Ayurveda: The Science of Life

Ancient Vedic legends describe how the Devas(demi-gods) and Asuras(demons) churned the ocean, under the aegis of Vishnu, to procure Amrit – the elixir of immortality. Finally, Dhanwantari, the divine physician of the Gods appeared from the depths of the ocean, holding the urn with the elixir of immortality. Dhanwantari possessed knowledge of the healing arts and it was this knowledge that he imparted to mankind, which is known as the Ayurveda today. Hence, he is considered the God of Ayurveda.

Due to its divine origins from more than 5000 years ago, Ayurveda (meaning the Science of Life in Sanskrit) is often called the Mother of Healing Practices. Ayurveda lays an emphasis on holistic wellness as well as prevention and treatment of illness through myriad lifestyle practices (such as massage, meditation, yoga, and dietary changes) and the use of herbal remedies. Ayurvedic medicine analyzes the body, mind, and the spirit, including even an individual’s prenatal and postnatal environment, and believes in maintaining the delicate balance between them all. Instead of focusing on alleviating symptoms, Ayurveda focuses on determining the root cause of imabalances in the body

According to Ayurveda, the five elements of nature Akash (space), Agni (fire), Vayu (air), Jal (water) and Prithvi (earth) combine in different proportions in an individual’s body to form three distinct constitution types known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These constitution types are determined at the time of conception and relate to an individual’s physical makeup and personality. When these constitutions are imbalanced, it is called a Dosha and affects specific functions of the body. A balance of Vata, Pitta and Kapha is essential for overall wellbeing.

Air and space represent Vata. Vata controls muscle and joint movement, breathing, and heartbeat. Also, Vata controls anxiety, fear, pain, and other functions of the nervous system. A person with a Vatta constitution tends to have a small, thin build.

Fire and water represent Pitta, which is thought to control such bodily functions as digestion, metabolism, intelligence, and skin colour. Pitta governs the emotions of anger, hate, and jealousy. The Pitta body style is more of a medium, muscular build.

Earth and water represent Kapha. The physical structure of the body and immune system are governed by Kapha. Emotional responses thought to be controlled by Kapha include calmness, forgiveness, love, and greed. The Kapha appearance is usually bigger and well-developed.

Historical records suggest that ancient practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine such as Charaka and Sushruta, have also paved the way for various branches of modern medicine such as surgery, physiology and anatomy. Thus, Ayurveda can be said to have laid the foundation for modern medicine.

In recent times, Ayurveda has been witnessing a great resurgence of interest globally, with people awakening to its benefits as a complementary lifestyle choice for holistic wellbeing.