Ayurveda is a science of self-healing, it encompasses diet & nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rest & relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises, and medicinal herbs, along with cleansing & rejuvenation programmes for healing body, mind & spirit.
What is Ayurveda?
From the Sanskrit AYUR - meaning ‘life’ and VEDA – meaning ‘knowledge’ AYURVEDA quite literally means the knowledge of life and to have an understanding of Ayurveda is to have a blueprint for good mental and physical health.
Ayurveda is the world’s oldest holistic health system originating from the Indian sub–continent. It has been used for thousands of years to cleanse and restore balance to the body and mind. Despite it being more than 5,000 years old it couldn’t be more relevant to our modern, busy and stressful lives.
According to Ayurveda, health does not come in the form of pills or prescriptions, but rather in a balanced lifestyle and diet. Ayurveda's approach to health is therefore to prevent the disease from appearing, contrary to the Western approach which deals with it once it has appeared.
Ayurveda is based on two main principles:
Preservation of health (how to maintain wellness and keep our body healthy and fit)
Restoration of health trough recipes, remedies and practices.
The three Doshas and the five elements
Ayurved is based on the natural elements founds on earth, in all living things: fire, water, earth, air, and ether (space)— the building blocks of all life. These five elements exist in the planet, but also in the body where they represent components of your physical and mental health.
Fire is hot and powerful. It's the metabolism breaking down food.
Water is fluid and cool. It's the hydration running through your cells.
Earth is dense and grounding. It's the body compositing fat.
Air is light and moving. It's the movement of gas in the coon.
Ether can't be seen, but felt. It's the space in the gastrointestinal tract.
The five elements make up the three Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. (More information on the Doshas here)
What can Ayurveda help you with?
General physical health
The principle behind Ayurveda is to find and keep a perfect balance between mind, body and spirit. All three of these areas are inseparable, meaning that an imbalance in one will inevitably affect the others. As a holistic practice, Ayurveda's purpose is to prevent illness; furthermore, when there is disease, Ayurveda doesn't cure the symptoms, it treats the cause that created the imbalance.
As an energetic system, Ayurveda strives to remedy the internal imbalances that prevent us from being the healthiest we can be. It is founded on the idea that each of us has a distinct Dosha, or body type (but not as body types are understood in the West), which in turn has individual needs that must be addressed accordingly through how we eat, move and live.
What, how and when we eat is the core of Ayurveda, which teaches us to nourish and satisfy our bodies. Digestion and gut health are central to our wellbeing and, like all other parts of an Ayurvedic way of life, are specific to each individual. If you retain only one thing from this system of health, know that by eating the delicious foods that suit your body best, you can begin to feel great in all areas of your life.
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian art of living a more healthy, wholesome life, through our diets, our routines, rituals. You can make Ayurveda part of your everyday life in so many different ways, big or small. Ayurveda asks each individual to take responsibility for their daily living. As a science of self-healing, Ayurveda encompasses diet and nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rest and relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises, and medicinal herbs (along with cleansing and rejuvenation programmes); and we can all take simple actions for prevention, self-healing, growth and fulfilment.
Ayurveda and Your Life Energy
Ayurveda believes that everything in the universe – dead or alive – is connected. If your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe, you have good health and balance.
Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas. But one is usually stronger than the others. Each one controls a different body function. It’s believed that your chances of getting sick -- and the health issues you develop -- are linked to the balance of your doshas.
In general, there are seven types of constitutions:
Every individual has a unique constitution made up of the Doshas (akin to the Western notion of DNA ). You may be 50% Pitta, 20% Vata and 30% Kapha for example.
This is why Ayurveda is so unique in its approach. The treatment given is specific to the individual – this means that what could be a healing diet and lifestyle for one person could create illness for someone else. While it is useful to understand your Dosha and how to eat and live correctly to keep it in balance, if you are already experiencing symptoms of illness it means one or more of these Doshas have been disturbed and this is when an seeing an Ayurvedic professional can help.
AGNI, the digestive fire
According to Ayurveda, the secret to health lies in the digestive system. Your Agni or digestive fire can be too high, too low or all over the place, which creates disease. When our digestion is not working well, it creates toxins, known as Ama which circulate around the body and lead to illness. Toxins can be both from incorrect food and lifestyle choices as well as emotional toxins from unresolved issues or trauma.
The first stage of Ayurvedic treatment involves getting rid of these toxins by strengthening Agni. During Ayurvedic treatment, herbs are taken to balance the digestive fire, and help to remove Ama in the body while also supporting the elimination process. How? you ask. With a diet of easy to digest foods that also address the Dosha imbalance together with lifestyle changes which could relate to a person’s exercise, work and stress management.
The 6 Ayurvedic tastes
Sour, Astringent, Pungent, Bitter, Sweet, Salty
Ayurveda places great importance on incorporating all of the six tastes in your diet in order to promote balance of all three Doshas. Each Dosha is pacified or aggravated by certain tastes. Therefore consuming those tastes in excess will aggravate that particular Dosha.
