Ayurveda – the knowledge of life

Ayurveda knowledge

What is ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a holistic medical science and living philosophy, developed about five thousand years ago during India´s advanced civilization. It is known as the "knowledge of a long and healthy life". Looking at each human being individually, it strives for harmony of body and soul.

"Ayus" means life, "veda" means knowledge. Ayurveda, "knowledge of life", originates from India’s advanced vedic culture. The oldest writings in sanskrit are about 5,000 years old and the knowledge was also passed on verbally for thousands of years. In his book, "Ayurveda, the Science of Self-Healing", Vasant Lad describes ayurveda as the art of everyday life in harmony with the laws of nature. He says that the aim of this old, original knowledge is to sustain health and cure illness.

The aims

The aim of ayurvedic medical science is to allow individuals to reach an advanced age, keeping naturally healthy over the entire span of life.

Give years to life and life to years.

Over millennia, tested procedures have been used to cleanse the body’s systems and to renew the tissues.

Ayurveda is experiencing growth, especially in modern societies. In this fast-moving, energy-taking age its basics give a balance to stress, tiredness and inner emptiness.

The priority is to maintain natural health. Therefore every human being should avoid unhealthy living habits and strive to balance the vital energies. Ayurveda includes in-depth dietetics, advice for a healthy lifestyle, a wide variety of food supplements as well as courses and methods of treatment. The supreme discipline of ayurveda is panchakarma, the treatment for purification.

Dosha types

Dosha types

Ayurvedic knowledge is founded on the three doshas - vata, pitta and kapha. They are also called functional or energy principles.

Based on "the study of the 5 elements", ayurveda assumes that anything perceptible, including the human organism, is made of ether, air, fire, water and earth.

Ether and air merge and become vata, fire and water become pitta and water and earth are the elements of kapha.

The individual physical and mental qualities of each person are shaped by the qualities and functions of the doshas.

  • Character and personality
  • Physical appearance
  • Disposition towards diseases

Our bodily and mental wellbeing are controlled by vata, pitta and kapha. Every human being has all three doshas and is born with a unique distribution of the three energies (prakritis) which forms their basic constitution. Usually one or two doshas are more dominant, sometimes the three vital energies are equally spread.

Besides vata, pitta and kapha constitutions, there are combination types such as vata-pitta constitutions, vata-kapha constitutions, pitta-kapha constitutions etc. There is also a tridosha constitution, which means that the three prakritis are in balance.

There are no good or bad constitutions. Each human has their individual equilibrium. To maintain good health it is important to inhabit your individual equilibrium by following your innermost nature (prakriti).

Our condition is powerful and vital. A persistent imbalance of the doshas, a disharmony of our inner balance, can disturb the natural way in which our doshas function. That is the origin of the varied diseases.

The functions of vata, pitta and kapha

The basic energies of the three doshas vata, pitta and kapha relate to specific physical and mental human functions.

Vata – the principle of movement

For example, vata is responsible for mental and physical activities like breathing, movement, the five senses, excretion and the nervous system.

Pitta – the principle of conversion

For example, pitta is in charge of digestion, production of energy, regulation of temperature, control of hunger and thirst and eyesight. It is also responsible for the intellect and elasticity of the human body.

Kapha – the principle of structure

The principle of structure gives stability, strength and potency and is also responsible for the human qualities of generosity, courage and indulgence.

What is your dosha constitution?

There are very typical signs for pure vata, pitta and kapha constitutions. Below you can get an overview of these typical signs to gain a first impression.

Or take our dosha test: click here to start the dosha test >>

The vata type

Qualities: dry, light, cold, flexible, rough, fast, subtle

Vata

In balance

  • Has a delicate body
  • Finds is hard to gain weight
  • Is creative, flexible, eloquent, innovative
  • Has a lively and attentive mind
  • Prefers a warm and humid climate
  • Has an aversion to cold weather
  • Appetite and digestion are rather unsettled

Unbalanced

  • Always starting new projects but has a lack of perseverance
  • Easily distracted, often unfocused and absentminded
  • Is restless and has unsettled sleep
  • Tends to have cold hands and feet
  • Is nervous, fearful and tends to worry
  • Tends to put too much effort into things
  • Typical symptoms are digestive disorders, headaches and tinnitus

The pitta type

Qualities: hot, spicy, light, liquid, lightly oiled, flexible

Pitta

In balance:

  • Medium build, average body weight
  • Very intelligent, astute and ambitious
  • Is a good speaker
  • Always searching for challenges and leadership positions
  • Has a distinct organizational talent
  • Has a high level of energy
  • Has a healthy appetite

Unbalanced:

