Ayurveda is an ancient system of elemental medicine originating in India
Resembling the elemental nature of Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda is thought by some to be an even more ancient system of medicine. Used extensively throughout India and other Asian countries this system of medicine is based on principles that break the physical and mental qualities of human nature into three distinct elemental branches. A person is said to predominantly represent one of these three distinct branches, which are properly called doshas. These doshas are:
- Vata (Wind/Air)
- Pitta (Fire)
- Kapha (Water)
Though a certain dosha usually dominates, the other two respective elements play minor roles in characterizing a person according to Ayurveda.
Through the use of books, teachers, courses or an Ayurvedic doctor one is able to discover their own dosha. Ayurveda sees the human body not as the standardized machine that western medicine often plays it up to be, but rather a unique elemental form that you were born into.
As automobiles around the world burn fuel at different rates and are composed of different components so too is the uniqueness of the human body. Each person’s cells and organs operate differently than the next, and according to Ayurveda seem to follow certain patterns. Eastern medicinal philosophies show a different form of respect towards the body, treating it more like a garden that needs to be nurtured by an elemental quality that may be lacking or over- abundant, rather than cracking it open and shining all the dull cogs and gears; replacing all the pieces that are expired.
Though one dosha is prevalent in a person, all three qualities must work together in balance to create a ideal environment of health in the body.
The Three Doshas of Ayurveda
The physical and emotional characteristics of each dosha-predominate personality will be discussed in later articles, but at this time it’s important to relate each elemental quality to the functions of the human body.
Everything about movement in the body is related to Vata. From breathing, to the twitching of your toes, everything that governs movement is found within the realm of Vata. On an emotional level, Vata is found residing in fear and anxiety.
As a fire consumes its fuel, so too does Pitta relate to consumption within the body. Everything that has to do with the digestion and absorption of food is Pitta’s business, thus metabolism and body temperature fall into this category. Pitta encourages anger, jealousy, and other ‘fiery’ emotions.
Water is moveable like air but much more solid, so too is Kapha. Water makes up a huge percentage of the human body and though bones and tissues help to form the shell that you inhabit, water makes up all the materials of physical structure. Water is reliable and strong, it is the medium that Vata moves throughout the entirety of the body. It helps to heal wounds, moisten joints and strengthen immunity against disease. Emotional qualities of Kapha include selfishness, and attachment.
This article was originally published at Suite101.com on September 14, 2007 as The Basic Elements of Ayurveda
Trevor Ellestad is a writer, an herbalist, and an ex-yoga teacher who spends his days creating plant-based magic at Vega. Trevor keeps a tidy home with his partner and their as of yet un-named spider monkey of a kitty cat in Vancouver, BC. At night, Trevor likes to surround himself with plants and obsess over the seemingly simple lives of cats and robots.