and maintain our harmonious psychophysiology. When out of balance, they bring harm, imbalance, disease, or “vitiate” the body and mind.
- Vata is that which relates to Ether and Air and energetically moves and causes movement, is dry, light, sharp, cold, rough, hard, mobile, subtle and clear. Vata primarily resides in the Colon and is responsible for the downward force of evacuation, and is the force that moves the other two doshas. Vata is the force that moves the blood through the body, the air in our lungs, the thoughts in our minds and the emotions in our heart; vata is ingestion and movement. Vata is always present in all of us, and the extent to which it is present determines our state of mind and body. Emotionally Vata promotes creativity and flexibility, out of balance it creates fear, anxiety and abnormal movements like spasms or abnormal muscle movements.
- Pitta is that which relates to Fire and Water and energetically transforms or digests all incoming sensory input and food. It is light, sharp, hot, oily, dry, smooth or slimy, liquid, mobile, subtle and clear. Pitta lives in the eyes, brain, stomach, liver and skin and is that which takes what Vata has brought in and moved and transforms it through digestion into our understanding, nutrition and awareness. Pitta is essential for the processing of our lives, from the food we eat into nutrition, to the information we take in and the experiences we have. Pitta in the mind enables us to learn, absorb, retain and discard information and experiences. Pitta in the body metabolizes food and any substances into proper nutrition, assimilation, elimination and storage. We are consuming as long as we are awake, through the 5 sense organs, so everything we see, smell, hear, taste and touch must be digested, Pitta transforms all. Emotionally Pitta promotes understanding and intelligence while out of balance it creates anger, jealousy, hatred and inflammatory disorders.
- Kapha is that which relates to Earth and Water and energetically binds or holds together to form the container for our life. Kapha being of earth and water is like the clay pot that holds Vata and Pitta, and within that pot, vata moves and pitta transforms our entire life. Kapha is heavy, slow/dull or sluggish, cold or cool, oily, liquid, slimy or smooth, dense, soft, static, sticky, cloudy, hard, and gross as in dense. Kapha is the lubrication and structure, without which neither Vata or Pitta could exist, Kapha is the house that Vata moves around in and that Pitta activates in. Kapha is found throughout our body and mind, as in the synovial fluid in joints, the lubricating factor for our lungs to expand, the grey matter in our brain and the salivia in our mouths. Emotionally Kapha is love, calmness and forgiveness, out of balance it creates attachment, greed, possessiveness and mucus or congestive disorders.
Ayurveda recognizes that each of us is a unique combination of the Tridosha along with our unique mind makeup of karmas and samskaras, which are the patterns, habits and underlying tendencies we were born with and have developed throughout our lifetimes. There is no such thing as “the average” in Ayurveda, and once you begin to understand your unique nature, you will be able to individuate your lifestyle practices to completely support you!
You begin to take full control of your body and mind and a feeling of well being, hopefulness, happiness and stability penetrates your heart and soul, that, regardless of the chaos surrounding you, you will remain steady, calm, energized, healthy, prosperous and loving. This is the gift of Ayurveda, available now from the ancients.
What is my Prakriti and Vikruti?
As we mentioned before, Prakriti is your unique combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha which comes from your parents, genetics, lifestyle, diet and was set at conception. This will remain with you throughout your lifetime, and our efforts to maintain harmony is a return to our Prakriti. Vikruti is the combination of the Tridosha right now, which usually will show us where we are imbalanced. In rare circumstances we may see that due to excessive stress and long term imbalances or ill health, someone may be more balanced now than throughout their life, and thus the Vikruti shows the True Nature and the Prakriti indicates more or less the imbalance. Regardless, the True Nature is what we strive to reach and live in that state of harmony.
Determining your true harmonious nature is done with a set of tools usually with an ayurvedic practitioner. Pulse and tongue analysis are used as are observations of the skin, eyes, lifestyle practices, food and sensory choices, and mental/emotional state. A simple yet detailed form can be used as an initial tool for evaluation to give you a general idea.
The first choice we begin to observe and correct once we understand our Prakriti, is that of food and sensory input. For we return to the simple and profound premise that it is everything we consume, on all levels that is contributing and controlling our physical, mental and emotional health or lack of.
You can do a preliminary check on your Prakriti and Vikruti here
Now that you may see your unique Prakriti, understand that it is the degree of Vata, Pitta and Kapha that is also important. In other words, if you observe that you and another may have the same ratio of VPK, you are not the same. We observe the quantity of dosha as well as the quality of the dosha. Remember the qualities of each dosha, i.e. Vata is cold, dry, light, etc, thus each of us may on a more infintesimal level express more of the specific qualities of each dosha, even where we see similar quantities of that dosha. Thus, the aid of a skillful practitioner can help you to understand this and apply the most beneficial practices to help you return to balance and harmony.
• Increase physical vitality and emotional stability
• Decrease stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia
• Alleviate PMS, pre and post menapausal symptoms
• Balance your glandular system and increase metabolilc activity for weight loss and control
• Quiet your mind and connect to yourself on a deeper level
“The value that yoga brings to body, mind & spirit is becoming increasingly obvious to a critical mass of people in North America and around the world”.
~Deepak Chopra, MD, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga