AYURVEDA BASICS

Basic Ayurveda 101 - Ayurveda means the knowledge of life.  Its is a sister science of yoga and it reflects an age-old fundamental drive:  the maintenance of good health and the desire for longevity.  The goal of Ayurveda has always been to keep people healthy, while they pursue their more important spiritual goals. 

The 3 causes of disease outlined the Caraka Samhita are: 

  1. Unwholesome conjuction of the senses with the objects of their affection
  2. Crimes against wisdom
  3. Transformation or decay due to time and motion

Disease has 5 causes:

  1. Vata - Dosha 
  2. Pitta - Dosha
  3. Kapha - Dosha
  4. Rajas - the state of mind
  5. Tamas - the quality of darkness, inertia, or ignorance that leads to a complete forgetting of one's spirit

Vedic knowledge teaches that 4 basic goals of human life exist: 

  1. Kama - pleasure, the pursuit of pleasure and ecstasy
  2. Artha - prosperity, the pursuit of that which is needed to support life
  3. Dharma - duty, one's job and how one's dharma is motivated by God
  4. Moksha - liberation of the soul from the cycle of life and death

The 3 pillars of life are a part of the bedrock that Ayurveda is built upon:

  1. Proper management of food and digestion
  2. Sleep
  3. Brahmacharya (sexual restraint)

The 5-element theory is the basis of Ayurvedic knowledge.  The science of the 5 elements represents the way in which the ancient rishis understood the world around them.  Everything in nature is made up of a combination of the 5 elements:  earth, water, fire, air and ether.  Earth is the idea of solidity and stability; water is the idea of flow and liquidity; fire is the idea of light, heat and transformation; air is the idea of motion; ether is the idea of connectedness or space.

The human constitution, or prakruti, is the inherent ideal balance of the three doshas of the body.  This ideal balance is determined at conception and does not change throughout a person's lifetime.  Kapha provides the tissues, pitta provides metabolic action, and vata allows us to move and express ourselves.  There are an infinite number of combinations with no two beings being exactly the same. 

Prana resides in the head and brain, udana in diaphragm and throat, samana in small intestine and navel, apana in colon, pelvic cavity, and vyana in heart, and whole body.

The qualities of each dosha are as follows:


Vata is the qualities of the elements of air and ether.

The 5 subdoshas of Vata are:

  1. Prana vayu (inward moving form of vata)
  2. Samana vayu (balancing air-outside to center)
  3. Vyana vayu (diffusing air from center out)
  4. Udana vayu (upward and outward moving air)
  5. Apana vayu (downward and outward moving air).


Pitta is the forces of the elements of fire and water.

The 5 subdoshas of Pitta are:

  1. Pachaka Pitta - small intestine and lower stomach
  2. Ranjaka - liver and spleen location; responsible for giving color to the blood
  3. Sadhaka Pitta - in brain and mind
  4. Alochaka Pitta - the fire that digests light and visual impressions
  5. Bhrajaka Pitta - resides in the skin


Kapha is the forces of the elements of earth and water.

The 5 subdoshas of Kaphas are:

  1. Kledaka Kapha - located in the stomach
  2. Avalambaka Kapha - located in the chest
  3. Tarpaka Kapha - protects the mind, brain and nerve tissues from heat
  4. Bodhaka Kapha - in the mouth
  5. Sleshaka Kapha - in the joints to provide lubrication to protect from wear and tear

Ayurveda also looks at our Agni and has 4 types:  high, low, variable and balanced. If the Agni is unbalanced then Ama is formed within the digestive system in response to poor digestion.  Ama then overflows from the digestion system into the cells of the body and then mixes with the doshas.  Ama is easily identified by signs in the body and symptoms:  the coating of the tongue, the breath becomes foul, body odor is strong.  People with high Ama appear fatigued.  We also look at the Malas:  waster material (feces, urine and sweat). Our Ojas can be defined as the force of contentment and stability, which has the qualities of the water element therefore Kaphas have the greatest amount of Ojas and greatest resistance to disease.

When a body is out of balance we call the imbalance Vikruti or False Constitution.

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