The Three Pillars of Ayurveda



Before you can accomplish anything of value, you need to start with a firm foundation. For example, if you want to reach a particular life goal, you have to begin by knowing what that goal is, and then you have to decide what appropriate steps/actions to take to achieve it.

Those two elements– the knowing and the doing – are the foundation for reaching your goal. Without that foundation, you’ll almost certainly be unsuccessful.

It’s the same with your health and wellbeing.

According to Ayurveda, we can only enjoy optimal health when the ‘Three Pillars of Life’ are in proper balance. These three pillars are the foundation of Ayurveda, and the Charaka Samhita – the most revered of all classical Ayurvedic texts – compares them to the pillars inside a house. If a house is going to stand upright, it needs pillars to keep it stable. Our body has pillars too, and the Charaka Samhita tells us that “one who manages these three pillars properly is guaranteed a full life span that will not be cut short by disease.”

What are the three pillars?

In Sanskrit (the ancient language in which the classic Ayurvedic texts are written), the word for pillar is ‘Sthambha’. The three Sthambhas are the three doshas we’ve mentioned many times before in previous blogs – Vata (air/ether), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth).But beneath these Shthambha, keeping them stable and strong, are three supporting pillars called ‘Upasthambhas’.

The three Upasthambhas are proper food (Aahara), proper sleep (Nidraa), and proper management of energy (Bhramacharya). When they’re working in balance together, our digestion, immune system, and life force will be in perfect condition, and we’ll feel healthy, happy, and content. When they’re out of balance, our digestive system feels uncomfortable, we’ll be more vulnerable to sickness and disease, and we’ll probably feel stressed and disconnected from the people around us. If this continues, the doshas they’re supporting will start to become unbalanced as well. Just like a house built on quicksand, it won’t take long before the cracks begin to show and everything collapses.

The pillar of food (Aahara)

When we eat a good, wholesome diet, our body absorbs all the nutrients and vital life force energy (Prana) from the food. As a result, we’re able to digest the food properly and eliminate the toxins before they can cause us harm. But eating the right types of food is only part of what this pillar is about. Proper digestion also depends on how mindfully we eat the food. We should never rush our mealtimes, and we should try to eat our food in the right combination at the right time every day. We should also choose food that suits our constitution because that will keep our three doshas in balance and harmony. When our digestion is wrong, it opens the doorway to sickness. When our digestion is right, we feel lighter, happier, and more peaceful in both mind and body.

The pillar of sleep (Nidraa)

The body uses sleep to heal and repair and replenish energy.When awake, we’re under a constant bombardment of stress and strain. Our physical body has to cope with chemicals and pollutants, and our mind has to cope with pressure and anxiety. Without sleep, we’d soon start to physically and mentally break down. Before long, we could become very sick indeed.

But just getting sleep is not enough. There has to be a proper balance. Not enough sleep will upset our vata dosha and leave us susceptible to injury. Too much sleep will disturb our kapha dosha and make us feel sluggish and lethargic. Not aligning our sleeping patterns with the cycles of day and night can create big problems too, which is one of the main reasons why people who do shift work can often find it difficult to function, especially if the shift work is staggered and their body is never allowed to find a proper routine.

The pillar of energy management (Bhramacharya)

Translated literally from the Sanskrit, Bhramacharya means ‘celibacy’. It was a commitment the ancient yogis made to give up the pleasures of the body and devote all their energies to following the spiritual path (in the same way that nuns and monks take a vow of chastity). But, in a more practical and modern sense, Bhramacharya isn’t just about abstaining from sex or properly managing your sexual energy, it’s about mastering all of your energies so that you have total control over your thoughts and behaviours.

Just like diet and sleep, we often overlook or take for granted the importance of our sexual wellbeing. Many of us think of sex as being an additional or subsidiary part of life, but it is as vital to our physical and mental health as proper food and proper rest. But if we overindulge in food, we become overweight and unhealthy. If we overindulge in sleep, we become tired and slow. If we overindulge in sex, it depletes us of the essential energy we need to keep our mind, body, and immune system healthy, and it can also damage our connection with the other person.

That’s why finding ways to conserve our energy – all our vital energy, not just the energy we expend during sexual activity – is extremely important. It’s keeping our battery charged.

Over the next few blogs, I’ll be looking at each of these pillars in detail and telling you the best Ayurvedic ways to keep them in balance. Until then, why not think about how strong these pillars are in you rlife, and how you could take steps to improve them?

Until next time, to your enduring health and happiness in Ayurveda.

Read More

Related Articles