Tag Archives: ayurveda

Vata, Pitta, and Kapha Explained

Summary: This article explains the key Ayurvedic principles Vata, Pitta and Kapha. It looks at the seven possible combinations of these doshas and their effects on our mind-body type.

In Ayurveda, the major constitutional types are made up from combinations of the three key Ayuvedic principles or doshas: Vata (V), Pitta (P) and Kapha (K). Unfortunately there are no words in the English language which directly correspond to these terms. In addition, these principles can be difficult to understand as we can’t directly see them – only infer their presence.

‘Lying as they do in the gap between mind and body, they resemble nothing that exists in our Western scientific framework’ D Chopra, ‘Perfect Health – The Complete Mind/Body Guide’

The Three Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha

  • Vata governs bodily functions involving movement (Key word: ‘Movement’)
  • Pitta governs bodily functions concerned with heat, metabolism and digestion (Key word: ‘Fire’)
  • Kapha governs the structural aspects of the body and its fluids (Key Word: ‘Structure’)

Each of the three doshas is present in all of us, present in every living cell and present in every organ of our body! However, from an Ayurvedic perspective some organs are more associated with a particular dosha. For example, our stomach is associated with the ‘digestive fire’ element of Pitta, our continuously beating heart with the movement aspect of Vata, and our skeleton with the structural aspect of Kapha.

If we begin examining some of the dosha’s associations we find: Vata is linked to breathing, movement, the nervous system, and the process of elimination of waste products.  Pitta is linked with strong digestion, energy, sharp intellect and good speaking ability. Kapha brings strength and endurance, mental stability and patience.

Before making any lifestyle, dietary or treatment advice Ayurveda’s greatest strength lies in its ability to classify everyone into one of seven major mind-body types based on the combination of the doshas V, P and K

So everybody (really: ‘every body’) will fall into one of the following seven categories according to which principles are naturally predominant in the individual’s mind and body. In Ayurveda this inherent natural balance is called one’s ‘Prakriti’.

If only a single dosha predominates the person will be described as having an inherent nature of Pitta, Vata or Kapha (often referred to as ‘pure Vata’, ‘pure Pitta’, etc.):

P or V or K

Often two doshas predominate, giving rise to categories:

PV (or VP):   PK (or KP):   VK (or KV).

Occasionally all three doshas are at the same level, giving rise to the final category of:

 VPK

Ayurveda views anything that causes a change in this natural balance as potentially harmful. This disturbance could be due to many factors, such as improper diet, weak digestion, emotional disturbances and even environmental factors such as excessively hot, cold or windy weather.

In order to better explain the principles of Vata, Pitta and Kapha let us now examine the observable characteristics of people who just have a single dominant dosha – that is ‘pure Vata’, ‘pure Pitta’ and ‘pure Kapha’ mind-body types. It sometimes helps to ‘picture’ the pure dosha stereotypes. For example, a pure Vata type would probably apply to a ‘stick-thin’ fashion model whereas a pure Kapha type would probably apply to a large framed dark-haired motherly figure. People with a fiery personality and red hair are often Pitta types.

The following section lists the main physical and mental characteristics of these pure, single-dosha mind-body types:


Main ‘Pure Vata’ Type Characteristics

Vata Physical Characteristics

  • Light build and frame
  • Irregular hunger and digestion
  • Energy comes in bursts, perfoms  actions quickly
  • Talkative, fast speech
  • Dry Skin
  • Tendency towards constipation
  • Aversion to cold and windy weather

Vata Mental Characteristics

  • Learns very quickly, but also forgets quickly
  • Tendency to worry and exhibit nervousness
  • Can be vibrant, imaginative, excitable, moods change quickly
  • Light and interrupted sleep, tendency to insomnia
  • Dreams often are fearful, and involving flying, running, escaping

Main ‘Pure Pitta’ Type Characteristics

Pitta Physical Characteristics

  • Medium size frame and build
  • Strong digestion, can experience sharp hunger and thirst
  • Performs activity at medium speed
  • Articulate, can be good public speakers
  • Hair is often blond, light brown to reddish , tendency to hair loss
  • Pale skin, maybe with freckles
  • Aversion to sun and very hot weather

Pitta Mental Characteristics

  • Medium time to grasp new information
  • Tendency towards anger, aggression, arguments
  • Often holds strong opinions, likes challenges, strong intellect
  • Medium duration of sleep
  • Dreams can be fiery and hot, waking up hot and thirsty

Main ‘Pure Kapha’ Type Characteristics

Kapha Physical Characteristics

  • Heavy, solid, powerful build
  • Slow digestion, mild hunger
  • Good strength, stamina, endurance, with slow actions
  • Slow speech, maybe with a deep voice
  • Dark & greasy hair, smooth oily skin

Kapha Mental Characteristics

  • Slow learners but with excellent long term memory
  • Very relaxed, ‘laid back’, tranquil, loving, forgiving
  • Tendency towards inertia
  • Long, heavy sleep
  • ‘Romantic’ dreams

Please remember that the above lists just describe the characteristics  of pure V, pure P and pure K types.

