Ancient, deeply spiritual, equally scientific and logical, Ayurvedic medicine is a system of health that has been practised for thousands of years. It is the first and only true holistic system of health, and one which is needed now more than ever. We are in a period of imbalance, both individually and societally, with a huge increase in many preventable diseases of the body and mind such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, chronic stress, digestive and skin disturbances, depression and loneliness. What is more, we are now seeing more and more young people suffering from what were once considered to be diseases of older age.
The philosophy of Ayurveda suggests that the universe is an interaction of the five elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, which are grouped into three functional principles, called Doshas. These are Vata, Pitta and Kapha, collectively known as the Tridoshas. They are present in everybody and everything, and can be described through their inherent Gunas (qualities).
The Doshas, and each of their 5 subtypes, have specific roles and sites within the body and mind. When in their normal state quantitatively and qualitatively, they maintain equilibrium, but as soon as they are out of balance, they can affect the tissues, and potentially cause disease.
We all have a unique ‘prakruit’, or constitution, made up of different proportions of all three Doshas. However, whilst two people may be Vata dominant, they will not necessarily present with the same symptoms or suffer from the same imbalances. This is because whilst one person may have more of the ‘cold’ quality of Vata, another may present more of the ‘mobile quality’. This is why we are all so unique when it comes to health, and why some people have more of a predisposition to a particular disease than others.
The Gunas – Qualities
In Ayurveda, the principle of ‘like increase like’ and ‘opposites decrease’ is key to the treatment of imbalances. It is the Ayurvedic practitioner’s mantra. There are 10 opposite pairs of qualities, for example, hot and cold, heavy and light. When we seek to re-balance and bring about equilibrium, we observe the Doshic qualities that have become vitiated within the body and mind, and introduce the opposite ones to readjust.
Agni- The Digestive Fire
Hugely significant in Ayurveda, Agni is the fire found in every aspect of transformation in the body and mind. It is responsible for digestion, absorption, assimilation, and transformation of foods and emotions into energy. Many physical and emotional issues are caused by digestive disturbances, and the pace of modern life means that this is becoming more prevalent. The very first thing we address in Ayurveda is Agni. It is crucial to our understanding of the mechanism of digestion.
It is finally becoming clear to many clinicians, that what we eat is paramount for health. The ancient Ayurvedic texts devote many chapters to the importance of correct nutrition choices for maintaining health and achieving optimum immunity. Ayurveda is the only medicine system that does not give importance to calories, or particular diets. One size cannot fit all. We look at what, where, how, when, and why we eat. Again, the qualities within foods are the key to correcting individual food choices. Ayurveda considers correct eating habits to be medicine for the mind, body and spirit.