Ayurveda Addresses All Aspects of Wellness
by Nikki Estes, CAP, E-RYT, YACEP
Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine from India that is said to be the oldest system of medicine known today, dating back at least 5,000 years, and is the sister science of yoga. The principles of Ayurveda are universal, rooted in nature and help people achieve well-being.
The word Ayurveda translates as “knowledge and wisdom of life”. It is a system for living a balanced life in order to create the well-being of mind, body and spirit, with the understanding that all three are intricately related and dependent upon one another. Ayurveda teaches that what we think and feel affects the physical body, and that what we put into our body affects not only our physical health, but also our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. The goal of Ayurveda is to create harmony on all levels, bringing the complete self back to balance.
Ayurveda is different from other systems of medicine in many ways. The practice addresses the whole self (mind, body and spirit), it focuses on the root cause of an imbalance rather than simply addressing symptoms. It recognizes that each individual is unique in their journey towards healing.
According to ancient Indian texts, there are five elements that compose everything in nature: earth, water, fire, air and ether (space). From an Ayurvedic perspective, the body is also made up of these elements, and every individual has their own unique constitution, or combination, of all five. The combinations can be grouped into three doshas which are named vata, pitta and kapha. Described as mind-body types, the doshas represent particular patterns of energy, or unique blends of physical, emotional and mental characteristics. In Ayurvedic terms, symptoms represent patterns that are out of balance.
Vata is composed of air and space, and takes on the qualities of dry, light, cold, rough, subtle and mobile. It regulates the principle of movement. Any motion in the body—such as chewing, swallowing, nerve impulses, breathing, muscle movements, thinking, peristalsis, bowel movements, urination and menstruation—requires a balanced vata for optimization. Vata also provides creativity and enthusiasm for life.
Examples of a vata imbalance include excessive feeling of cold, dryness in the bowels, constipation, gas and bloating, weight loss, fatigue, insomnia, pain, headaches, nervous system disorders, anxiety, confusion and poor memory.
Pitta is composed of fire and some water, and takes on the qualities of hot, sharp, light, mobile and oily. The main principle of pitta is transformation. Just as fire transforms anything that it encompasses, pitta oversees the body’s conversion processes. It is responsible for our digestion, metabolism, temperature maintenance, sensory perception and comprehension. Pitta helps manage stress and provides drive and determination. Examples of a pitta imbalance include inflammation, infection, acidity, fever, excessive thirst and hunger, and intensity in personality, including anger and rage.
Kapha is composed of earth and water, and takes on the qualities of heavy, cold, dull, oily, smooth, dense, static and liquid. Kapha governs stability and structure. It forms the substance of the human body from bones to fatty molecules. Kapha provides feelings of stability, nurturing and grounding. Examples of a kapha imbalance include mucous, lethargy, water retention, weight gain, nausea, cold extremities, depression and dullness in the mind.
Ayurveda assesses the imbalanced or excessive qualities (doshas) in the body and mind and brings opposing qualities from other elements into the body in order to create balance. Diet, healthy eating habits, herbs, yoga, meditation, lifestyle changes, body therapies, aromatherapy, essential oils and other natural remedies are used to help the body heal from within and return to homeostasis, a balanced internal environment.
A practitioner with an extensive knowledge of Ayurveda can assess a person’s constitution and the nature of their imbalances, and then create a unique treatment program to help them regain and maintain health and harmony on all levels.
Nikki Estes, CAP, E-RYT, YACEP, is co-owner of Santosha Yoga & Ayurveda. She is an Experienced, Registered Yoga Teacher and a Continuing Education Provider with Yoga Alliance. Nikki is also a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, an Auryoga Therapist and a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. She can be reached at 262-378-0716 or YogaNikki@gmail.com. Learn more at AlignWithinWellness.com and SantoshaYogaAyurveda.com.