What is Ayurveda?
I’ve been immersed in Ayurveda since May last year. The very first time I heard about Ayurveda . . . was many many years ago. The first time I studied Ayurveda and began to apply the principles to my life was during my yoga teacher training course 4 years ago.
Meet Yoga's Sister
Ayurveda is translated as the science of life (‘ayu’, meaning ‘life’, and ‘veda’, meaning ‘knowledge.’). Ayurveda is a 5,000 year old medical healthcare system which is a sister science to yoga. It is believed to be the oldest medical system (older even than Traditional Chinese Medicine). It’s a holistic healing system that look at the a whole lifestyle, including; herbal medicine, diet, daily routines, exercise, mind, philosophy and spirituality.
According to Ayurveda we have our own unique constitution which is a mix of 3 Doshas - Vata (Air + Space), Pitta (Fire + Water) and Kapha (Earth + Water). Each dosha has a unique blend of physical and psychological characteristics, we often have one dosha that is dominant. When your Doshas are balanced you can live to 100 years.
Our unique constitution is called our PRAKRITI known as our natural state in which everything is balanced. Once we know our unique constitution this guides us to a lifestyle that will allow you to live a healthy life. However when we try to work out dosha we can often find our imbalances show up. This is known as our VIKRUTI, a person can have an imbalance in any dosha, despite their constitution. As we are exposed to our external environment, imbalances can show for example if we are in very hot environments and eating hot and spicy foods our pitta dosha can be out of balance. Your vata (air and space) may be imbalanced if you move too much and too quickly, living a fast paced lifestyle.
We are born with our constitution and this does not change, you may naturally be creative, think quickly, have a tall and thin body frame, tend to have dry skin and feel cold like Vata, but when we go out of balance you may experience bloating, eczema, loss of appetite, have an upset tummy or feel anxious. These are all signs that our body is out of balance, we’re not supporting our natural constitution and way of living that is right for our mind and body.
Ayurveda starts with your digestion
Any problem that manifest in the body is a result of our digestion. When our digestive fire (known as agni) is strong we create healthy tissues, eliminate waste and produce an essence called Ojas. If our digestion is weak then it can lead to toxic buildup known as ama which leads to symptoms and dis-ease. We might experience bloating, dryness on skin, anxiety,
Through diet, herbal medicines and lifestyle changes we can address these imbalances and discover what food and lifestyle options are right for our unique constitution.
The 3 Doshas
Vata is the principle of movement, the elements of air and space within the body and the subtle energy that governs biological movement. Vata governs breathing, blinking of the eyelids, movements in the muscles and tissues, pulsations in the heart. Vata also governs such sensations, feelings and emotions as nervousness, fear, anxiety, pain, tremors and spasms. The large intestine, pelvic, bones, skin, ears and thighs are the seats of vata. If the body develops an excess of vata, it will accumulate in these areas.
If you have a dominant Vata Dosha movement and change are characteristics of your nature. You might find you are always busy and on the go, you may be energetic and creative. You are likely to have a lean body and tendency for dry skin. When you are in balance vata can be full of energy and enthusiastic, when out of balanced vata can feel anxious, experience joint pain, dry skin, weight loss, insomnia.
Pitta is formed from the elements fire and water. Pitta is translated as fire, the bodys heat-energy. Pitta governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism, body temperature, skin coloration, the lustre of the eyes; and also intelligence and understanding. Psychologically, pitta arouses emotions of anger, hate and jealousy. The small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, blood, fat, eyes and skin are the areas of the body that are pitta.
If you have a dominant pitta dosha, you may be of medium build, have a strong appetite and digestion, get hot easily. Naturally you are ambitious, like to get things done and stay organised, out of balance you may feel angry, experience inflammation, fever, rash or heartburn.
Kapha is formed from the elements earth and water. Kapha people love to eat, they have well developed bodies, a good memory and are very calming to be around. Kapha cements the elements of the body, providing the material for physical structure. Kapha lubricates the joints, provides moisture to the skin, helps heal wounds, fills the spaces in the body, and gives biological strength vigour and stability. Kapha also support's memory retention, gives energy to the heart and lungs and maintains immunity. Kapha is present in the chest, throat, head, sinuses, nose, mouth, stomach, joints, cytoplasm, plasma, and liquid secretions of the body such as mucous. Psychologically, kapha is responsible for emotions of attachment, greed and long standing envy; it is also expressed in tendencies toward calmness, forgiveness and love. The chest is the seat of kapha.
Kapha people have good strength and stamina, like to look after others and have calm temperament. When out of balance Kapha can be fatigued, experience sinus problems, obesity, greed and attachment in the mind.
Note: Your constitution or Prakriti, your unique ratio of all 3 doshas, can only be accurately worked out by an Ayurveda Consultant or Dr, who will offer a consultation to discuss your diet, lifestyle and current symptoms, and advise on how to address these. Once your imbalances have been corrected your natural constitution can shine through and then advice will be given on how to stay balanced.
I'll be starting Ayurveda consultations from May 2018. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know about events and we share lots of advice and inspiration.