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About Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medicine has several key foundations that pertain to health and disease. These concepts have to do with universal interconnectedness, the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (doshas).

Interconnectedness

Ideas about the relationships among people, their health, and the universe form the basis for how Ayurvedic practitioners think about problems that affect health. Ayurvedic medicine holds that:

  • All things in the universe (both living and nonliving) are joined together.
  • Every human being contains elements that can be found in the universe.
  • Health will be good if one’s mind and body are in harmony, and one’s interaction with the universe is natural and wholesome.
  • Disease arises when a person is out of harmony with the universe. Disruptions can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination of these.

Constitution (prakriti)

Ayurvedic medicine also has specific beliefs about the body’s constitution. Constitution refers to a person’s general health, the likelihood of becoming out of balance, and the ability to resist and recover from disease or other health problems.

The constitution is called the prakriti. The prakriti is a person’s unique combination of physical and psychological characteristics and the way the body functions to maintain health. It is influenced by such factors as digestion and how the body deals with waste products. The prakriti is believed to be unchanged over a person’s lifetime.

Life forces (doshas)

Important characteristics of the prakriti are the three life forces or energies called doshas, which control the activities of the body. A person’s chances of developing certain types of diseases are thought to be related to the way doshas are balanced, the state of the physical body, and mental or lifestyle factors.

Ayurvedic medicine holds the following beliefs about the three doshas:

  • Each dosha is made up of two of five basic elements: ether (the upper regions of space), air, fire, water, and earth.
  • Each dosha has a particular relationship to bodily functions and can be upset for different reasons.
  • Each person has a unique combination of the three doshas, although one dosha is usually prominent. Doshas are constantly being formed and reformed by food, activity, and bodily processes.
  • Each dosha has its own physical and psychological characteristics.
  • An imbalance of a dosha will produce symptoms that are unique to that dosha. Imbalances may be caused by a person’s age, unhealthy lifestyle, or diet; too much or too little mental and physical exertion; the seasons; or inadequate protection from the weather, chemicals, or germs.
  • The doshas are known by their original Sanskrit names: vata, pitta, and kapha.

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