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Ayurveda is the knowledge or wisdom (Veda) of life (Ayur). It is, quite simply, the oldest system of healing known to mankind. If we treat the Rigveda as the foundation of our ancient culture, then Ayurveda goes right back to that genesis.

The Rigveda has many slokas on Ayurveda, and mentions as many as 86 medicinal herbs. Ayurveda is based on eternal principles. not changing fads and fashions. It is also the most holistic of all human sciences. It combines physiology with philosophy. psychiatry with spirituality - indeed it lays down the guidelines for proper behaviour in society.

Literally, it is the science of how to live healthy. happily, and properly guidelines for proper behaviour in society. Literally, it is the science of how to live healthily, happily, and properly. The tools and techniques of Ayurveda cover an enormous amount of ground. Meditation plays a key role. So does yoga. Ayurvedic massage. currently gaining popularity in South East Asia, is a whole science in itself, with detailed treatises on the effects on the mind and body of different massage oils. And of course, there are Ayurvedic medicines, involving the use of hundreads of different herbs in various combinations. Today, there are few diseases and disorders where Ayurveda does not play a role.

Western medicine recognises this, and treats it as complementary. In the chemicals-conscious West, the fact that Ayurveda has absolutely no side effects is considered deeply impressive. Indeed, as we all become increasingly Westernised, the Ayurvedic approach to stress management is something we would all do well to study. As modern life becomes more and more modern, it seems like the ancient tradition of Ayurveda just becomes more and more relevant.

AYURVEDIC MEDICINE is based on the concept of the three doshas, or tridosha. There is no exact English equivalent of these Sanskrit words. but dosha is commonly taken to mean roughly 'force' or 'fault'. So, the doshas are bodily energies (some times called bio-energies) which influence all living matter and mental energies too. And, because the term also means 'fault'. it is understood that any imbalance will lead to a disorder in the body or the mind.

Although the concept of the doshas is unique to Ayurveda, it is not unlike the traditional Western idea of three basic body types - ectomorph (lean and delicate), mesomorph (compact and muscular) and endomorph (stocky). Most of us are a combination of two (or all three) types, with one predominant. The three dosha types are known as vata (the lightest, portrayed by the colour blue), pitta (the medium, protrayed by red) and kapha (the heaviest, portrayed by yellow). Somebody with dominant vata energy tends to be thin, restless and creative; the pitta type mostly conforms to a happy medium; kapha people tedn to be heavy, slow and lethargic.

Ayurveda teaches that everything in the world is made up of a combination of the three doshas, and that the doshas themselves combine two of the five elements: vata is Ether and Air; pitta is Fire and Water; kapha is Water and Earth.

One of the end products of vata is gas in the body, but it is more significantly the motive force behind all transmission of nervous impulses both in the brain and the peripheral nerves. Excessive nervous activity is seen as over-sensitivity and we often refer in a derogatory manner to perple with excess vata in the brain, as 'air-heads' or 'spaced out'. The expression of emotions may be the circulation. Someone with too much vata we would term as 'being of a nervous disposition'. It cannot be a comfortable way to exist.

There are five types of vata, seated (in a loose rather than literal sense) in the body: praana (the head), udana (the chest), samaana (the stomach), vyaana (the heart) and apaana (the pelvis)
thin body and little weight gain
rought, dry skin which can crack easily
teeth prone to decay smell
dull - looking eyes (not always)
erratic memory
nail biting
ability to earn money quickly (and spend it just quickly)
difficulty in sustaining relationships
high sex drive
dreams about flying, jumping, climbing, running and tall tress
eating quickly and irregularly

DouPitta is concerned with digestion and is responsible for the production of stomach acid and biliary secretions vital to the breakdown of food. Bile is, however, always excreted ultimately along with the remiander of digestive waste products via the faeces, the bile is reabsorbed and creates a 'hot' condition in the body, or inflammation. Excessive production of pitta creates excess acid and bile, associated with burning sensations in the gut and, in the mind, with a bilious nature. Inadequate intake/production of pitta results in so-called 'cold' diseases - a lack of energy and confidence.

There are five types of pitta, seated in different parts of the body : paachaka (the stomach), ranjaka (the liver), saadhaka (the heart) aalochaka (the eyes) and bhraajaka (the skin).
medium body, neither too light nor too heavy
smooth skin, possibly with moles and freckles
small eyes, often green, brown or grey
good appetite but not prone to rapid weight gain
medium veins, muscles and bones
thin hair which falls out easily (males prone to baldness)
free,often or excessive perspiration
moderate sex drive
high intelligence, but a tendency to anger and being judgmental
openness to new ideas
decissiveness and leadership qualities

Kapha is largely occupied in the manufacture of the slippery, oily, thick, tenacious substances. These lubricating protective and adhesive compounds are essential to untrouble daily life; they ease the movements of one surface over another without friction and prevent entry of harmful bacteria and dust to the body. If kapha is inadequately cleared from the body or if there is an excess intake, an excess of these materials, such as mucus, develops. If this excess is not cleared, it leads to disease or increased susceptibility to disease, such as sinusitis.

Insufficient kapha intake will result in dryness, not due to excess of air but rather to inadequate lubrication resulting in roughness, discomfort and instability. Some forms of arthritis are the result of kapha disorders.

There are five types of kapha, seated in the body : kledaka (the stomach), avalambaka (the heart), bodhaka (the tongue) tarpaka (the head) and sleshaka (the joints).
a body prone to fat
thick, oily hair and skin
clear whites of the eyes
thick and heavy eyelids
unprominent veins and muscles
heavy bones
strong-smelling body odour
slowness, ponderousness and tendency to inactivity
unimaginative approach to sex
tendency to oversleep
medium intelligence
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