Beneath an ancient sun, over 3500 years ago, as the hymns of a thousand disciples resonated in the air, the first compendium of a comprehensive science of healing was organized and embedded within the consciousness of a young civilization. From the words for 'life' and 'knowledge', the term 'Ayurveda' was constructed, as the title for a discipline that elevated and healed the body, the psyche, and the soul. The Sutrasthana of Charaka Samhita, one of the primary texts for Ayurveda states that, "The three - body, psyche, and soul - act as a tripod. The world stands upon them, and within them, the world abides."
Ayurveda was developed as a holistic science of longevity, first mentioned in one of the four sacred texts of India's history, the Atharvaveda. Over the following centuries, it grew as a science via continuous additions by various learned sages such as the venerable Charaka, and the brilliant Susruta. Their teachings were transported across the world, from ancient China to the Abbasid Caliphate of the Middle East.
At its most basic level, Ayurveda is based upon the five great elements or the Panchamahabhuta: earth, water, fire, air, and space. These combine to form the three great humors or doshas: Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha. Let us take a look at them.
- The Vatta Dosha is responsible for movement, respiration, and circulation. It controls the nervous impulses of the body, neurological imbalances, and the illnesses related to this Dosha usually affect elderly people. It is comprised of the elements of air and space.
- The Pitta Dosha, comprised of the element of fire, and is responsible for metabolic activities. It also governs digestion. Illnesses related to this Dosha affect the abdomen and the chest and are usually metabolic imbalances. These illnesses are more pronounced in middle aged people.
- The Kapha Dosha is responsible for sustenance and structure. Imbalances in this leads to respiratory and phlegmatic disorders. These diseases are more pronounced in young individuals. This Dosha is comprised of the elements of Earth and Water.
Every individual is uniquely comprised of these three humors in different forms, and the art of Ayurveda focuses upon the manner of specifically addressing the health challenges that arise from them.