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Basics of Ayurveda

Open endless skies
Open endless skies
Michelle L. Butler

Many Angelenos have turned to yoga for exercise, flexibility, relaxation, and peace of mind.  However there is a whole medicinal system from India that for thousands of years worked synchronistically with yoga.  And that system is Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is a science that utilizes diet, herbs, lifestyle, positive thinking, meditation and yoga, along with special cleansing techniques known as Panchakarma, to assist each person in his or her process. We are all unique individuals, and therefore each person’s path to health must be treated uniquely and individually.

The groundwork of Ayurveda lies in elements of the earth, bodily tissues, and energies or Dosha:

The five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether.

The seven bodily elements: chyle (Rasa dhatu), flesh (Mamsa dhatu), fat (Medha dathu), bone (Asthi dhatu), marrow (Majja dhatu), semen or female reproductive tissues (Shukra dhatu).

The three humors or energies (Doshas): vata (wind/air and movement), pitta (bile and digestion or metabolism), and kapha (phlegm or lubrication and structure).

When everything is in a balanced state, the body is healthy. Imbalance creates disease, so diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage are all emphasized and used in the healing practice.

Just like each person has a unique fingerprint, we also have a unique combination of Doshas that you are born with. Later in life, whether it’s dietary, emotional, or environmental, the elements can become imbalanced. Stresses such as negative emotions, poor diet choices, seasonal and weather changes, physical trauma, work, and family relationships can all impact and cause a dosha imbalance.

We all have qualities of all three energies (vata, pitta, and kapha) , but usually we have one dominant energy and one secondary, with the third having little influence.

Vata - Space and Air. It governs breathing, blinking, muscle and tissues movement, pulsation of the heart, and all cellular movements. In balance, vata promotes creativity and flexibility. Out of balance, it produces fear and anxiety.

Pitta – Fire and Water. It governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, and body temperature. In balance, pitta promotes understanding and intelligence. Out balance, it arouses anger, hatred, and jealousy.

Kapha – Earth and Water. Provides structure to body (bones, muscles, and tendons). Supplies water for bodily parts and systems. Lubricates joints, moisturizes skin, and maintains immune system. In balance, kapha is expressed as love, calmness, and forgiveness. Out of balance, it leads to attachment, greed, and envy.

Ayurveda teaches us that when we live in harmony with our emotions, physical body, and environment, we shall be healthy. Any disharmony or diseases forces us to look inside of ourselves so that we may discover how we are living out of balance. Only then can we make the life changes necessary for healing to take place. This encourages us to take responsibility for our well being as well as the power to create our state of health. 

Learn more about Ayurveda by seeking out your local practitioner, or check out for a more comprehensive, holistic approach.


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