Ayurveda slowly succumbs to the same simplifications which happened to Yoga after it was brought to the West. Yoga was made into a type of workout, while Ayurweda into a medical system. In fact, however, they are both something much deeper. It is said that Ayurveda is the sister of Yoga. In Sanskrit, its meaning is the knowledge about life, which is more than just the Eastern idea of how to take care of health in a holistic way.
According to a legend, the god Brahma gave the science of life to the sages, who later improved it through meditative insights. To understand Ayurveda one has to understand it as a whole way of thinking. Although Ayurveda is over 5,000 years old, its truths are timeless and firmly rooted in the laws of nature. The sages, observing the world around them and its cycles, metaphorically and symbolically tried to convey a deep network of relationships between each of us and other elements of the world. And although today Ayurveda may be associated mainly with panchakarma (it is the flagship Ayurvedic detox) and the three doshas called kapha, pitta and vata, it can actually bring us closer to each other, but also help us settle in the world. Today we will try to briefly outline a few Ayurvedic truths that will help you understand this old Indian way of thinking.
The 5 elements
According to Ayurveda, the whole world consists of 5 elements: water, earth, air, fire and ether. Of course, they are only symbols of certain properties. The ground is heavy, stable, hard. The air is fast, light and changeable. Fire is hot, it is transformative, but also destructive. The water is moist, sticky, liquid. Ether is understood here as emptiness. These Elements merge with others to create a rich and varied universe that can be understood through careful observation. Every plant, rock, animal or even the weather has all 5 elements in it.
Also us humans consist of 5 elements mixed together in various combinations. In Ayurveda they are called doshas. Vata is air and ether. Pitta is fire and water. Kapha is earth and water. Doshas can be manifested in our physical constitution as well as in our character conditions. Vata is slender by nature, has a tendency to dry skin, but also can be moody, has poor memory and poor orientation in the field. Pitta is marked with birthmarks or freckles, her skin is sensitive to the sun, but her character is the character of a relentless leader who can fall into perfectionism. Kapha has a tendency to store fat and is not addictive, but it is the most stable of all doshas. This very simplified description is only intended to illustrate a certain way of thinking. No one is just pure kapha, pita or vata. It’s just that a given specificity may come to the fore. Watching the world with an Ayurvedic view is almost a philosophical activity. Each walk can turn into a training of mindfulness and observation of what elements it consists of. Is today’s autumn day more vata (dry, with crackling leaves underfoot, windy) or kapha (fog hangs in the air, moisture penetrates to the bones, leaves turn into wet slush)? This is the first thing Ayurveda can give us – mindfulness and a better understanding of the nature of things. You just need to look carefully and try to understand.
Like attracts like
Opposites attract? Not according to Ayurveda.
It has been observed that rather like attracts like, and everything is driven by momentum. On the mental level, it can be said that we are closest to multiplying what we naturally have the most. Creative, artistic and communicating with ease, vata wants to be a blue bird, a vagabond, and doesn’t think about running an Excel budget or even remembering about eating regularly. Pitta, who is a great speaker and leader, paves the way straight to the goal, but unfortunately likes to fall into workaholism, perfectionism, and her analytical mind quickly turns into criticism, making her close cynical remarks. And if you ‘support’ it with habits like coffee, alcohol, and nicotine, the machine gains momentum. Kapha’s momentum looks a bit different, she likes to take her time, take a nap during the day, enjoys a cookie, does little sports, is reluctant to develop, and although she is credited with the greatest resources that could be conducive to enlightenment, kapha usually isn’t interested and falls into lethargy, rusts.
Maybe you are seeing similar patterns in yourself? What can you do with them? According to Ayurveda – always balance wisely. Here it is again on every level. In cold and windy months, we dress warmly, wrap up and warm up from the inside. In the summer months, we cool down, we don’t overwork, we counter. When our head is bursting with ideas, we focus on one and motivate to finish this one task. When we feel lethargic, no matter if after a holiday overeating or related to the seasonal blues, we push ourselves to physical activity and seeing people. We do not deepen the tendencies we have, but we balance them wisely so as not to exhaust our energy resources.
The nature of being
A great mindfulness exercise is to see how we can balance ourselves today, in the here and now. There are things, or activities which, by their nature, will serve all doshas. In Ayurveda, contact with nature has great power. It will work differently for each of the doshas, but it will also balance each one. Walking barefoot on the grass. Conscious breathing. Mindful eating. Keeping to the rhythm of the seasons and the day – both in the kitchen and when it comes to bed time. Does it seem familiar?
Meditation, mindfulness… these are not new inventions. We go back to the beginning, because Ayurveda does not reinvent the world, it is not a revolution. It is simply contemplating the nature of being.