Like the medicines of Ancient Greece, upon which much of Western medicine was founded, Ayurveda sees humankind as the microcosmic equivalent of the universe, or macrocosm.
Three primal forces lie at the heart of the system: prana, the breath of life; agni, the spirit of light or fire; and soma, which is love, harmony and cohesiveness.
Five elements combine to form all matter: air, earth, fire, water and ether. These elements are converted by agni, the digestive fire, into three “humours” or doshas, which influence a person’s physical, mental and emotional make-up, but are also regarded as the waste products of digestion.
Vata, or wind, is formed from ether and air; pitta comes from fire or bile; while kapha, phlegm, comes from earth and water. With perfect digestion (which does not exist) the doshas would be perfectly balanced; in reality, imbalance and ill health ensue. The dominant dosha controls the person’s character – vata people are melancholic, pitta people are easily irritated, kapha people are calm and phlegmatic. Apects of yoga, alchemy and sexology are also embraced.