Many of us however have two dominant doshas with the third dosha taking something of a back seat in our makeup. For example, in one person P and V might be dominant over K, in another V and K dominate P, etc.

Taking a VK type as an extreme example, we might think that the overall outcome would be a homogenous blend of the two types –  just like red and green light would combine to make an orange/yellow color. So, as a pure V type has a slim frame and a pure K type a heavy build, we might logically expect a VK type to have a blend of these two – namely a medium build. Unfortunately things are a little more complex.

In practice a  VK type may exhibit either a V or a K trait in their physical build (but not usually a mixture of both). They might also exhibit either a V or a K trait in aspects of their personality (but not a bland mixture of both.) The same goes for different patterns in their digestion. Depending on external circumstances and at different times, a two dosha type may also switch between one dominant dosha trait and another!  At this point we are getting beyond the scope of this introductory article – a really good description of the two and three dosha types is given in Deepak Chopra’s book ‘Perfect Health’ – highly recommended.


Additional Information

1. Article giving an Introduction to Ayurveda

2. FAQs on Ayurveda FAQS 1, FAQs 2, FAQs 3

Better Sleep with Ayurveda

Summary: Simple ayurvedic advice for all mind-body types on achieving better sleep

Ayurveda recognises that our natural sleep patterns are largely determined by our mind-body type. For example, a ‘pure’ Vata type will have a tendency towards light, interrupted sleep with the possibility of mild insomnia: ‘pure’ Pitta types usually sleep a moderate length of time (e.g. around 8 hours) but can wake up hot and thirsty: ‘pure’ Kapha types usually experience long and heavy sleep. However, whatever our body type, we can all benefit from the advice Ayurveda gives for getting a good night’s sleep.

      • Try to go to bed at the same time each day. Having a regular routine helps pacify the Vata element. An out of balance Vata can lead to insomnia.
      • Leave at least 2 to 3 hours between the end of a light dinner and going to sleep, so our food is properly digested before we rest. Going to sleep on a full stomach creates problems.
      • Ayurveda suggests the ideal bedtime is around 10pm, the theory behind this suggests that this is towards the end of nature’s daily Kapha period. This is conducive to rest, sleep and rejuvenation. If we leave it much later we get into nature’s Pitta period, which is not conducive to sleep. It means our natural tiredness goes and we start of experience more energy keeping us awake.
      • Spend the evening after dinner in a reasonably restful way. A short walk (eg 10 to 15 minutes) is useful. Activities such as reading, listening to music or pleasant conversation are ideal. If we watch violent or frightening films we have to ‘digest’ them too. Even the news before bedtime can be disturbing.
      • Leave at least an hour before bedtime free from any focused activity, such as planning, looking at emails, social media, etc. The type of mental activity needed to process or respond is not conducive to sleep. If this activity is screen based then the white colour of the screen is also detrimental to sleep, this is because the white colour tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime.
      • Choose an evening environment with soft, warm lighting. In technical terms the colour temperature should be ‘warm white’, e.g. 2700K or less, rather than a ‘daylight’ colour temperature, e.g.  4 – 5000K or more.
      • Although we shouldn’t have dinner within a few hours of going to bed, a drink of warm milk taken just before bedtime helps calm the mind and nourishes the body. We can add herbs to the milk to aid sleep – e.g.  a couple of strands of pure saffron, and Ayurvedic herbs such as Gotu Kola. If we add a teaspoon of ghee it also helps with mild constipation. A pinch of ginger helps digest the milk too.
      • We can also use aromatherapy oils in our bedroom provided they have the specific property of reducing Vata.
      • Getting a good night’s sleep is also dependent on our activities during the day and getting the right amount of physical exercise is important for sound sleep. What’s ‘right’ depends on our body type. For example, Kapha types need far more physical exercise than do Vata types.
    •  
      • Learn to meditate! Almost everyone who learns to meditate notices an improvement in their sleep patterns. Contrary to popular opinion meditation is not difficult and requires no concentration – we just sit comfortably and easily with eyes closed. Rest assured in the knowledge that if we can think, then we can meditate! It is that easy. What type of meditation should we choose? Vedic meditation techniques (based on the effortless use of sanskrit mantras) such as Sahaj Samadhi, Transcendental Meditation (TM) and their equivalents are ideal. Failing this, there are lots of very good guided meditations from the Vedic tradition (e.g. from the enlightened saint Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) on YouTube.

The following advice for good sleep comes from a sister subject of Yoga and Ayurveda, namely Vastu

      • Vastu says that it is best to sleep with our heads pointing towards either the South or the East – never the North. This is something which can be applied relatively simply by changing the orientation of our beds. This makes a noticeable difference to sleep patterns. If we are unsure of directions, then we can either get a compass, or see where the sun is at midday and use this position to determine true South.
      • Modern Vastu experts suggest keeping our sleeping area reasonably free from strong magnetic (or electromagnetic) fields – so probably best to avoid electronic equipment such as clocks, battery chargers, transformers,  phones, etc.  in close proximity to our heads when we are sleeping

Additional advice for good sleep comes from modern science

      • Make sure our bedrooms are sufficiently dark at night. Modern cities have a lot of ‘light pollution’ at night (e.g. from street lights, traffic headlights, advertising, security lights). This can seriously disturb our sleep patterns.  Fitting a blackout blind is a simple solution.
      • It is best to avoid using our bedroom for any activities other than sleep and sex.  This includes doing any planning or work related matters, watching films, using our computer, responding to emails or social media interactions, etc. This is so we only associate the bedroom with sleep and not any other activity.
      • Avoid coffee, tea and other stimulants for four to six hours before going to bed. Alcohol should be avoided too for a period of 3 hours before bed time.  Although it initially makes us feel drowsy, it then disturbs our sleep after a few hours later. (Ayurveda attributes this to the fact that alcohol increases Pitta dosha – thus acting as a stimulant which, when combined with the natural Pitta period late on in the night, makes us wake up fully alert!)

Additional Information

1. Article giving an Introduction to Ayurveda

2. FAQs on Ayurveda FAQs1, FAQs 2

 

Ayurveda – Top Tips for Meal Times

Summary:  Simple Ayurvedic tips for mealtimes that promote excellent digestion and therefore contribute significantly to our overall health and wellbeing.

In Ayurveda, proper digestion is regarded as being of paramount importance. In fact, Ayurveda acknowledges that the disease process often starts with the toxic by-products of poor digestion. So, anything that helps maintain a healthy ‘digestive fire’ (Agni) promotes health; anything which ‘puts out’ or disturbs the fire does not.

Ayurveda says that our natural ability to digest food depends to a large extent on our body type. For example, ‘pure’ Vata types have irregular hunger and digestion; ‘pure’ Pitta types have very strong digestion (they can also experience intense hunger and thirst): ‘pure’ Kapha types have a slow digestion and rarely exhibit strong hunger. However, whatever our body type Ayurveda gives sound advice on how we can improve our digestion.

Ayurveda gives us simple tips for mealtimes – if we follow them we can help maintain a healthy digestion and so avoid the root cause of many diseases.

Before Our Meal

      •  It’s good to eat meals at the same time every day. This means the natural rhythms of the body synchronise with our mealtimes so we start to feel hungry prior to a meal and our body gets ready to digest it.
      •  We should eat our biggest meal around midday, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. At this time our internal ‘digestive fire’ is greatest and so digestion is strong. You may have read ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.’ Ayurveda says this is rubbish. So our biggest meal should be around midday – although this may not be easy to achieve in many modern work environments.
      •  Our evening meal is best consumed a few hours before bedtime – say, around 7pm at the latest. This leaves sufficient time to digest the food before going to sleep. Partially digested food, according Ayurveda, creates toxins. The build-up of toxins is responsible for long term health problems.
    •  
      •  We should always eat sitting down in a comfortable and settled atmosphere. We should not eat when we are walking around or driving (rationale: walking while eating disturbs the Vata dosha).
      •  Ayurveda advises against snacking or grazing between meals. The addition of more food an hour or so after a main meal starts up the whole digestive process again. We should only eat when we have a reasonable hunger or appetite and give the system a complete rest between meals. Typically this would be from 2 to 4 hours after a light meal and from 4 to 6 hours after a heavy one.
      •  Most Ayurvedic experts say it is better to avoid drinking anything for half an hour before and for half an hour after a meal (rationale: the drink dilutes the digestive juices).
      • We can increase our digestive fire and appetite by consuming a small slice of fresh ginger (ideally with a sprinkling of salt on top) about 10 to 15 minutes before we eat.

During Our meal

      •  We should have our full attention on what we are eating, not on the TV programme, not on the computer screen and not on our phone (rationale: if distracted, our senses are unable to fully enjoy the food – so we may over-eat, eat too quickly, eat without chewing properly and  maybe eat without fully appreciating the  food).
      •  It is good to eat with family, or friends, or people we like. It is better to avoid arguments during mealtimes as unsettled emotions do not promote good digestion.
      • Some experts  say we should avoid all drinks with a meal, while others suggest it is acceptable to drink small sips of warm water with a meal (emphasis on ‘small’).
      •  Ayurveda also says:  never have ice cold drinks with a meal (rationale: the cold puts out the digestive fire). Never have carbonated drinks with a meal (rationale: the bubbles create ‘wind’ which disturbs the Vata dosha). So, combining both of the above points means never, ever, have ice-cold carbonated drinks with a meal!

After Our Meal

      •  After eating we should sit for a few minutes, and then have a short walk (e.g. 5 to 10 minutes) to help digestion – even if this means walking around the office, or up and down stairs at home a few times.
      •  We can also maintain our digestive fire and help it to burn toxins in the body by drinking small amounts of warm water throughout the day (except near mealtimes). However, pure Pitta types might want to follow this advice with caution, particularly in very hot weather. It is usually best not to drink anything that is cold (it decreases the internal digestive fire – Agni.)

General Advice for Meals

      • Well-cooked, plant based food is usually easier to digest than meat. White meat is also easier to digest than red meat. If you need to eat red meat consider adding cayenne or chilli peppers to help with the digestion. Raw vegetables are very difficult to digest and disturb the vata (wind) element!
      •  Ayurveda favours the consumption of freshly prepared, well-cooked food. It does not rate frozen food, tinned food, pre-packaged or microwavable meals, or any form of highly processed food. Ayurveda is not saying we should never eat these, but we should just be aware they do not contain as much ‘life force’ as freshly prepared meals.
      •  It is beneficial to incorporate all of the ‘six tastes’ classified by Ayurveda into our meals – if not present in every meal, then at least we should be exposed to all the six tastes in the meals taken in a single day. This often helps prevent overeating which can arise as our body tries to satisfy its needs for these tastes (if they are not present, we unconsciously eat more just trying to find them).
    •  
      •  If we are going to drink milk, then either drink it on its own and not with a meal, or drink it only with other foods Ayurveda classifies as ‘sweet’. Heating milk makes it more digestible. 

Ayurveda Introductory FAQs 3

Summary: Additional  FAQs on the Ayurvedic Healthcare System, further resources, lifestyle changes, self-medication, active ingredients

Q.  Do you have to believe in Ayurveda for it to work?

A.  Ayurveda is no more a belief system than is yoga. Both originate from the same ancient Vedic tradition and they can be considered sister subjects. We simply don’t have to believe in yoga in order to experience the benefits. These benefits can be experienced by anyone, in any culture, anywhere in the world. The same goes for Ayurveda.

Q. Can’t we just isolate the active ingredients present in Ayurveda herbal remedies and take a pill to cure disease?

A. This is not how Ayurveda works. Firstly, before recommending any herbal remedies an Ayurvedic Doctor needs to determine a person’s Prakriti (natural mind/body type) because a herb that would have a positive effect for a pure Vata type physiology could bring problems to a pure Kapha type. Furthermore, Ayurveda places emphasis on which part of the plant is used, when it is harvested and how it is prepared or combined with other herbs. Simply extracting the active ingredient is a very western approach – Ayurveda is much more holistic. In addition, depending on the diagnosis, certain detoxification procedures (e.g. Panchakarma) might need to be followed to rid the system of Ama (toxins) before any herbal remedies start to become effective.

At its most fundamental level Ayurveda operates on the same field of ‘intelligence and order’ that underpins our bodily structures and functions. As cells are renewed as part of their natural replacement process in our body, it ensures only health-supporting changes.

Q. Am I going to have to change my lifestyle in order to stay healthy with Ayurveda?

A. Quite possibly. It depends, of course, on how closely our current lifestyle parallels the recommendations from Ayurveda.

However, small changes to our routine, eating and sleeping habits can make a big difference to how we feel. ‘Investing’ in a small change can often bring big rewards. For example, simply not having ice cold or carbonated drinks with a meal can greatly improve our digestion (cold drinks put out the digestive fire or ‘Agni’ which is needed to fully digest food without creating toxic by-products).

We shouldn’t be obsessed with Ayurveda either. It is here to help us lead happy and healthy lives. It is not here to stop us having fun – quite the contrary. Ayurveda brings joy and health and a feeling of being truly alive (full of prana).

If we know the rules of Ayurveda we can choose occasionally to ignore them. But if we ignore them persistently we need to reflect and ask ourselves if our ingrained habits are really bringing us long term health and happiness.

Q. Can I self-medicate with Ayurvedic herbs?

A. Possibly, but self-medication for a specific health problem misses the whole point of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is not just about fixing one problem or curing one disease, although many Ayurvedic  ‘product oriented’ commercial websites might imply otherwise! Get it right and all potential health problems are fixed simultaneously with an Ayurvedic approach! Getting it right may involve following appropriate detoxification procedures, re-balancing of the doshas, and then maintaining the new found balance by following dietary, lifestyle and seasonal advice. This involves a lot of personal commitment to change and self-improvement.

The idea of an ‘off the shelf’ Ayurvedic remedy is a very western way of trying to find a ‘magic bullet’ to cure a specific disease – without identifying the underlying cause of the original imbalance. If we choose ‘off the shelf’ remedies we are merely substituting a botanical solution for a pharmacologically based one. However, whatever treatment route we choose, it is always essential to first get a diagnosis from a Western medical perspective.

Q. What resources would you recommend for people wishing to further explore Ayurveda?

A. This is a matter of personal opinion, but I have found that books generally present knowledge in a more structured and coherent way than websites. This is particularly important for people new to the subject.

The three books that I recommend were all first published in the 1980’s – but their wisdom is timeless and applies just as much today.

‘Perfect Health – The Complete Mind Body Guide’ by Deepak Chopra MD. ISBN-10: 0553813676. This is a brilliant introduction to Ayurveda with lots of practical advice combined with its underlying theory. It is a key book (an updated version is now in print) making Ayurveda easily accessible to a western audience. Anyone wanting to explore Ayurveda in more detail should read it.

‘Ayurveda – The Science of Self-Healing’, by Dr. Vasant Lad, ISBN-10: 0914955004.  This is a good introduction into the principles and practices of Ayurveda. It gives a broad, but highly readable overview of the subject – ideal for beginners.

‘The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine’ by David Frawley, ISBN-10: 9780941524247. This is really a reference book on the Ayurvedic properties of herbs. It contains immense knowledge and wisdom that is almost impossible to find elsewhere. It covers the healing and balancing properties of a wide range of herbs – both commonly available ones and the specialist Indian and Chinese herbs too.

Q. Do Ayurvedic herbs have side effects?

A. In Ayurveda herbs can be used to both detoxify and then rebalance our system. However, one herb that pacifies an out of balance vata dosha could tend to increase kapha dosha. One that decreases kapha might tend to increase pitta, or vata, or both, so we should be very aware of the precautions needed when taking a particular herb.

We could even say that food stuffs have ‘side effects’. Too great a consumption of dairy products may lead to an increase in mucus and phlegm (which is associated with kapha dosha). Too great a consumption of salads and raw vegetables increases vata.

Before taking any herb we should know our inherent nature (Prakriti), get a proper diagnosis of our current imbalance and receive ongoing care and monitoring from an Ayurvedic professional (e.g. BAMS Degree). We should also be fully aware of the prescribed herbs properties.

Q. Because Western Medicine, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are so radically different, surely they can’t all be right?

A. It helps if we view each of these systems as just a ‘model’ of how the human mind-body functions and interacts with its environment. In the above sense the term ‘model’ is the same as that used by physicists. Science acknowledges that although any one model doesn’t adequately describe everything we observe, it gives useful insights and answers to our problems. Science is always seeking to develop better models of reality. Ayurveda and TCM are not belief systems – they are just different models.

If we ask the same question of different models we get different answers according to their underlying concepts and paradigms. Some models are more useful for certain health situations than others. For example, Western medicine excels in emergencies, surgery and trauma relief, Ayurveda is excellent at prevention of disease. Treatments are also different in the different models. They are different in their methods, dramatically different in their costs, different in the commitment needed from patients and different in the length of time needed for effective care.

Each model is easily testable – we can see if its advice actually makes the patients better. Ayurveda and TCM have both withstood this long test of time. Ultimately, all the systems of medicine are here to help us lead healthy lives. Which one we choose to follow is up to us.


Additional Information

1. Article giving an Introduction to Ayurveda

2. Additional FAQs on Ayurveda FAQs1, FAQs 2

Ayurveda Introductory FAQs 2

Summary: Additional basic FAQs on the Ayurvedic Healthcare System, the concepts of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and the origins of disease

Q. The terms ‘Vata, Pitta and Kapha’ frequently occur in Ayurveda – what do they relate to?

A. In Ayurveda, the major constitutional mind-body types are made up from combinations of the three key Ayuvedic principles or doshas: Vata (V), Pitta (P) and Kapha (K).

  • Vata is the principle of movement
  • Pitta is the principle of fire and metabolism
  • Kapha is the principle of solidity and structure

So every person will fall into one of the following seven categories according to which principles are naturally predominant in the individual’s mind and body. In Ayurveda this inherent natural predominance is called one’s ‘Prakriti’. This natural predominance stays the same throughout one’s whole life. If only a single dosha predominates the person will be described as having an inherent nature of either Vata, Pitta or Kapha:  V or P or K (often referred to as ‘pure Vata’, ‘pure Pitta’, etc.). Often two doshas predominate giving rise to categories PV (or VP); PK (or KP);  VK (or KV). Occasionally all three doshas are at the same level giving rise to the final category of VPK. So we have seven possiblities:

V or P or K

PV (or VP); PK (or KP);  VK (or KV)

VPK

Ayurveda views anything that causes a change in the individual’s inherent natural balance as potentially harmful. Changes that cause imbalance can occur from any of the following factors: emotional, dietary, climatic, environmental, work patterns, stress, physical and emotional trauma, seasonal influences, etc.

From a more theoretical perspective, Ayurveda views the development of disease as being due to the fact that the individual is not fully in tune with the laws of nature. Meditation and yoga help unite the individual with these universal laws.

Q. What emphasis does Ayurveda place on digestion and elimination?

A. A great deal! This is arguably one of the most important factors in Ayurveda. A weak digestion leads to the build-up of toxins in the system, so Ayurveda has a lot of practical tips on increasing the digestive fire. It is not just food that needs to be digested, but all inputs to our system, including emotional experiences, traumas, etc.

Q. Do I have to be a vegetarian to follow Ayurveda?

A. Certainly not. In fact, I have heard a world renowned Ayurvedic Doctor saying ‘it is better for a pure Vata type to eat a little white meat rather than blow away’ [1].

Ayurveda acknowledges that it is much more difficult to digest red meat than white meat, however in this case the digestive fire can be increased with spices such as chillies. There are of course, karmic implications involved in eating any form of animal flesh – particularly those of the higher sentient beings.

Q. Does Ayurveda have any surgical techniques associated with it?

A. Ayurveda, as now practised, does not involve any major surgery. However, an ancient Ayurvedic text written several thousand years ago (by a Sage called Sushruta) involved extensive sections on surgical procedures, instruments, etc. Much of this practical knowledge has been lost over the millennia, but this Ayurvedic text has great historical importance in that it was the first ever to give detailed instructions on surgery.

Q. How does Ayurveda view the origin of disease?

A. On a practical basis disease is seen as arising from an imbalance of our naturally occurring dosha predominance (Prakriti.) This disturbance could be due to many factors, such as improper diet, weak digestion, emotional disturbances and even environmental factors such as excessively hot, cold or windy weather or environmental pollution. Ayurveda acknowledges that the Vata dosha usually goes out of balance first and the other doshas follow. Matters are also complicated by the presence of toxins (known as ‘ama’ for simple toxins, or ‘amavisha’ for more potent forms) in the physiology. These toxins can arise from imperfect digestion and elimination.

Ayurveda identifies six stages in the development of a disease. Surprising as it may seem there are no symptoms in the first two stages! In the third stage and fourth stage the patient may feel ‘not quite right’, ‘off color’, etc., but without disease specific symptoms.  Clear symptoms only occur in the fifth stage – the stage at which Western medicine can usually give a named diagnosis. In the sixth stage the body’s own mechanisms are unable to reverse the changes and the patient experiences a long-term chronic disease. Ayurveda’s unique value lies in its ability to detect the very earliest stages in the disease process and offer remedial strategies even before the symptoms manifest!


Additional Information

1. Article giving an Introduction to Ayurveda

2. Additional Frequently Asked Questions on Ayurveda FAQs 1, FAQs 3