Ayurveda: The Knowledge of Life

Ayurveda 101

Have you ever just felt off?  Maybe it was a feeling in the pit of your stomach, acne, sinus pain, a back soreness that did not go away, issues in the bathroom, a lump on a bone, swelling in your joints, itchy skin?   Did you go to your doctor?  Could he or she provide you with a reason for your ailment or did they make you feel like a hypochondriac and have no diagnosis for you?

So if you have a health issue and aren’t sure why and your doctor is scratching his head, or maybe you just prefer a more natural and holistic approach to your health care there are other options, one being Ayurveda Medicine.  Ayurveda translates to knowledge of life, is a sister science of yoga, and dates back 5,000 years to the Vedas, the ancient Sanskrit texts!

I was first introduced to Ayurveda Medicine by a practitioner on my 28th birthday (the number 28 is significant in Ayurveda, I was officially an adult according to her, when I was in my teacher training program at YogaWorks.  Upon meeting her, she was extremely warm and friendly, I assumed she was in her early 40’s…  I was SHOCKED at the end of class when she confessed she was actually pushing 70!  For vanity reasons alone I wanted to learn more about Ayurveda if I could age like her.

So what is the knowledge of life?  Ayurveda is a system of healing that examines physical constitution, emotional nature, and spiritual outlook in the context of the universe.  According to the philosophy, the universal life force can manifest as three different energies, called doshas, within us known as vata (airy), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth).  We’re all made up of a unique combination of these three forces, which is determined at the moment of conception and is you prakriti (nature). Though everyone has some of each, most people tend to have an abundance of one or two of the doshas.

According to your environment, your diet, the seasons, climate, your age, and other factors your doshas can fluctuate and as they move in and out of balance, the doshas can affect your health, energy level, and general mood.

To stay in balance is a multi step approach and if you’re interested in Ayurveda I would first try to identify your doshas by taking this dosha quiz, next depending on your needs meet with an ayurveda practitioner for a specialized overview of your current health and future needs, and then follow their prescriptions, from which types of foods, herbs, and cleanses best match your needs and possibly what yoga poses will bring you the best health.  Hopefully you’ll start observing improved health as you incorporate Ayurveda in to your life!

See below for a narrative description and chart of the three types of doshas.

Be Inspired,

Kelly

Kapha types have strong frames and are naturally athletic as long they are exercising regularly to manage their tendency to gain weight. The influence of the earth and water elements makes them innately stable, compassionate, and loyal. They appreciate doing things in a methodical, step-by-step manner, and prefer a regular routine in their personal and professional lives. When imbalanced they can become unmotivated, stubborn, and complacent even when change is necessary. Their metabolism tends to be slow and their appetite for both food and stimulation is less intense than vata or pitta types. They benefit from exposing themselves to new environments, people, and occasionally fasting.

Pitta types are dominated by the fire element, which makes them innately strong, intense, and irritable. They tend to have a medium build and endurance with powerful musculature. They often have freckled skin that easily reddens in the sun, during exercise, massage, and when blushing. They are strong willed and good at doing what they think is right. They approach work and play with the same intensity and competitiveness. They are natural leaders and quick learners whose ability to easily comprehend and master new skills and concepts can make them judgmental or impatient toward people they feel are slower or less focused than themselves. They have strong digestion and intense appetites, both for food and challenges. If they miss a meal they are likely to become grumpy and may take a “bite” out of somebody instead. It is common for them to suffer from health conditions such as inflammation, rashes, acne, and loose stool. For balance, pittas need to manage their “fiery” tendencies, channeling them in productive ways and learning to recognize their destructive power.

Vata types tend to be thin and lanky. They are very mentally and physically active and enjoy creative endeavors, meeting new people, and traveling to new places. When they are balanced, vatas are flexible, have lively imaginations, and are original thinkers. When imbalanced they can get anxious, ungrounded, and can seem “flaky” about fulfilling commitments, sticking to a routine, and completing projects. They tend to run cold and dry and enjoy warm, humid weather. It’s common for vata types to experience cold hands and feet, constipation, dry skin, and cracking joints. The influence of the air element in their constitution causes their energy, mood, and appetite to fluctuate dramatically. For this reason vata types often fail to eat and sleep regularly, swinging from eating heavy foods to ground and sedate themselves, or ingesting stimulants like coffee and sugar to sustain intense physical or mental activity. Insomnia and low immunity are very common problem for the sensitive vata person.

Bi-doshic indicates that you share qualities strongly with two doshic types, and is actually how most of us are. People with dual constitutions (vata-pitta, pitta-kapha, and vata-kapha) are, in a sense, “split.” Under certain conditions, one dosha will predominate and under other circumstances the other dosha will.

vata pitta kapha
ELEMENT Air and Ether Fire Earth and Water
QUALITIES Dry, rough, cool, mobile Hot, light Heavy, moist, cool, stable
OUT OF BALANCE Flighty, worried, fearful Irritable, judgmental Lethargic, stubborn, prone to overeating
IN BALANCE Creative, lively Motivated, purposeful Stable, thoughtful, compassionate
PRONE TO Constipation, lower back pain, anxiety, joint problems Acne, diarrhea Sinus problems, respiratory diseases, inflammation
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