This is the first part of our 4-part series on fundamental Ayurvedic terms – that will help you navigate the wonderful world of Ayurveda with confidence rather than frustration or confusion
An important reason to know these terms is simply this: these are fundamental truths about how the human body functions and how it relates with the world around. These terms are NOT merely “theories” or the opinion of a group of scientists. So even if your minds doesn’t agree with these concepts at first, your body will continue to obey these fundamental truths ( more on this will be explained in great detail in part-3 of this series)
To get started, here are the first two Ayurvedic Axioms
- Everything on this planet earth, living and inanimate, is made up of the 5 basic elements, the Pancha Maha Bhutas. These are Air, fire, water, earth and Space ( Ether).
- These 5 elements combine in unique pairs to form the 3 Doshas which are Vata, Pitta & Kapha. These 3 doshas can be thought of as “mind-body” types or “energies” and the human body is made of these 3 doshas.
Vayu + Akash (Air + Space) forms Vata dosha. When 2 great elemnts combine to form a Dosha, the qualities of both these elements are found in this Dosha. So Vata Dosha carries the speed and mobility of vayu and its dryness, and the vastness and emptiness of space.
2 seemingly opposite elements, combine to form Pitta Dosha – Agni + Jala (Fire + Water) . This gives Pitta dosha its ability to spread quickly, the copious water it secretes in the form of sweat, its intensity and sharpness and also its ability to subside as quickly as it started.
Prithvi + Jala ( Earth + Water) forms Kapha dosha. Kapha dosha therefore carries the qualities of both elements – it carries stability, weight, hardness, oiliness, firmness and slowness.
The 3 doshas in each of us:
Every person is made up of a combination of 3-doshas, which is determined at the time of birth and is known as a person’s prakriti. This is not static. As a person grows older and moves through life-stages, various doshas dominate that particular life phase. For example, childhood is dominated by Kapha, from puberty till about 50 years is dominated by Pitta & the old age is dominated by Vata dosha.
The dosha –based understanding of the human body is unique to Ayurveda & this is what makes it so effective. For example, Kapha (Earth + Water) is the building block which builds the human body. So it makes sense that childhood is dominated by Kapha, so that a baby which is 3-4 kg at birth can grow and becomes 60-70 kg adult. If all life-stages were dominated by Kapha, we would continue to grow taller & bigger till the day we die.
Have you ever asked yourself why we stop growing taller after our teenage years? Why is there no answer to this question, based on first principles, in western medicine?
Further, now that we know that childhood is dominated by Kapha (Earth + Water) it is easier to understand why babies are so susceptible to colds , since Kapha already is a fundamentally “cool” or “cold” dosha.
Therefore the dosha concept is the fundamental method by which Ayurveda determines good health & disease. This is summarized in the following Axiom, (Reference Textbook: Ashtanga Hridayam)
“Vata, Pitta & Kapha are the three functional units of the body. They destroy or maintain the body, when vitiated (impaired) or not respectively. “
This is a very important concept in understanding health & disease in Ayurveda. When the three-doshas in your body are in equilibrium (right quantity & in the right place) then you have good health. When they are vitiated, either in wrong quantities or wrong place, then it leads to disease. This also helps create the right practices or medicines to balance doshas and restore health.
For example, the creative part of the brain is driven by Vata and the ability to focus comes from Pitta dosha. An excessive use of creative brain force, like say an art director or excessive use of focus , like in project management , vitiates the respective doshas. So Ayurveda recommends specific herb-infused hair oils to be applied regularly to balance these excesses. The sense of touch when massaging the scalp and certain herbs like Brahmi & Jatamansi calms & pacifies Vata. So an Ayurvedic hair oil is both very specific to a person and also very powerful in its action despite being an external use product.
*Krya harmony hair oil – suggested for high mental activity + aggravated vata based hairfall
It is also important to note that the dosha theory extends also to times of the day – so at different times of the day, different doshas dominate. So at noon, with the sun at the zenith, Pitta dosha dominates the environment. Doshas also extend to foods and how they interact with doshas. For example dry, baked foods like breakfast cereal or biscuits will further aggravate Vata. So a person with joint pain (a Vata vitiated condition) will suffer more when they eat these dry foods.
On the other hand, desi cow ghee is considered sacred because it is Tri-doshic (in small quantities) ,which means that it works well in different ways to pacify all 3-doshas , a very prized quality in Ayurveda. So this explains why a person may be lactose intolerant and allergic to milk but NOT to ghee, a concept only explained by Ayurveda.
This is the end of Part-1 of our 4 part series on Fundamental Ayurvedic Terms
At this point, many readers new to Ayurveda might find it overwhelming to choose products based on their Prakriti – so we have made it easy to choose krya products, suitable for your prakriti , be describing the typical symptoms. So if you can identify with these symptoms, you can easily select the appropriate hair-care system.
If you are still confused, or unsure please write to us or give us a call (0 – 75500-89090).