  • Tends towards premature greying and hair loss
  • Tends towards irritability, anger and jealousy
  • Has an aversion to warmth
  • Tends to put too much effort into things
  • Typical symptoms are: inflammations, stomach ulcers, heart burn, hot flushes

The kapha type

Qualities: heavy, cool, soft, viscous, slow, tight, smooth, oily

Kapha

In balance:

  • Has a solid and heavy body
  • Is methodical, patient, persistent
  • Likes tinkering, planning and organising
  • Has a balanced personality, is "the rock in the waves"
  • Likes routine
  • Doesn´t have much appetite, but is a real epicure
  • Sleeps long and deep
  • Finds warmth comforting

Unbalanced:

  • Slow digestion
  • Tends to be overweight
  • Tends towards greed, envy and the need to have everything
  • Slowness and lethargy
  • Typical symptoms: increased mucus, obesity, oedemas, listlessness.

This overview will give you a first impression of your dominant dosha. To get an in-depth analysis please contact an ayurveda therapist.

What causes imbalances of the doshas?

Vata can lose balance because of:

  • Mental and physical strain
  • Fluctuating schedules
  • Going to bed late, lack of sleep
  • Journeys, travelling
  • Dry-cold, windy and changing weather conditions
  • Too much raw and dry food

Pitta can lose balance because of:

  • Too much of mental activity
  • Time pressure and a hectic pace
  • Anger and worries
  • Consumption of alcohol and nicotine
  • Heat and excessive sun
  • Excessive amounts of hot, spicy, sour and salty food

Kapha can lose balance because of:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much rest and sleep
  • Humidity and cold weather
  • Excess of heavy, cold, fat, or sweet foods

Ayurveda and the choice of food

Ayurveda food

Choice of food depends on the ayurvedic type. The 5 elements earth, water, air, fire and ether are reflected in the human organism by the three doshas - vata, pitta and kapha. One of the main issues of ayurveda is consuming food which accords with the individual dosha type.

According to the ancient yet still contemporary ayurvedic dietary teachings, food is important for body and mind and every person needs a different diet to maintain balance.

Ayurveda has six different tastes (rasas): Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent

Examples

Sweet: Rice, grain, pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, desserts, sweet fruits, ghee, honey

Sour: citrus fruits, vinegar, yoghurt

Salty: all kinds of salt, sea salt, rock salt

Pungent: pepper, curry, chilies, ginger, garlic, onions, radish

Bitter: Green leafy vegetables, rocket, dandelion, spinach, chicory, bitter roots, fenugreek

Astringent: pulses (beans, lentils, peas), artichokes, aubergine, pomegranate

The influence of the six tastes on the doshas.

Sweet, sour, salty: increase kapha, harmonise vata

Pungent, bitter, astringent: increase vata, harmonise kapha

Sweet, bitter, astringent: harmonise pitta

Sour, salty, pungent: increase pitta

Ayurveda teaches a balanced diet with regard to the six rasas. A conscious selection of food can have a positive impact on our doshas.

To eliminate typical pitta disorders, with symptoms like heartburn, it is recommended to avoid pitta increasing foods with salty and pungent tastes. It’s a good idea to choose sweet, bitter or astringent foods instead. Individual food intolerances are often no coincidence. Individual food preferences or aversions can be an indication that your internal body intelligence simply knows precisely what is needed for its individual balance.

Panchakarma – the royal ayurvedic therapy

Ayurveda massageCleansing and purification programme. The royal ayurvedic therapy called panchakarma is the best known treatment for removing all impurities and to promote purification of the mind and body. Panchakarma translates simply as "five actions", this indicates the five treatments. Harmony of mind and body are the basis for vitality, happiness and joy in life. Panchakarma helps to regulate weight and to rebuild vital energy. Ayurveda clinics offer panchakarma treatments with a minimum stay of 2 weeks. Purging procedures are chosen individually for each person, accounting for their specific constitution and considering individual disorders and energy status. The panchakarma treatment is divided into three main phases - preparation, detoxification and the phase of structure.

The preparation phase

The combination of internal and external oil applications help to eliminate all toxins and waste products from the tissues of the body. Internal oleation includes a special diet with ghee (purified butter). External oil applications are massages with medicated oils that remove all toxins from the tissues of the body. Thermal treatments help to mobilize toxins and to promote their removal.

Detoxification phase - main treatment

Different cleansing therapies are used with consideration for the individual’s condition, diagnosis and therapy plan. The detoxification phase/cleansing phase is structured so that one day of treatments is followed by one day of regeneration without treatments. The reconstruction phase strengthens the body and the digestive fire. A diet adapted to the individual type and a slow increase of physical activity bring back vital energies.