Ayurveda is the traditional medical system of India. Ayurveda means "the science of life", or "the science of consciousness" and has developed over thousands of years in conjunction with its sister science, Yoga, "the science of mind." These highly refined sciences of body, mind and spirit represent a truly comprehensive and intregrative healthcare model. Ayurvedic healthcare involves counseling in diet and lifestyle, physical and mental exercise (yoga, relaxation and meditation), herbal remedies and various cleansing and balancing treatments that utilize an extensive pharmacopeia and clinical repertoire.
Ayurveda is based upon the ancient philosophy of the Five Great Elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Ayurveda understands that everything in the universe is a unique combination or mixture of these five elements or states of matter. Ayurveda further distills the Five Elements into three primary biological forces called the tridosha. A person's unique mixture of the Five Elements/tridosha determines his/her constitution. The constitution is determined through the recognition of the characteristics and qualities of the tridosha as they are expressed in the forms and functions of the individual body & mind.
The three doshas (tridosha) are: Vata (characteristics of space and air predominate); Pitta (characteristics of fire and water predominate); and Kapha (characteristics of water and earth predominate).
The first and foremost objective of an Ayurvedic practitioner is to determine the patient's constitution and assess any imbalances in the tridosha. A person's Ayurvedic constitution by birth could be thought of as the ancient equivalent of an individual's genome (unique and unchangeable genetic blueprint). According to Ayurveda, each person comes into life with an established mix of the tridosha determined in part by the combined tridosha of both parents. A person's constitution cannot be changed, but it can fluctuate and become imbalanced resulting in dis-ease.
Ayurveda understands disease to be the result of one or more of the tridosha becoming quantitatively greater than what a person is born with. The resulting disharmony among the tridosha can arise from any number of or combination of influences: subtle or gross; a single traumatic experience or chronic repetitive stress; changes in environment, diet, relationships, occupation, attitude, etc. Some factors may be obvious to us while others are beyond our conscious awareness. According to this worldview everything affects everything else. It's the job of the Ayurvedic practitioner to understand the many influences at play and make best efforts to restore balance amongst the tridosha for the individual. This is done through applying therapeutic principles and practices to reduce excess doshas.
According to Ayurveda, optimal health is achieved and maintained by living in harmony with the universal and timeless laws of Nature. The individual is recognized as a miniature replica (microcosm) of the universe (macrocosm). Both are governed by and absolutely linked together by the same fundamental elements and forces of Nature. When we synchronize ourselves with these forces we can naturally enjoy optimal health. To restore and maintain optimal health, an individual treatment plan is developed to address both the causes and manifestations of dis-ease. This typically involves making changes in diet and lifestyle, taking herbal medicines, and undergoing traditional therapies that address imbalances in the tridosha.