Ayurveda is a traditional, natural system of healing and medicine that has been practiced in India for over 5,000 years. The word “Ayurveda” literally means “the science of life” in Sanskrit and is known for promoting longevity and a high quality of life. Ayurveda is a holistic and integrated approach to wellness, promoting harmony and balance of body, mind and spirit. Through the successful practice of Ayurveda, one can more fully express one’s true nature, enjoy ideal health and actualize one’s full potential as a human being.
Ayurveda is based on the premise that there are forces, elements and principles in nature that comprise it, hold it together and allow it to function and flow as it does. These same dynamics are also at play in human beings, since we are ultimately a part of nature. Ayurveda offers an integrated, holistic approach to treating and preventing illness using natural therapies, dietary elements and lifestyle interventions.
In Ayurvedic practices, the mind and body not only influence one another- they are each other. Consciousness and physical matter comprise the human body-mind, and it is nearly impossible to delineate where one leaves off and the other begins. Universal consciousness is one force, one energy that is the world, the Universe, the cosmos and everything in it. Pure consciousness is all that is- it is an ocean of intelligent energy that gives rise to all the forms, permeates all forms and is the place to which they return. Ayurvedic studies and philosophies strive to reconnect us with this oneness energy of the consciousness of our true nature. In this realm of consciousness, everything exists, and anything is possible- including optimal health and healing.
Ayurveda is known as the sister science of yoga and teachers with that understanding can support their students in a more holistic manner.
The basic premise of Ayurveda is that the entire cosmos and everything in it is one, singular absolute. Everything has consciousness and is permeated by a natural intelligence that is self-regulating. This includes the human body and all of its cells, organs and systems, which in a sense are a microcosm of the cosmos. “As without, so within.” As with fractals, patterns within the perceived external world are mirrored throughout nature and within the human body.
When the body’s community of 50 trillion cells are in harmony, health naturally follows. When there is discord, balance must be restored or disease can result. In Ayurveda, each individual is seen as a unique body-mind-spirit entity and treated accordingly. While conditions both internal and external may be in flux, it is always possible to tune in to the innate intelligence that is the consciousness of nature and the cosmos, allowing it to flow unimpeded and correct any imbalances.
Ayurveda holds that all diseases are symptoms of an energy imbalance in the body-mind. The goal is to ease symptoms while focusing on addressing the underlying cause(s) at the root of the disease, as well as make the lifestyle changes necessary to ensure health going forward.
The Five Great Elements
Ayurveda teaches that everything in our Universe is made up of five elements or building blocks. These are earth, air, fire, water and ether. Each element also correlates with a human sensory function.
Earth. Earth comprises all matter, including our human bodies. While it appears solid, it is actually energy-consciousness at a slow, dense vibration. All is energy, all is consciousness, even earthly “matter.” Earth is connected to the sense of smell.
Water. Water is a substance without the stability of earth. It characterizes change and most all living things need it for survival. A large percentage of the human body is water. Water is connected to the sense of taste.
Fire. Fire has the power to transform the state of any substance. Fire binds the atoms of our body together. It converts food into energy and fuels our impulses and reactions. Fire is considered “form without substance.” Fire is connected with seeing/sight.
Air. Air is a mobile, dynamic, gaseous form of matter. It allows fire to burn and facilitates energy transfers. Air is formless, but nonetheless exists. Air is connected to touch.
Ether. Ether is even finer than air, formless yet foundational. It is the space in which all else can be and transpire. It is at once the space in which all of the above elements exist and the source of it. In Ayurveda, it is characterized by sound and vibration. Ether is connected with the sense of hearing.
Ayurveda defines humans as an assemblage of the above five great elements, along with the “immaterial self” at the core of each person.
The Concept of the Tri-Dosha
Within humans, the three active “doshas,” or “that which changes,” are Vata (air and ether), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth).
Balancing the Tri-Dosha for Health
Every person and object contains all three doshas. Everything in life- foods, flavors, colors, sounds, etc. affect the doshas in some way or other. For example, spicy foods may aggravate pitta; while cool, light foods, like salads can calm it down. The ability to affect the doshas and promote an optimal balance among them is the ultimate goal of Ayurvedic practices. Ayurveda believes this balance is foundational to optimal health and an enjoyable life. An Ayurvedic practitioner is skilled at determining which doshas need either stimulation or calming, and prescribes accordingly to restore the mind, body and spirit to optimal health and harmony.
If interested in learning more, the Wilmington Yoga Center is conducting a training in November- Kunga 5Elements Flow and Ayurveda– that will address the the five Ayurvedic elements and Ayurvedic effects of asana flow.
The Kunga 5Elements yoga classes are inspired by the teachings of Ayurveda. A deeper understanding of the elements through varied namaskars and postures will allow yogis to draw from five different flow practices (fire, water, earth, air and space), which correlate with changing seasons and life cycles. Doing so will allow students to balance themselves and their energy.
For more information on the upcoming training, please click here to learn more: