One of the oldest medicinal systems in the world comes from India in the form of Ayurveda, which means, the science of life. We have heard about several concepts in Ayurveda including Ayurveda treatments like Abhyangsnan, and Shirodhara and Ayurvedic decoctions like triphala churnas and kadhas. But what exactly are these based on? How does Ayurveda define health? According to Kaushani Desai, an Art of Living Ayurvedic cooking expert and author of Sattva The Ayurvedic Cook Book, a person is considered healthy in Ayurveda:
1. When an individual’s elementary constitution (Prakriti) is preserved and
2. When that individual’s digestion, absorption, and elimination is 100% then the same individual is regarded as being healthy.
What is ones Prakriti or individual constitution?
The major premise of Ayurveda is that all of manifest existence is made up of the 5 great elements. These elements are:
Ether (space), Air(movement), Fire (light and heat), Water (fluidity, liquidity), Earth (matter, substance, grounding)
Everything we can experience with the senses are made up of these elements, including our very own bodies. This is what makes one unique in this world: it is how uniquely these elements combine in an individual that makes each individual unique. These 5 elements combine to give us 3 unique subsets; what is known as Doshas. The 3 Doshas are: Vata (Space and Air), Pitta (Fire and Water), Kapha (Earth and Water.) The organising properties of these Doshas and the way in which they have dominance in your body, is what makes you, you, and different from others, in a psycho-somatic sense.
Why is it necessary to preserve ones unique Prakriti or Constitution?
When ones Prakriti (the unique combination of the Doshas) are in balance then it is said that:
• The body is in a state of ease, (no fight or flight)
• the entire body’s metabolic function is intact,
• the body is geared toward resting and digesting
These factors keep the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for digesting and resting) active and are essential for the maintenance of life and health in the body.