By DENISE O’DUNN
Ayurvedic philosophy establishes the five great elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth as the building blocks of the natural world. These five elements pair-up in three combinations to form the primary forces of nature called doshas. The doshas are known as vata, pitta and kapha.
According to Ayurveda, we are made of all of the elements, but the unique arrangement and quantity of vata, pitta and kapha is determined by the doshic makeup, lifestyle, diet, and emotions of our parents at our conception. The environment around our parents at the time of our conception also contributed to our nature. Our individual body type, behaviors, needs and predispositions are known as our prakriti (constitutional nature or metabolic type). Ayurveda explains that our prakriti is of no coincidence; instead, it is a divine gift given to us to experience this life in exactly the way that we need to expand and evolve. When we are in balance to our original nature, prakriti, we experience life in harmony, even as we face life challenges.
Our prakriti is as fixed as our genetic blueprint but can go out of balance, known as vikriti, when influenced by our lifestyle, diet, emotions, age, environment, the season and even the time of day. Vikriti is the present state of vata, pitta and kapha, resulting from everything that we experience in a day and in our life. When our current doshic state, vikriti, is in balance with our original nature, prakriti, there is perfect harmony. Vikriti is considered to be a state of imbalance or abnormal state when the doshas are different than originally created.
The state of vikriti may be quite temporary, lasting only a few minutes, days or weeks, and then the disturbed doshas return to their natural state of prakriti. If the altered doshic state of vikriti is present for a longer period, several months or even years, the aggravated dosha will begin to accumulate, marking the first stage of the process of disease. Ayurveda states that all disease begins as an imbalance of the doshas in reference to our prakriti. Ayurveda also explains that true health is more than the absence of disease.
Svastha means health, established or steady. Common translations of svastha are “established in the self” or “being in one’s natural state.” When we are in our natural state of being and are supporting that original doshic combination (prakriti), we experience true health and wellbeing, which is svastha. Regardless of our current doshic state (vikriti) it is possible to get closer to our prakriti, where we are most harmonious, when following a conscious path to greater health.
Since 1948 the World Health Organization has defined health as: “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The ancient texts of Ayurveda clearly define health in this manner:
- The three governing forces of vata, pitta and kapha are in balance to prakriti
- The dhatus (tissues of the body) and srotas (channels of the body) are properly formed and functioning
- Agni (digestive fire) is in good balance to regulate digestion, assimilation and metabolism
- The malas (waste products)are efficiently removed
- The manas (mind), indriyas (senses) and atman (soul) are pleasantly content
- Freedom from physical and mental suffering due to disease, pain or defect
Ayurveda’s definition of health is all encompassing. It is the perfect unison of body, mind, senses and soul.
Disclaimer: This article was written for educational purposes only and is based on the tradition of Ayurveda. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prescribe or heal any health condition or to replace standard medical treatment or advice.
DENISE O’DUNN, president and founder of Balance & Bliss® Inc., is a certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Licensed Massage Therapist (ma58502) and Yoga Teacher, who began studying Yoga in 1970 and received certification as a Yoga Instructor in 1985. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as an experienced teacher at the 500-hour level. Denise received her degree in Ayurveda from the Florida Vedic College in 2005 and is a professional member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association; Denise is the Ayurvedic Instructor and Principal of Balance & Bliss Academy of Ayurveda in Tampa, Florida.