Ayurveda: The Great Mother Science

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word comprised of two parts: 'Ayur' meaning 'life' and 'veda' denoting 'knowledge' or 'science'. Collectively, these terms translate to "the science of life” or the science of living wisely.

Ayurveda's knowledge stems from the Vedic scriptures— the most ancient body of knowledge known to humanity. Despite its thousands of years of existence, this ancient healing system is timeless, universally applicable, and just as relevant today as it was at its origin. You could say that in this fast-paced modern world in which stress and chronic illness are at an all-time high, it is even more necessary and pertinent than ever.

Ayurveda takes a 360-degree view of health and healing. Instead of focusing on the absence of disease, it views health as a holistic concept that encompasses all facets of life, including the physical, emotional, social, financial and spiritual well-being of the individual.

It also considers the individual's inherent nature or constitution (prakruti) and current state (vikruti), the diet, external environment, season of the year and many other aspects in its treatment methodology. This multi-faceted approach makes it a truly unique, individualised and powerful healing system. Its effectiveness explains why it is still widely practised today and growing in popularity at a time when many are seeking to take back sovereignty over their health.


The Tridosha Concept

According to Ayurveda, everything in existence consists of the five great elements (panchamahabhuta): space, air, fire, water, and earth.

Three biological energies derive from the panchamahabhuta, known as the tri-doshas. These subtle by-products of the five elements govern mind and body functions. Two energies dominate each dosha: vata (space + air), pitta (fire + water), and kapha (water + earth). A unique ratio of vata, pitta, and kapha is formed at conception to determine an individual's constitution (prakriti) or genetic blueprint.

Doshas do not exist in a state of inertia. They fluctuate due to a variety of internal and external factors. These include emotions, foods consumed, sleep quality, climate, seasons and even the changing time of day and different stages of life. When these influences cause a particular dosha to accumulate in excess or become too aggravated, they move to an imbalanced state (vikruti). When imbalances are left unchecked, health declines and disorders may manifest.

The golden principle of Ayurveda refers to the concept of 'like increases like and opposites create balance'. Therefore, following the tri-dosha theory, it is possible to determine when a particular dosha is imbalanced by paying attention to the signs and symptoms of the body. A vata imbalance may show up as cracking joints, constipation, bloating and feeling anxious. A pitta imbalance may present as acne, acidity, skin rashes and anger. Signs of Kapaha imbalance are excess weight, congestion, phlegmy conditions and depression. This is the language of the tri-dosha.

Ayurveda teaches us how to regulate the doshas although we all intuitively do this to some extent. For example, on a cold winter's day, we are naturally drawn to warm, comforting and grounding dishes such as soups and broths. On hot summer days, we tend to favour salads and fruits that are cooling and refreshing. Our bodies naturally crave what they need. By drawing on the opposite qualities, we create balance and health can be restored.

When we go against this innate intelligence, often due to a lack of awareness/consciousness and misinformation from external influences, we drive the body into a deeper state of imbalance. Referred to as prajnaparadha in Ayurveda, this is a mistake of the intellect. A classic example is a vata person eating cold raw salads throughout winter even though it causes bloating and constipation. They know it disagrees with them but continue eating it due to social or media influence.  



The English word 'ignite' originates from the Sanskrit word Agni. Agni means fire, and in Ayurveda, it refers to the biological fire of digestion and metabolism that provides energy for the body to function.

Agni regulates temperature, performs digestion, absorption and assimilation of ingested food and transforms food into energy. Not only is agni responsible for digesting and metabolising food matter, but also experiences, thoughts, feelings and emotions we encounter daily.

The Ayurvedic tradition believes that impaired agni is the root of every imbalance and disease. Agni is the most significant factor responsible for maintaining our health – both in body and mind. It is said that a man is as old as his agni and that when agni is extinguished, we die.

In this modern world where most of us are fortunate to have an abundance of food, we are guilty of overeating, eating when hunger is not present, eating on the go and at the wrong times of the day. As a consequence of repeatedly abusing agni in this way, our overall health, mind and body suffer.

Metaphorically speaking, ingested food must be cooked at the correct temperature to metabolise correctly. It will be undercooked if the flame is too low, referred to as manda agni and typically seen in individuals with Kapha constitution. It becomes scorched if the flame is too high, referred to as tikshna agni, usually seen in Pitta individuals. Similarly, food spoils if the flame fluctuates from low to high, known as vishama agni. This type of agni is more common in Vata individuals.

As a result of impaired agni, undigested food particles create a toxic, morbid substance (ama) in the system. If left to accumulate, ama eventually moves outside of the digestive tract. Once it is roaming free, it joins forces with vitiated doshas, seeking a place to hide, usually within tissues that are stressed, weakened, or have a similar elemental composition to the combined ama and dosha. Symptoms appear, and the disorder manifests. There is a saying in Ayurveda, "We are what we can digest". The healthiest food in the world will become the deadliest poison if it cannot be digested and assimilated correctly.

"If you worship Agni, you will be blessed with perfect health”.

-Vasant Lad

Ayurveda's purpose

Ayurveda believes that prevention is better than cure. However, while the primary focus is disease prevention, Ayurveda can restore and maintain health when sickness arises.

It is evident through the doshic theory and the three categories of disturbed agni that Ayurveda is a truly holistic, individualised medicine system. We are all constitutionally unique with individual energy patterns and require individualised treatment. The one-size-fits-all approach has no place in Ayurveda, whose core tenant is to treat the patient rather than the disease.

Making wise food and lifestyle choices and living in harmony with nature facilitates the body's innate ability to heal and restore balance. The body is a self-healing, self-repairing system. When it is supported, it has a remarkable capacity to heal itself. Ayurveda empowers us to become our own physicians or healers.

The aim of Ayurveda is not just to cure symptoms, although it certainly accomplishes that. It is about building a life that maintains health and healing. Ultimately, Ayurveda brings us back to nature. It cultivates awareness for us to live a fulfilled, harmonious life to its fullest potential.



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