Ayu is the Sanskrit word for life and Veda is the Sanskrit word for knowledge. Therefore, Ayurveda is the total knowledge of life. Ayurveda is natural, preventative based medicine originating from India.
The foundation of Ayurveda emerges from the five elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth. In turn, these five elements dynamically interact to form doshas, or bodily humors. There are three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each dosha has its own functions, influences and qualities that can be seen both in the human physiology and in the environment.
Vata is comprised of air and space and its functions include movement, communication, and transportation throughout the physiology. Vata qualities are dry, rough, cold, light, subtle, moving, clear, and brittle. The blood flow through the arteries and veins, the nervous system communication and the transportation of nutrients are just a couple examples of how Vata works in the physiology.
Pitta is comprised of fire and water and its main functions include digestion, transformation, and metabolism in the human physiology. Some of the qualities of Pitta are heat, sharp, flowing, sour, pungent, and slightly oily. Everything the body intakes, whether it’s tangible as food or intangible, such as experience, our bodies have to process it. This is where Pitta works. Its job is to metabolize everything so that we are able to extract the most nourishment.
Kapha is comprised of water and earth and therefore, its main functions include structure, cohesion, and lubrication. Kapha qualities are heavy, cold, soft, sweet, oily, stable, steady, and sticky. Many of our favorite desserts, such as ice cream, cake, and pies are Kapha increasing foods. Kapha provides the support and structure, along with lubrication for our muscles and tissues throughout the physiology.
Although the three doshas have individual functions and qualities, they cannot work alone. For maximum body efficiency, all three doshas have to be working together in a balanced state. In Charak Samhita, the main Ayurvedic text, states, “Doshas are three: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. In their balanced state they maintain the body. When imbalanced they afflict the body with imbalances and diseases.” (Charak Samhita, Vimanasthan, 1.5).