Basic Ayurvedic Concepts

In essence, Ayurveda teaches that to lead a healthy and happy life we must endeavour to be balanced physically, mentally and spiritually. This balance can be better achieved when we understand the vital principles of nature that govern our realities and the internal and external environments that we live in. Ayurveda gives detailed information about these fundamental principles. It explains how to implement good habits that support our natural functions, and how to avoid habits that cause imbalance and lead to illness.

What are nature’s vital principles? Ayurvedic researchers identified three vital principles of the body and mind, known in Sanskrit as “vata”, “pitta” and “kapha” (collectively known as the three “doshas”) that are responsible for the maintenance of all systems and for the manifestation of disease when they fall out of sync. In a nutshell, they can be described as follows:


Vata is the principle of movement, responsible for all types of motion in the body and the mind. It specially governs the nervous and endocrine systems.

Pitta is the principle of heat and transformation responsible for all metabolic activities in the organism. It specially governs the digestive and cardiovascular system.

Kapha is the principle of nourishment and structure, responsible for all strength and stability. It specially governs the immune system.

Everything in our daily living affects the three doshas either positively or negatively. Knowing how this occurs helps us choose the food and lifestyle that keeps them functioning well, and to avoid what upsets their equilibrium. The doshas are identified through their qualities and actions. For example, Vata is dry, light, cold and fast, and therefore anything with these qualities is Vata-predominant. Eating cold and dry foods on a regular basis, frequent travelling or excessive exercise would therefore increase Vata and bring it out of balance. In time, this could manifest as a nervous or endocrine disorder.

This system may be a little difficult to understand at first. It represents a very different way of thinking to what we are accustomed in the West. However, these principles already exist in nature, and you can come to appreciate them simply by observing these qualities in your body and mind, and paying attention to life around you.