Pacified by Sweet, Sour & Salty
Aggravated by Bitter, Pungent & Astringent
Pacified by Sweet, Bitter & Astringent
Aggravated by Sour, Salty & Pungent
Pacified by Bitter, Pungent & Astringent
Aggravated by Sweet, Sour & Salty
Air and space represent VATA
Vata is in charge of MOVEMENT in the body.
It regulates the nervous system and controls all movement in the body such as muscle and joint movement, breathing, and heartbeat.
Those with Vata bodies are naturally small-boned with dry skin and prominent joints.
Those with Vata minds are quick and creative thinkers, prone to overthinking and anxiety.
Vata also controls anxiety, fear, pain, and other functions of the nervous system.
When Vata is out of balance, you experience constipation, bloating, anxiety, irregular periods, and other related issues.
Read more about Vata dosha here.
Fire and water represent PITTA
Pitta is in charge of TRANSFORMATION in the body.
It governs the stomach and controls bodily functions such as digestion, metabolism, intelligence, and skin colour.
Those with Pitta bodies are medium built, well muscled, and oily skin.
Those with Pitta minds are passionate, sharp thinkers, prone to impatience and anger.
When Pitta is out of balance you experience heartburn, overheating, anger, impatience, and other related issues.
Read more about Pitta dosha here.
Earth and water represent KAPHA
Kapha is in charge of STRUCTURE in the body
It governs bone density, fat regulation, strength, stamina, repair & restoration, mucus, moisture, memory retention.
Those with Kapha bodies are bigger built, curvy, and have moist skin.
Those with Kapha minds are patient and compassionate thinkers, prone to depression and loneliness.
Emotional responses controlled by Kapha include calmness, forgiveness, love, and greed.
When Kapha is out of balance, you experience heaviness, fatigue, depression, sadness.
Read more about Kapha dosha here.
The Three Doshas into more details
According to Ayurveda, we are born with our own unique ratio of 3 Doshas or "mind-body types:" Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha. The three Doshas are the building blocks of life and they are made of the five elements: fire, water, earth, air and ether (space).
One Dosha is generally more dominant than the others and leads the way to a lifestyle that suits you best. You may also have a second dominant Dosha, and a more or less equal blend of all three is called Tridoshic. This unique ratio is called PRAKRITI or "natural state" — what we are born with: your bone structure, the areas you tend to gain fat, the colour of your hair & skin, your height, as well as your characteristics. It's who you are. No matter what you eat or do, these things cannot change. To determine your Prakriti, you must think about what you were like as a child without any 'manipulation'.
However, because of many factors in our environments such as weather, seasons, lifestyle choices and diet, the most dominant Dosha becomes imbalanced (or aggravated). These imbalances create your current state, known as VIKRITI, your current doshic constitution.
Health exists when your own unique ratio of the three Doshas is balanced to their natural state, Prakriti.
We push ourselves off balance by continually eating foods or adopting habits that are not suited to us — essentially by exposing ourselves to more of the Doshic energies that we already have. If we are experiencing symptoms of imbalance, such as bloating, rashes, spots, hot flushes, itchy skin, sore gums, gassiness, tummy upsets, bad temper, tiredness or anxiety, it means that our Vikriti is way off from our Prakriti. These signs that our our body and mind are not connected at all, which leads to disease. How fascinating, isn't it?
Now, the key to health is making your Vikruti come back to your Prakiti.
Qualities of the Doshas
Each Dosha expresses unique blends of physical, emotional and mental characteristics known as qualities or attributes, which can be used to describe us, as well as everything around us. The amazing thing is that in Ayurveda, by getting to know the Doshas and their qualities, we can use our symptoms to identify which Dosha is out of balance. We can then bring ourselves back into balance by using food and drinks, herbs and spices, colours, textures, aromas, environments and lifestyle choices as remedies. The key is to choose those that have the opposite qualities or characteristics to the symptoms we’re experiencing, to create equilibrium.
Pittas are hot by nature, so they need cooling & refreshing foods.
Pittas are sharp by nature, so they need more smooths foods.
Vatas are more astringent by nature, so they need more sweet & salty foods/
Vatas are dry by nature, so they need more oily food.
Kaphas are soft by nature, so they need more rough & fibrous foods.
Kaphas are dense by nature so they need more light and stimulating foods.
Vatas are rough by nature, so they need more creamy and soft foods.
Pittas & Kaphas are oily by nature, so they need more drying & astringent foods.
Vatas & Kaphas are cold by nature, so they need warming foods.
- Vatas & Pittas are mobile by nature, so they need more grounding foods.
Generally speaking, you must counterbalance your body's qualities with foods (and activities) of the opposite quality so you reach equilibrium.
In a nutshell
The doshic constitution you were born with is called your Prakriti. The one you have today is called your Vikruti, it illustrates your imbalances.
You are not just one Dosha; you are a combination of all three, and that combination may change thoughout life.
Certain dietary and lifestyle decisions (eating, exercising, sleeping too much) can cause balance in your Vikruti.
The secret to health is making your Vikruti match your Prakriti.
Contact me for a Dosha quiz, and together we'll establish a plan to restore and maintain balance, according to your own unique constitution.