Introduction To Ayurveda
Vata, pitta, kapha, dosha...?
I remember when I first heard these words they sounded like some secret language that I had no skills of deciphering. I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of constitutions, and I was more confused than convinced of the effectiveness of Ayurveda.
But year after year, as I learned more about different types of healing and the nature of our universe, these concepts suddenly started to make sense and I saw a clear connection between many different ancient and alternative medicine systems and Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is kind of like Finnish people - it takes a bit of effort to get to know them and establish the friendship, but once you do, you’ll have a friend for life that you can always rely on.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is an ancient system of healing with origins in the Vedic culture of India. It’s a holistic approach to health that ties in wellbeing in all aspects of our being: our mind, body and consciousness.
The sanskrit meaning of Ayurveda translates to“The Science of Life" or "The Sacred Knowledge of Life”.
Just like yoga and meditation, Ayurveda has also adapted to the modern society and some of its practices have changed over the years. However, its philosophy and basic core is still deeply rooted in ancient India.
Ayurveda places great emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health using different therapies and holistic healing modalities.
Different Applications Of Ayurveda:
Panchakarma (Ayurvedic detox)
Ayurvedic Massage & Treatments
Marma Therapy (Energy Healing)
Yoga & Meditation
Ayurvedic Constitutions - Three Doshas
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, our entire universe comprises of five elements : Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Vata, pitta and kapha are combinations of these five elements that are present in all that exists. These are called doshas, the ayurvedic constitutions.
Just as everyone has a unique genes, each person has a unique combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics—which comprises their own constitution.
All people have the qualities of vata, pitta and kapha, but one is usually most dominant than others.
The cause of disease in Ayurveda is viewed as an imbalance of the doshas or by the presence of ama, anything undigested (food, feelings, thoughts). Auyrveda seeks to remove the harmful ama and restore the balance in our doshas.
Now let's look closer at these three constitutions and what they look like in balance and out of balance.
Kapha is the energy that forms the body’s structure — bones, muscles, tendons — and provides the “glue” that holds the cells together. In balance, kapha is expressed as love, calmness and forgiveness. Out of balance, it leads to attachment, greed and envy and may manifest as symptoms such as constipation, edema, tiredness, breathing difficulties and foggy mind.
Other ways to balance your Kapha:
Get plenty of exercise (regularly)
Avoid dairy, fatty and oily foods
Avoid iced food or drinks
Vary your routine
Eat light, dry food
Wake up before 6 AM and don't take daytime naps
Vata is all about the movement. It governs breathing, blinking, muscle and tissue movement, and pulsation of the heart. In balance, vata is expressed as creativity and flexibility. Out of balance, vata produces fear and anxiety and can manifest in symptoms such as dry skin, cold extremities, hoarse throat, restless legs, hiccups, stiff muscles and joints, vertigo, tinnitus, memory problems, fearful dreams, and tremors.
Other ways to balance your Vata:
Meditate and practice Nadi Shodana
Avoid cold, frozen or raw foods
Eat warm foods and spices
Maintain a regular routine, go to bed before 10pm
Try Abhyanga (self-massage)
Get plenty of rest
Pitta expresses as the body’s metabolic system. It governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism and body temperature. In balance, pitta manifests as understanding and intelligence. When out of balance it provokes anger, self-criticism, jealousy and can manifest in symptoms such as diarrea, nausea, heartburn, agitation, teeth sensitivity, excess sweating, blushed nose, cheeks or ears, yellow eyes, acne, liver issues, burnout, inflammation and problems with digestion.
Other ways to balance your Pitta:
Play with children and pets, have fun!
Stop taking yourself so seriously
Avoid excessive heat
Avoid excessive oil and limit salt intake
Eat cooling, non-spicy foods
Exercise during the cooler part of the day and avoid the mid-day sun
Practice loving kindness meditation
Spend time in nature, especially close to water
You are born with fixed constitution, Vikruti, which stays the same throughout your whole life but you also have Prakruti, your currently governing dosha, that changes depending of your life choices.To find balance, you need to take both into consideration.
Generally Kapha is more present in the childhood, pitta rules the adulthood and vata once we get older. Some people can also have two equally strong constitutions. Everyone is different!
If you don’t know which is your most prominent constitution, I recommend consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner or taking an online dosha quiz to find out. However, the tests online can sometimes be inaccurate (and usually they don't separate your vikruti and prakruti) so I recommend taking various tests to assure your results make sense. You can even take the same test twice first with answers that are based on your whole life and then just considering the last few weeks.
Another man's meat is another man's poison
Understanding the concept of constitutions might be confusing at first but the idea behind it is very simple : Everything in the universe is made of these three constitutions and ayurveda
seeks to bring them into balance so we can live in harmony without disease.
Ayurveda addresses the underlying reason why there is no one magic diet or form of exercise for everyone. We all are made from different building blocks and therefore we need equally unique tools for healing and wellbeing.
Ayurveda enables you to understand yourself better and learn how to make lifestyle changes to find and maintain balance.