Basic Principals of Ayurveda
The rishis of ancient India through deep meditation were able to pierce the veil of illusion and see the underlying mechanics of the manifest world. What they could see was that everyone and everything is made of five elements that interchange and morph into that which can been seen, touched, heard, tasted, and smelled. These fundamental elements are air (vayu), space (akasha), fire (agni), water (jala), and earth (prithivi). They were also able to experience the source of the five elements as pure silence and unbounded awareness.
The most fundamental element is space. Space is unbounded and infinite. It is also called Akasha and is the first manifestation of pure awareness. When we think of space, we can imagine the unlimited canopy of the sky or the infinite galaxies and within the human body, it is the hollow spaces and cavities within bone structure and the colon. As space becomes more condensed, atoms and molecules are created and space becomes a notch more manifest as air. Air is moving, light, cool, and unstable and as it moves quicker and quicker a friction is created and transforms itself into fire. Air is connected to thoughts and movement in the human system.
Fire is hot, consuming, transformational, and powerful. In the human body it is connected to metabolism, digestion, blood, and hormone functions.
This fire melts everything into a liquid state and this liquid is the water element. Water is cool, heavy, flowing, and moist. This water then solidifies into Earth element. Earth has qualities of solidity, groundedness, coolness, moisture, and density.
These are the fundamental elements that overlap with each other, combine, and continually fluctuate in all of manifest creation. All animal, plant, mineral, and human physiology have a unique combination and pattern of these five elements.
Specific combinations of the elements are called Doshas and categorized as Vata, a combination of air and space, Pitta – water and fire, and Kapha, earth and water.
The dhatus are translated as tissues. Ayurveda recognizes seven main tissues that sequentially unfold from the first to the last. The 8th tissue is formed only if the first seven have been properly formed. Lymph, blood, muscle tissue, fat, bone marrow and nerve tissue, bone, sperm and ovum. If all of these seven tissues are properly formed then the 8th tissue which is more subtle is formed and that is called ojas. Ojas is what gives a healthy glow to the skin, strong immunity, energy, and the experience of natural happiness and bliss in individual life. Ayurveda takes great precautions to protect one’s ojas through diet, digestion, and healthy lifestyle.
The way that the tissues of the body are transformed is through Agni (fire element). There are many types of agnis at work in the body. These agnis are like small flames that help transform tissues, transform food into energy, and transform food into waste products called malas. An Ayurvedic practitioner will check to make sure that these agnis are working properly. If the fire is too strong then it is burning to quickly not allowing the tissue to fully develop. If the agni is too little, then it is too weak to do its job. Herbal medicines and diet will be recommended to get the agni back to normal functioning.
Malas are feces, urine, and sweat. The formation of malas is something that Ayurveda also analyzes to come to understand the health or disease state of the body. Burning urination could be a sign of excess agni. Loose stools and foul smelling sweat are a sign of toxins in the body. These toxins are called ama. In order to eliminate ama, therapeutic detoxification procedures called panchakarma are recommended.
Three Humors or Tri-Dosha
Ayurvedic Medicine is based on the concept of the three doshas – Tridosha. Dosha commonly means ‘force’ or ‘fault, something which can easily go out of balance, leading to a disorder in the body or mind.
The concept of dosha is not unlike the traditional Western idea of three basic body types – ectomorph (lean and delicate), mesomorph (compact and muscular) and endomorph (stocky). Most of us are a combination of two or three types. The Ayurvedic tridosha are known as Vata (the lightest, portrayed by the colour blue), Pitta (medium, red) and Kapha (heaviest, yellow). Somebody with dominant Vata energy tends to be thin, restless and creative; the Pitta mostly conforms to a happy medium; Kapha people tend to be heavy, slow and lethargic.
Ayurveda teaches that everything in the world is made up of a combination of the three doshas, and that the doshas themselves combine two of the five elements; Vata is Ether and Air; Pitta is Fire and Water; Kapha is Water and Earth.