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Simply put, Ayurveda is frequently sited as the oldest system of health, dating anywhere from 5,000-30,000 years old. It roughly translates to “the science of life,” which is to say, it came about at a time that mankind began acknowledging disease and ailments and started using their noggins to scientifically determine how to treat the body. Science didn’t exactly exist yet, so this was the beginning of conceptualizing new ideas on how the body works, without relying on purely religious explanations. 

Of course, the core principles of Ayurveda do not sound scientific. How could they? Science didn’t exist yet, so the Vedas found ways to spell out their findings using terminology that was already accessible. Over thousands of years, the “science” has revealed itself. Now, Ayurvedic doctors in India train for many years before becoming Ayurvedic doctors, much like a medical doctor would in the West. Ayurveda was one of, if not the first, practice to routinely perform surgery, treat chronic illness, find medicinal properties in alchemized metals, and so forth. 

That is to say, what Ayurvedic medicine actually is versus what we may know it to be today are two drastically different pictures; the practice of Ayurvedic medicine, at its core, isn’t as “pretty” as we’re led to believe. For true healing, a practitioner focuses on bodily functions, for example. I’ve known advanced practitioners whom endearingly refer to us as “poop doctors.” They’re not wrong. 

Today we know Ayurveda mostly as a means of relaxation and balance within the mind and body. Sure, it’s that, too. 

To understand how Ayurveda works, you must understand the workings of doshas

Doshas are the three energies that exist within the body and environment surrounding the body. Much like in Oriental Medicine, which refers to the Yin and the Yang, in Ayurveda, balance is detected and corrected by observing vata, pitta, and kapha. These are the three doshas.

Each dosha is responsible for two out of five elements, which relate to qualities. 

Vata: Ether and Wind; qualities of vata are dry, cold, shifty, brittle, creative, and spontaneous
Pitta: Fire and Water; qualities of pitta are hot, usually more wet than dry, itchy, short-circuited, and intelligent
Kapha: Water and Earth; qualities of kapha are cold, heavy, wet, mucousy, drowsy, grounded, and shining

An Ayurvedic practitioner analyzes the balance of the three doshas that exist inside and outside of the patient. They compare a person’s natural disposition to the imbalanced state that has resulted from weeks, months, years, decades of malalignment. And then provide tools to restore the balance, thus restore health. 

And as we say in the Midwest, “Dosha Know!” (Do you get it now?)