Ancient wisdom to understand better how to live YOUR individual best life
Let me share with you a little secret. I am super passionate about the ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda. I love how it really is a science of self-understanding. Truly who does not want to understand themselves better to then make changes to one`s way of living that result in a healthier body, happier mind and more radiating soul?
In the hope that I can spark some Ayurvedic fire in the awesome YOU too, let me give you a little overview of the principles it is based on and how you too can make simple changes to improve your quality of life and longevity.
According to Ayurveda everything in the universe is interconnected. This means when body, mind and spirit are in perfect harmony with the universe, we experience good health and brilliant well-being. When something, however, disrupts this harmony, we are prone to dis-ease and illness.
So how can we maintain balance and stay in perfect harmony with all matter that surrounds us and that comprises us?
- The principle of the 5 elements
Ayurveda believes that the universe, all matter, all living things, which also includes us, are comprised of a unique balance of the 5 elements. The 5 elements are: water, fire, earth, ether and air. Each element has certain innate qualities which influence our body, mind and soul. The better we understand those qualities, the better we are able to create balance in body, mind and soul.
Earth: is associated with the qualities of being heavy, cold, dense, and solid. It manifests itself in the anatomical structures of bones, nails, teeth, hair and skin. In terms of emotions earth is associated with groundedness, growth, forgiveness, attachments, greed and depression. Earth is associated with the sense nose and the organ smell.
Air: qualities of air are: include being dry, cold, light, clear, and full of motion. In the body air governs our respiratory system, our nervous system, our cardiovascular system and our system of elimination (intestines). Emotionally air expresses as happiness, excitement, fear and anxiety. Air is associated with the sense of touch and the organ skin.
Water: possesses the qualities of flowing, wet, heavy, cold, and cohesive like the ocean. In the body, water is represented by all our body fluids such as the plasm, saliva, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, sweat, and can easily collect in the body and then lead to obesity and oedema. Emotionally water creates contentment, love and compassion. Water is associated with the sense taste and the organ tongue.
Fire: has the qualities of being hot, changeable, dry, and illuminating. Anatomically, fire is associated with metabolism, sight and digestion, absorption and assimilation of food. Fire is the emotional source of anger, hatred, ambition and drive. Fire is associated with the organ eye and the organ eyes.
Ether: is associated with the qualities of being empty, formless, weightless, and clear. In the body, space correlates with spacious places such as the abdomen, chest cavity, mouth, nose, and gastrointestinal tract. Emotionally, space gives rise to feelings of peace, freedom, compassion, but also isolation, emptiness and anxiety. Ether is associated with the sense of hearing and the organ ear.
- The principle of our constitution
Our constitution or Prakriti in Sanskrit describes the unique balance of the 5 elements in its varying degrees. We can imagine it as our very own energetic or genetic fingerprint – a combination of physical, emotional and mental characteristics that make us US. Literally translated Prakriti means “original creation” and it is determined at our conception when it is completely balanced. Once given this constitution cannot be changed. However, throughout our life external and internal factors (such as physical trauma, our diet and food choices, lifestyles we are living, emotions, our relationships, seasons, the weather etc) disturb this balanced state of our prakriti. Such imbalanced state of our constitution is known as Vikruti and means literally translated “after creation”. Ayurveda believes that the more our prakriti given at birth resembles our current constitution, the better is our health and well-being; the more they differ, the greater is the state of dis-ease. Therefore, it is an important goal in Ayurveda to understand an individual`s state of altered Prakriti and which factors have contributed to this disturbance and imbalance, so that then certain lifestyle interventions can be applied to re-create balance of body, mind and spirit.
- The principle of the 3 Gunas
As just discussed, Ayurveda believes that all matter in the universe arises from Prakriti.
From this Prakriti arise 3 primary Gunas which describe the natural tendencies of our mind and emotions. Each one of us has all 3 Gunas present within them but, like with the different elements, in different proportions. It is those different proportions that determine our characteristics, our attitude, our nature and potential.
The 3 Gunas are:
Tamas which is the energy of darkness, destruction, chaos and inertia.
Rajas which refers to the energy of passion, change, movement and energy.
Sattva which comprises the energy of lightness, goodness, harmony and peace.
A state of health and well-being is achieved when all 3 Gunas are balanced. In order to achieve a more balanced state of the Gunas, Ayurveda is always striving to boost Sattva. Since everything in the universe is interconnected, the different tools or ways it uses to do so, can vary vastly and range from the use of nature, meditation, vegetarian diet, herbs, life-force, mantras etc.
More rarely, Ayurvedic therapies will apply Rajasic energy as a means to re-create balance. This is the case when someone or something has too much Tamasic energy, which can only be broken up by using something that has more dynamic energy (like Rajas) and where Sattva (which is the energy of harmony) is not powerful enough to do so. Only on very rare occasions, Ayurveda will make use of Tamasic energy in healing. This is the case if there is too much Rajasic energy happening, in almost a frantic way, which needs to be slowed down.
- The principle of the 3 Doshas
In addition to those 3 Gunas, which as we now know govern the mind and determine our psychological characters, Ayurveda also identifies 3 fundamental energies that form our physiological constitution. These 3 energies govern the function of our physical bodies and pretty much represent our physical strengths and weaknesses. Similar to the concept of the Gunas, all 3 Doshas are always present and interdependent but again in different proportions. Our 3 Doshas or body types are:
Vata which is constituted by air and space and thus has the following inherent qualities: cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, quick, and always changing. Vatas primary function governs the movement in the body such as the activities of the nervous system and the process of elimination.
Pitta which is comprised by fire and water.
Pittas qualities are hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, and acidic. The Pitta dosha controls digestion, metabolism, and energy production.
The primary function of Pitta is transformation.
Kapha which is made up of water and earth. Kapha is the dosha of structure and lubrication. It is the principle that holds all cells together and forms the muscle, fat, bone and provides immunity.
Kaphas qualities include being heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, and oily. The primary function of Kapha is protection.
Ayurveda says that we experience a state of health and perfect well-being when all of these 3 Doshas are in a state of balance. However, typically we have one predominant Dosha along with a secondary one. Only very rarely do all 3 Doshas exist as similarly strong forces in one individual (which is called Tridoshic state and refers to individuals with a very sturdy constitution, that get rarely sick and can tolerate a wide range of seasons and environmental conditions). More commonly, we have one predominant Dosha which typically increases more quickly since we tend to perpetuate what we know best.
To achieve balance Ayurveda applies the principle of opposites (called Vishesh in Sanskrit) and similars (called Samanya in Sanskrit). Similars increase and opposities decrease. In order to heal, we must first identify the imbalances or Vikruti and then use the appropriate opposite element to counteract and restore balance in body, mind and soul.
Very obviously, the better we understand our own Doshas, the better we will be able to balance them which truly is the key to health.
Please read in my next blog how Ayurveda lcan look like when applied to the foods we choose to nourish ourselves with. Which foods are best for our very own constitution? What should we eat to balance our 3 Gunas and 3 Doshas?
Always remember, you were born to feel insanely wonderful in your precious self. The better you know yourself, the better you are able to make the right choices to live your best, healthiest, and happiest self. Are you with me now on how exciting Ayurveda truly is? Are you ready to go on an Ayurvedic journey of self-exploration to learn how you too can improve the quality of YOUR life? Exactly. Stay awesome and tuned, my gorgeous friends!