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What is Ayurveda?

Ayur” (eye your) = Life in Sanskrit, “Veda” (vayda) = knowledge or science) . Ayurveda is “the science of life”. It is the ancient holistic science of India which aims at a total harmony of Mind, Body, and Spirit in balance with nature’s rhythms.

The traditional science of Ayurvedic medicine is designed to bring the body back into balance so it can heal itself . A beautiful concept. Ayurveda is often referred to as a sister science to yoga, they both come from the same tradition. Some scholars say Ayurveda precedes yoga.

Ayurveda teaches that each of our bodies are made up of a unique combination of 5 elements or states of matter. After discovering what was your unique constitution at birth it then works to help discern what your constitution is now .

It believes that true health is adjusting for everything that modern day life throws at us by bringing your body back to how it was when you were born. The first line of defense in combating imbalances is to try and identify and remove the cause of the imbalances.

Ayurveda also teaches that healthy digestive fire is the other key to sustained health . Ayurveda attributes 80% of all disease to imbalances of the digestive system and, therefore, much attention is given to its maintenance.


The elements and their 3 Dosha or Constitutions:

* Earth: stable, dense, heavy, grounded. It combines with water to become KAPHA. It’s described as cold and wet like the Spring

* Water: cool, smooth, fluid – (it can work to mediate KAPHA or PITTA) . The “water” or fluid is what helps regulate our stomach acid so we can digest things.

* Fire: hot, light, intense, fiery – PITTA This is your digestive fire (acids) and is described as hot and wet like the Summer.

* Air/Space: dry, cold, light, mobile, erratic – VATA This is what moves things in your body. It is described as cold and dry like the Winter

Ayurveda teaches us that if our constitution (our unique individual combination of the elements) increases too much, it fosters an environment where disease can take hold . So, keeping our eyes turned toward balance remains an important focus. For example, every time we get in a car or board an airplane, Vata or Winter (air and space) increases or when we eat hot peppers, Pita increases. When we sleep in or eat ice-cream in  can increase Kapha.

Imbalances can present themselves as anxiety and stress, insomnia, depression, weight gain, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, skin problems, digestive issues, acid reflux, and constipation, to name a few .

According to Ayurveda, living in harmony with nature’s cycles and rhythms is also important for the body to enjoy the self-awareness needed to heal itself and then build the clarity needed to provoke change in one’s life.

To achieve the needed balance and healthy digestion, Ayurveda encourages us to eat specific foods, herbs and spices which will bring our particular bodies into better balance . It encourages walking in nature and breathing fresh air, easy yoga poses, and meditation. Very often, recommendations will be different for each person regarding which foods and which lifestyle they should follow in order to find balance.


Larry Mangel
Ayurvedic Practitioner
Shanti Yoga and Ayurveda

Philadelphia, PA 19103

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