Ayurveda is an ancient healing system from India that dates back some 5,000 years or more. It encompasses a wide range of techniques to treat illness and encourage general well being. Translated from Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “the science of life”. The central philosophy is that the mind and body are one and the same, and that physical health can’t be achieved without emotional, mental and spiritual health.
- Breathing exercises
Since Ayurveda is only now gaining some popularity in the West, the number of scientific studies has been small. From the evidence so far, it seems that the Ayurvedic approach can be effective in treating a number of disorders, including digestive problems and allergies.
The five elements and doshas
According to Ayurveda, the five elements that make up everything in the universe are earth, water, fire, air and ether. Each element is represented in the human body. For instance, bones and teeth are earth, blood and lymph are water, the metabolism is fire, oxygen is air, and ether is the spaces found between matter and represented best by vibration or sound. These five elements pair up to form three forces, or “doshas”, within the body:
- Vata – made up of air and ether. Responsible for such functions as the heartbeat, locomotion and the workings of the nervous system. Too much Vata can lead to symptoms such as high blood pressure, while too little can result in constipation.
- Pitta – made up of fire and water. Responsible for such functions as digestion and temperature. Too much Pitta can lead to symptoms such as ulcers and acne, while too little can result in indigestion.
- Kapha – made up of water and earth. Responsible for such functions as immunity. Too much Kapha can lead to symptoms such as a runny nose or productive cough, while too little can result in poor concentration.