Introduction into Ayurvedic theory
All matter (including the body) is composed of 5 elements which are the building blocks of existence. Living matter has three forces comprised of these 5 elements which govern all psycho physiological processes. These three forces are called doshas.
The term dosha means "that which causes things to decay", reflecting the fact that when out of balance (with our constitutional nature or our environment), the doshas are the causative forces in the disease process. The doshas are the 3 primary energetic principles which regulate every physiological and psychological process in the body-mind. A harmonious state of the 3 doshas creates balance in the body, mind, and emotions - homeostasis - and is the foundation of good health. Any longstanding imbalance in the doshas manifests as disease. The names of the doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata means "that which moves things"; it is sometimes translated as wind. Vata is comprised of primarily air, with ether (space) being a secondary element. It is the moving force behind the other two doshas, which are considered incapable of movement without it. It is responsible for all of the body's activities and sensations. It is responsible for the movement of air in and out of the lungs, blood through the circulatory system, and thoughts through the mind. It promotes mental balance and comprehension.
Pitta means "that which digests things". It is primarily fire with water as a secondary element. It is responsible for all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body, as well as for heat production. It also governs our ability to digest ideas and impressions and to perceive the nature of reality. It stimulates the intellect and kindles the capacity for enthusiasm.
Kapha provides support and substance to the body. It comes from a word which means "that which holds things together". It's primary element is water with earth as a secondary element. It gives strength and stability, both physical and psychological, and governs human emotions such as love, compassion, forgiveness, loyalty and patience. Kapha can bestow resistance against disease and can support the healing process. Where Vata and Pitta effects are active on the body, Kapha acts to restrict these two forces and prevent their excessive manifestation.
Together the three doshas govern all the activities of life: catabolism, (vata), metabolism (pitta), and anabolism (kapha). When vata is excessive, there will be excess catabolism, resulting in a breakdown or deterioration of the body's natural defenses. Excess pitta dosha results in disturbances of metabolism and heat production including infection. Increases in kapha dosha results in increased tissue growth and weight gain.
Another fundamental idea in Ayurveda is that of ama. Ama is the result of all undigested foods (and experiences; even thoughts!). It begins (usually in the mind) to accumulate in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, then overflows into other channels in the body such as blood vessels, capillaries, and lymphatics where it can cause obstruction.
In addition to grossly physical effects on the body, ama also has subtler consequences on the vital energies, mental clarity, and emotions. If allowed to remain, it eventually becomes toxic and accumulates in tissues of the body where an individual has a predilection for disease. As a consequence, a disease condition manifests and we give it a name: arthritis, high blood pressure, gallstones, bronchitis, cancer, depression, etc.
Signs and Symptoms of Ama in the Body
- Sense of heaviness in the abdomen, legs or body as a whole
- Lethargy; weary and unenthusiastic feeling
- Irregular appetite or no hunger
- Generalized body and joint pains
- Dull skin or acne
- Bloated stomach, gases, flatulence
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- White coating on the tongue
- Foul-smelling breath and sweat
- Constipation and/or foul-smelling stools which may be sticky, heavy and sink in the toilet
- Lack of mental clarity; confusion
- Blocked feeling anywhere in the body, including constipation, sinus congestion, and difficulty breathing
- Tiredness even after a good night’s sleep
Disease manifests as the result of excess accumulation of any of the three doshas or ama.
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