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What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda, known as the "science of life" in ancient Sanskrit, has been a key part of a comprehensive natural healthcare system in India and Sri Lanka for over 2000 years. The basic tenet of Ayurveda is that health conditions should be treated with holistic, natural therapies tailored to the needs of each individual. In addition to treating the physical body with Ayurvedic herbs, Ayurveda focuses on balancing the mind and spirit to achieve inner harmony.

Ayurveda teaches that each person is a blend of three doshas, or vital energies within the body--Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each person is born with an optimal balance and a unique harmony among the three doshas. Later in life, negative health may arise from an imbalance in the three doshas - and the science of Ayurveda is used to bring back this essential harmony. According to Ayurveda, each dosha is represented by a different personality as follows:

Vata (air and ether) is described as cool, dry and creative. A Vata type personality may be thin and wiry, with cold hands and feet, and dry skin. If the Vata dosha is imbalanced, the individual may experience nervousness, an unsettled feeling, digestive issues, occasional bone pain, restlessness and a general lack of focus. Vata instability may be addressed with regular rest, warmth, warm-oil massages and "heavier" foods such as soups, pasta, rice and well-cooked vegetables.

Pitta (fire and water) tends to be hot, sharp and vibrant. Pitta-dominated types may have medium builds, oily skin, strong appetites and quick tempers. Excess drinking, tobacco, overwork, overexertion and too much heat can lead to a Pitta imbalance, which leads to negative emotions such as hostility, impatience, anger and aggression. As a result, Pitta types may suffer from inflammatory conditions ranging from digestive fire, skin imbalances to rashes. For a Pitta imbalance, an individual should counter the dosha's heat effects with cooling influences such as open windows, a "cool" diet of sweet and/or bitter fruits and vegetables and frequent calming meditation.

Kapha (water and earth) is considered as serene and grounded. Those who are predominantly Kapha may be described as easygoing, calm and deliberate, with strong bones and teeth. Kapha types often have a sturdy, heavier build and are slower to move and act. Too much Kapha may be exhibited by excess weight which can lead to heaviness, nasal and lung imbalances and too much blood sugar. To balance Kapha's tendency towards lethargy and potential excess weight, this dosha type should participate in a regular exercise program, eat smaller quantities of food and constantly try new activities.

Since all three "dosha" types are present in every part of a person's being, most people are a mixture of types, with one type usually being dominant. Since adverse health may be associated with an imbalance among the three doshas, much of Ayurveda is focused on understanding an individual's unique dosha balance and recommending a natural course of herbs, diet, exercise and meditation to bring harmony back to the individual. This may be accomplished with a regimen of detoxification/purging herbs to initially rid the body of negative toxins followed by beneficial herbs which focus on bringing the three doshas back into balance. In returning the mind, body and spirit back to its original dosha balance, Ayurvedic practitioners believe that an individual is better able to withstand future health challenges and adverse conditions while living a more pleasant, harmonious life.