The human body - like everything else in the universe - is made up of five fundamental properties of matter: space, air, fire, water and earth, panchabhautika. These five properties are in harmony with nature's eco system through the mechanism of Samanya and Vishesha. The state of equilibrium with everything in nature working perfectly is called Samya and is the principal feature of Swasthya, health. Swasthya literarally means ''self in place''. In other words health is our natural state and birthright. Vaishamya is the basis of disease, Vyadhi.
Dr G Shrinivasa Acharya puts it like this in his excellent reference book. Panchakarma Illustrated: ''Ayurved advocates a range of promotive, preventive and curative measures in terms of judicious life-styles, diet and medictaion to restore the eco-balance.''
When we look around us at nature we can see the prevalence of perfect dynamic systems, for example the way plants grow their leaves in alternating patterns to ensure maximum exposure to sunlight and how forest systems similarly ensure that all plants receive the nutrients they need.
However, manmade systems, subordinated to financial considerations, and lacking respect for natural law tend to lack the same perfection. Millions of people have poor mental and physical health, lacking even the energy to carry our their daily tasks or to enjoy their lives. When we recognise that we are part of nature, not separate from it, and that perfect health and vitality is our birthright, the solutions become obvious. If disease and unhappiness is caused by our deviation from nature, then solutions comes from aligning ourselves with her.
All the five properties are necessary and perform their functions within every cell of the human body as long as they are in balance. However, if, for example, we live in a fast'paced chaotic way, travel and entertain too much, stay up late, have no sensible daily routine of work, rest, food and leisure, think and talk too much to no purpose, we may find the air function (Vata, comprised mainly of space and air) becomes aggravated. Its natural qualities are quickness, lightness, dryness, coldness and activity, so by the principle of Samanya, foods, actions, thoughts, speech and behaviours which have the same properties, will increase the air function. Certain times of day and seasons also increase the qualities of Vata.
Over time, if not corrected and balanced, that increase becomes problematic, resulting in minor and, later, major health problems. Aging itself increases Vata, leading for example to decreased bone density, stiff and creaking joints, muscle wastage, insomnia, mental confusion and neurological problems, quite apart from dry, dehydrated skin and wrinkles.
To reduce Vata therefore we look for its opposites and try to introduce them back into our lifestyles and bodies. Quickness must be countered by slowness, lightness by weight, coldness by warmth, dryness by lubrication, activity by rest. Spontaneity needs to be balanced by routine and structure, a plethora of ideas by application and practice. The quick brilliance of the Vata function, governing communication in the brain and body and all voluntary and involuntary movements, when aggravated leads to chaos, disintegration and degeneration. It needs the warmth and vision of fire and the cohesion and stability of water and earth.
A dehydrated plant cries out for water, after too much time in the sun we need the shade of a tree and a cool breeze, damp clothes need heat to dry, dry grains need water and fire to become edible rice, a dry throat longs for a drink. Our bodies instinctively understand the timeless Ayurvedic principles of Samanya and Vishesha. If only we would remember to listen to them!