By Richard A. Masla, Ayurvedic Practitioner
Ayurvedic therapy is a truly holistic approach to achieving and maintaining wellness based on thousands of years of scientific study.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old healing tradition from India that teaches us how to enrich our lives by staying in harmony with nature.
Here is a very brief introduction into Ayurvedic theory.
All matter (including the body) is composed of 5 elements which are the building blocks of existence. Living matter has three forces comprised of these 5 elements which govern all psychophysiological processes. These three forces are calleddoshas.
The term dosha means 'that which causes things to decay', reflecting the fact that when out of balance (with our constitutional nature or our environment), the doshas are the causative forces in the disease process. The names of the doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas are the 3 primary energetic principles which regulate every physiological and psychological process in the bodymind. A harmonious state of the 3 doshas creates balance in the body, mind, and emotions--homeostasis--and is the foundation of good health. Any longstanding imbalance in the doshas manifests as disease.
Vata means 'that which moves things'; it is sometimes translated as wind. Vata is comprised of primarily air with ether being a secondary element. It is the moving force behind the other 2 doshas, which are considered incapable of movement without it. It is responsible for all of the body's activities and sensations. It is responsible for the movement of air in and out of the lungs, blood through the circulatory system, and thoughts through the mind. It promotes mental balance and comprehension.
Pitta means 'that which digests things'. It is primarily fire with water as a secondary element. It is responsible for all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body, as well as for heat production. It also governs our ability to digest ideas and impressions and to perceive the nature of reality. It stimulates the intellect and kindles the capacity for enthusiasm.
Kapha provides support and substance to the body. It comes from a word which means that which holds things together. It's primary element is water with earth as a secondary element. It gives strength and stability, both physical and psychological, and governs human emotions such as love, compassion, forgiveness, loyalty and patience. Kapha can bestow resistance against disease and can support the healing process. Where Vata and Pitta effects are active on the body, Kapha acts to restrict these two forces and prevent their excessive manifestation.
Together the three doshas govern all the activities of life: catabolism, (vata), metabolism (pitta), and anabolism (kapha). When vata is excessive, there will be therefore excess catabolism, resulting in a breakdown or deterioration of the body's natural defenses. Excess pitta dosha results in disturbances of metabolism and heat production including infection. Increases in kapha dosha results in increased tissue growth and weight gain.
Another fundamental idea in Ayurveda is that of ama. Ama is the result of all undigested foods (and experiences; even thoughts!). It begins (usually in the mind) to accumulate in the GI tract, then overflows into other channels in the body such as blood vessels, capillaries, and lymphatics where it can cause obstruction. In addition to grossly physical effects on the body, ama also has subtler consequences on the vital energies, mental clarity, and emotions. If allowed to remain, it eventually becomes toxic and accumulates in tissues of the body where an individual has a predilection for disease. As a consequence a disease condition manifests and we give it a name: Arthritis, high blood pressure, gallstone, bronchitis, cancer, depression etc.
Disease manifests as the result of excess accumulation of any of the three doshas or ama. Pancha karma is the therapeutic means by which excess doshas and ama are eliminated from the physiology.