Basics of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a science of life so to know more about it, we must know what is life? Life according to Ayurveda is a Combination of senses, mind, body and soul. So it is clear from this definition of life that Ayurveda is not only limited to physical symptoms but also gives a comprehensive knowledge about spiritual, mental and social health. The modern society, education, culture and the television everything speaks about materialism. If this was everything why is it so that most us are unhappy. There is unrest, anxiety, mental tension, fighting and terror every where despite best efforts being made to stop them. This is because some part of our body is not being nourished properly. Be open-minded and try to understand. 

Ayurveda (Sanskrit for “knowledge of life” or “knowledge of longevity”) is a comprehensive system of traditional health care that emphasizes the relationship among body, mind, and spirit. And is considered to be the traditional system of medicine of India. Ayurveda is a science in the sense that it is a complete system. It is a qualitative, holistic science of health and longevity, a philosophy and system of healing the whole person. Historians have not pinpointed the exact time Ayurveda came into being. Most agree that Ayurvedic classical texts were written in India between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago. At this time, philosophy and medicine were not separated. Therefore, philosophical views have strongly influenced the Ayurvedic way of thinking. 

There are several aspects to Ayurveda that are quite unique: Ayurveda offers reference points for managing treatment decisions specific to each case. Ayurvedic theory is profoundly useful in analyzing individual patient constitution and understanding variations in disease manifestation. The Ayurvedic framework can be used to structure working models of the unique state of each patient, and to project a vision or goal for a whole state of health, again unique to each case. Ayurveda offers specific recommendations to each individual on lifestyle, diet, exercise and yoga, herbal therapy, and even spiritual practices to restore and maintain balance in strong connection between the mind and the body. Ayurveda has a huge amount of information is available regarding this relationship.

This understanding that we are all unique individuals enables Ayurveda to address not only specific health concerns but also offers explanation as to why one person responds differently than another. 

Physiology of Ayurveda – Tridosha – Vata, Pitta, Kapha 

The most fundamental and characteristic principle of Ayurveda is called “tridosha” or the Three Humours. Doshas are the physiological factors of ourself. They are to be seen as all pervasive, subtle entities, and are categorized into vata, pitta and kapha. Ayurveda’s concept of the Tridoshas is unique to medical science. Ayurveda says the body is made up of tissues (dhatus), waste products (malas), and doshas (loosely translated to Energetic Forces). It is the Tridoshas’ job to assist with the creation of all of the various tissues of the body and to remove any unnecessary waste products from the body. It is also the Tridoshas that influence all movements, all transformations, all sensory functions, and many of the other activities in the human body and mind.

Vata dosha
The Vata dosha is the most important of the three doshas. This is for two reasons. First, if Vata becomes imbalanced for long enough and sufficiently enough, it can also cause the other two doshas (Pitta or Kapha) to become imbalanced. It can even cause both Pitta and Kapha to become imbalanced; this is called a Tridoshic imbalance and is the most difficult to overcome. Secondly, Vata is the main driver or mover of the body, including the other two doshas, all the tissues (dhatus) and all of the waste products (malas). Vata provides the following functions:

  • All eliminations: fetus, semen, feces, urine, sweat, and a few others.
  • Assists with all the various metabolisms in the body (called Agni in Ayurveda).
  • Controls all of the various movement of body (both physical & mental), including such things as respiration, heart beat, motivation and contraction of muscles.
  • Relays all sensory input from the various sense organs to the brain.

Pitta dosha
The Pitta dosha is associated with fire or heat. Wherever there is transformation, there is Pitta (doing its job). Whether it is in the GI tract, liver, skin, eyes or brain doesn’t matter, for these are all locations where Pitta works. Pitta provides the following functions: 

  • Metabolism – at all the various levels from digestion of food to transformation of all other material.
  • Thermogenesis – maintains the proper body temperature.
  • Vision – converts external images into optic nerve impulses.
  • Appetite – the feeling of hunger and thirst.
  • Comprehension – of information into knowledge, also reasoning and judgment.
  • Courage & Braveness – to face the situation.
  • Complexion – gives color and softness to skin.

Kapha dosha
Kapha is the heaviest of the three doshas. It provides the structures and the lubrication that the body needs. These qualities help to counterbalance Vata’s movement and Pitta’s metabolism. A big, heavyset football play or wrestler is a person with a predominance of Kapha. 

Kapha provides the following functions:

  • Strength – to perform physical tasks.
  • Moistness & Lubrication – to prevent excessive friction from occurring between the various parts of the body.
  • Stability – to add the necessary grounding aspect to both mind and body.
  • Mass & Structure – to provide fullness to bodily tissues.
  • Fertility & Virility – to produce healthy offspring.

Most of our body functions follow a daily cycle. Our weight fluctuates during the day and is maximum in the evening, our body temperature is highest in the evening, most of our hormones have their well defined periods of high and low secretions during the day and the most obvious of all the sleep – wake cycle. Therefore intrinsically the emphasis in our body is on natural cycles. 

In Sanskrit the daily routine is called the Dinacharya. Din means ‘day’ and acharya means ‘to follow’ or ‘close to’. To be ‘close to the day’ in this respect actually means to merge your daily cycle with the natural cycle of the Sun, Moon, Earth and the other planets in our Solar system. The reason for this is that you’re most healthy and happy state is your most natural state, and vice versa. Intrinsic to this natural state is the basic intelligence of everything from how a baby should take its first step to how the sperm should enter the egg to conceive the baby in the first place, to how a cell should remember when to live and when to die. Dinacharya is one of the best things that you can do to stay in balance, prevent disease and treat almost any disease. The Ayurvedic Rishis considered daily routine to be a stronger healing force than any other curative medicine and so devoted initial chapters in their books to this. 

The word ‘Rutucharya’ is formed by two words ‘Rutu’ and ‘Charya’. Here ‘Rutu’ means the division of ‘Kala’ (Season) or time. And ‘Charya’ means following certain rules and regulations according to ‘Shastras’. Thus it together means that, the food and mode of life (Aaharavihara), which has to be adopted according to the seasonal variations (Rutu). According to Hindu calendar, a year has been divided into 6 ‘Rutus’ (seasons):

  • ‘Shishira’ (January and February).
  • ‘Vasanta’ (March and April).
  • ‘Greeshma’ (May and June).
  • ‘Varsha’ (July and August).
  • ‘Sharada’ (September and October).
  • ‘Hemanta’ (November and December – approximately).

Among these, the first 3 ‘Rutus’ i.e. ‘Shishira’, ‘Vasanta’ and ‘Greeshma’ are called as ‘Aadhanakala’ or ‘Uttarayana’ due to the fact that the earth while revolving around the sun goes nearer to the sun in these seasons. While the second 3 ‘Rutus’ i.e. ‘Varsha’, ‘Sharada’ and ‘Hemanta’ are called as ‘Visargakala’ or ‘Dakshinayana’ as the earth moves away from the sun. 

Thus the ‘Charyas’ (deeds), which are supposed to be followed mainly, depends on the climatic condition of that season, as well as the effect on ‘Surya’ (sun) and ‘Chandra’ (Moon) on the body in these seasons. So before going into the details of ‘Rutucharya’, it is necessary to know the effect of these ‘Rutu’s on the human body as well as the climatic condition of ‘Aadhanakala’ and ‘Visargakala’.