Ayurveda and the doshas: setting the foundation for better balance and healthTuesday, November 6th, 2018
In our busy world, finding balance can often feel like a crazy, uncoordinated dance. We often over-caffeinate and over-stimulate, staying close to screens and allowing our interactions and workloads to overwhelm and stress us. We also turn to food as comfort instead of medicine, tending to look away from our habits and questioning whether our lifestyles truly suit us. But there is another way, a better way, one that helps bring awareness to our imbalances, empowers us to make changes to our bodies and bring health rituals to our daily lives—and that’s Ayurveda, the world’s oldest intact healing science.
Practiced in India for over 5,000 years, Ayurveda (which translates to “science of life” in Sanskrit) has been gaining more attention in the western world. Although it’s an ancient science, Ayurveda offers many practical applications for our lives today. By gaining a few insights into its basic principles, you can set the foundation for how to apply Ayurveda to your own life.
Understanding your body type in terms of Ayurvedic doshas
According to Ayurveda, you have a unique constitution, established when you were conceived, that represents your natural mental, emotional and physical state. Your constitution is made up of a ratio of the three doshas (energetic forces of nature)—Vata, Pitta and Kapha—and you’re likely to have one or two doshas that are predominant.
While your constitution will remain unaltered during your lifetime, your constitution does respond to changes in your environment. I’ll explain the significance of this in the next section, but first I’ll give you some detail on each dosha so you identify a few unique characteristics.
- Composed primarily of these natural elements: air and ether
- Governs these functions in the body: movement of all biological activity, including elimination and breathing.
- Signs of a balanced Vata individual: creative, artistic, sharp, quick thinking and loving
- Composed primarily of these natural elements: fire and water
- Governs these functions in the body: digestion, metabolic functions and body temperature
- Signs of a balanced Pitta individual: energized, sharp and quick minded, goal-oriented, productive and enthusiastic
- Composed primarily of these natural elements: water and earth
- Governs these functions in the body: provides the body its structure, form, nutrition and groundedness.
- Signs of a balanced Kapha individual: calm, dependable, loving and affectionate
Knowing your primary dosha and how it can become imbalanced
Knowing your constitution (which one or two doshas are primary for you) is key. It will help you know what imbalances you’re susceptible to, issues those imbalances can cause, and how to bring harmony and healing to your body.
While you can experience an imbalance in any of your doshas, you’re likely to be most affected by an imbalance in your primary dosha. Each dosha is associated with certain health issues, which can include disruptions to your sleep, energy levels and the function of many systems (respiratory, reproductive, digestive, muscular, neurological, etc.).
So, what factors can aggravate your dosha and create disease? There are many, including the food you eat, what you drink, your emotional state, relationships, exercise routine, workplace, environment, how you sleep, the climate/weather, sounds and stress. Again, what affects you is very personal and related to your constitution.
Restoring balance to your constitution
Ayurveda offers you many holistic ways to get your individual equilibrium back, heal your body and prevent disease. Empowering you with lifestyle changes and rituals that are specific to your constitution, Ayurveda takes the preventative approach of Eastern medicine, rather than the curative approach of Western medicine, to keep you well.
When you or your Ayurvedic counselor recognize an imbalance in your primary dosha, these are a few ways you might address it.
How to balance Vata:
- Eat a Vata-balancing diet. This may include eating warm, lubricating, grounding foods that are rich in healthy fats and protein as well as sweet, sour and salty tastes—while avoiding fried, cold, raw and low-fat foods.
- Take time for self-care and allow plenty of time in between activities.
- Practice Pilates, yoga and meditation, and take long walks.
- Perform Abyangha, a self-massage with oils soothing for Vata, such as sesame oil.
- Use a diffuser with calming essential oils, such as clary sage, vanilla and clove.
How to balance Pitta:
- Eat a Pitta-balancing diet. This may include eating cool, astringent, sweet and bitter foods, including lighter proteins, dark greens, peppermint tea and lime—while avoiding red meat, caffeine, excessive spices and foods that are deep fried or processed.
- Make time to relax and play, but limit competitive activities that could aggravate you.
- Practice yoga, swimming, biking or fast walks while avoiding the warmest times of the day.
- Play soothing music.
- Use a diffuser with calming essential oils, such as lavender, rose and lime.
How to balance Kapha:
- Eat a Kapha-balancing diet. This may include eating fresh cooked vegetables; lighter proteins; light grains like quinoa, millet and buckwheat; and especially astringent, pungent and bitter foods—while avoiding high-fat foods, dairy, gluten, red meat, sugar, salt and foods that are fried, processed or sour.
- Practice self-acceptance and positive body image.
- Practice cardiovascular activities, such as biking, running, martial arts or any other vigorous type of exercise.
- Use a diffuser with uplifting essential oils, such as tulsi, cinnamon and frankincense.
More Ayurveda resources and support
Want to discover dietary recommendations and other ways to integrate Ayurveda into your life? I’ll be posting more about Ayurvedic living in the future. I also welcome you to connect with me personally to learn more about your unique constitution, and how to support yourself with this ancient science of life.
Until next time, live well!