Ayurveda – The Science of Life
Ayurveda was developed thousands of years ago in India and is rooted in the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between mind, body and spirit.
The word Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term and translates as ‘The Science of Life’ – according to Ayurveda if you live life by its principles you will maximise your lifespan, optimise your health and prevent disease.
A Brief History
The history of Ayurveda dates back 5,000 years to the Indus Valley, where the ‘Vedas’ (the most ancient Ayurveda scriptures) originated. It was said that the knowledge of the ‘Vedas’ were passed on between holy men whilst only in deep meditation. According to the legend this was experienced as an act of divine love to help mankind navigate and maximise their time on earth
Western Medicine Vs Ayurvedic Medicine
Western medicine tends to treat the symptom of disease sometimes as if it is unrelated to the person as a whole. Ayurveda see disease as a product of an internal imbalance due or an unhealthy or indeed an imbalanced lifestyle. According to Ayurveda once you have determined someone’s individual constitution you can work to restore the balance that has been lost.
Our unique Dosha or Constitution
The Sanskrit word for constitution is Prakruti literally translated as ‘First Creation’ which is your constitution as given at birth. In Ayurveda your constitution is referred to as your Dosha.
There are three Doshas: Vata (Air), Kapha (Earth) and Pitta (Fire) we are each a unique combination of all three with a dominant Dosha that most represents your body type and your behaviour (mind).
In order to maintain balance between each Dosha Ayurveda practitioners will advise on foods and lifestyle adjustments to prevent one Dosha becoming excessive and therefore imbalanced leading to disease.
The 5 elements
The concept of the 5 elements lies at the heart of Ayurveda, not only are these to be believed as the foundation of the creation of the universe but each corresponds to a quality (light, sharp, hot, dry) and sense (touch, hearing, sight) and taste. There are considered to be 20 qualities that cover what you can hear, see, taste and touch, they work in pairs and in opposite (e.g. soft/hard)
Each element goes hand in hand with a Dosha type, it is only understanding the elements, senses and Gunas (see below) do you have a full understanding of each fully rounded constitution.
The Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda there are three energy states that form the creation of the universe, they are known as Gunas. Each Guna relates to a not only a driving psychological constitution but also relate to the energy we receive from food. Each Guna is placed in the circle of creation: Rajas (birth), Sattva (life) Tamas (death).
In terms of how these can be present in how we feel;
Rajas – active, aggression, ambition, drive and ego
Sattva – balance, truth, creativity, happiness and knowledge
Tamas – restfulness, heaviness, depressed and lazy
Then when you translate these states to food
Rajas – energising foods
Sattva – light nourishing foods
Tamas – heavy hard to digest foods
Ayurveda cooking concentrates on Sattvic foods, which are fresh and natural, and easy to digest.
In contrast, Rajasic foods which are salty spicy and contain garlic for example, can be overstimulating and lead to stress and anxiety. Lastly Tamasic foods i.e. processed, refined or red meat, can make you feel heavy and lethargic. As such, Ayurvedic recipes contain as many Sattvic foods as possible, while incorporating small amounts of Rajasic and Tamasic elements to maintain the balance.