Understanding Ayurveda

The beauty of Ayurveda!

Ayurveda is the Ancient Health System of India.  It offers a unique approach to health care in the form of self-discovery.  Ayurveda is a tradition thought to be over five thousand years old.

The name “Ayurveda” is derived from two words in Sanskrit, “ayuh” meaning “life” or “longevity” and “veda” meaning “science” or “sacred knowledge.” Ayurveda’s definition therefore roughly translates as “the science of longevity” or “the sacred knowledge of life.” Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga, known to be the other side of each other.

At its root, Ayurveda is a holistic tradition and way of living that can help each of us to claim and celebrate our capacity for wellbeing. Ayurveda can help us:

  • Sync up with our truest inner nature
  • Honor and develop our strengths
  • Hone in on our challenge areas
  • Redirect detrimental tendencies
  • Maintain balance in the face of adversity

In other words, Ayurveda is not simply about taking an herbal formula and waiting for the results.

Ayurveda encourages you to be an active participant in your own journey toward healing.

This involves learning about your relationship with the elements and the unique combinations they create called dosas, which we will explore below. First, let’s take a look at Ayurveda’s background.

The Sanskrit word for health, Svatha is a state in which the mind, soul, and senses interact harmoniously to experience a feeling of Self, wellness, and even bliss. Achieving this may seem like a lofty goal, but Ayurveda provides a treasure chest of elegant and insightful tools to help us get there.

Before you learn how Ayurveda can help you, you must first learn its principles and how Ayurveda views the universe.

These Ayurveda basics are foundational tools for:

  • Interpreting the laws of nature
  • Identifying various states of health or imbalance
  • Charting a course toward improved well-being

The Five Elements

Ayurveda recognizes five elements as the fundamental building blocks of nature:

  • Earth
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Air
  • Ether (Space)

Every person, emotion, season, phase of life, food etc. is composed of the five elements. That said, in a given substance, one or two elements are typically predominant over the others.

The Twenty Qualities

Ayurveda also identifies twenty qualities or guns that can be used to describe every substance or experience. These qualities are organized into the following ten pairs of opposites:

Heavy Light
Slow (Dull) Sharp (Penetrating)
Cold Hot
Oily Dry
Smooth Rough
Dense Liquid
Soft Hard
Stable Mobile
Gross Subtle
Cloudy (Sticky) Clear

The gunas are essential to understanding the Ayurvedic principle that like increases like and that opposites balance. For example, a person who is particularly cold natured, living in a cold climate, in the middle of winter, is likely to be experiencing an aggravation of the cold quality. The remedy? Heat—in the form of warming foods, hot drinks, heating spices, soothing baths, snuggly warm clothes, and if possible, an abundance of heart-warming experiences.

The Doshas and Your Ayurvedic Body Type

Then there are the three dosas (bodily humors): Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  The doshas, or some combination of them, can be identified in various seasons, climates, landscapes, activities, plants, and animals. Each of them embodies a combination of elements and qualities to create a functional entity—an energetic force of nature.

All three doshas are present in everyone, but the ratio between them varies a great deal from one person to the next. We will get to that in a moment, but first, here is an overview of the essential nature of each dosha.


More to come. Please stay tuned!