Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic system of health and wellbeing. It uses a very individualistic approach that gives each of us the power to bring ourselves into balance and maintain a state of vibrant wellness. Whereas Western medicine seeks to treat symptoms and disease after they appear, Ayurveda teaches us how to live in a way that prevents health problems before they arise.
In our society, we have become obsessed with finding the “right” way to do things, and thus have been left with a slew of contradictory advice about what we should eat and how we should live our lives. Some advocate low fat diets, others high fat. There is high carb/low carb, vegetarian versus Paleo, raw or not.. it can be overwhelming and exhausting trying to navigate through all of this to find an answer for how to simply live! Ayurveda does not adhere to any one diet. Instead it asks you to identify your own mind-body type (called your dosha) and then practice eating and living in ways that are harmonious with it. This may be tricky at first, but will eventually become second nature and you will find yourself living in a state of vibrant health and balance!
The Three Doshas:
- Vata: Out of the five elements, vata is associated with air/ether. A vata person is usually thin with cool, dry skin and dark, dry hair. They are often light sleepers, energetic, and creative, though with a tendency toward anxiety.
- Pitta: Pitta is associated with the element of fire. A pitta person will have a medium shape with warm, freckly skin and neither dry nor oily hair. They are considered to be highly intelligent and have the potential for great leadership but are also known for their quick tempers.
- Kapha: Water/earth are the elements associated with the kapha dosha. A kapha person generally has a thicker, sturdier frame with thick, moist skin and full, shiny hair. They are very sound sleepers and great nurturers but can struggle with feeling lazy.
Note: most people find they are either a combination of two of the doshas or identify strongly with just one. It is possible, but quite rare, for someone to have a nearly equal balance of all three doshas, which is known as tridoshic. Your constitution is set from birth and will not change, however if you are not living in balance with your dosha you may experience periods of higher levels of one or more of the other types.
Want to know your mind-body constitution? Take my Dosha Quiz!
How to find balance:
Okay, so you have identified your doshic type, but now what? Easy. If I could sum up the basic principles of Ayurveda in one sentence it would be this: like increases like, while opposites balance. This means that you will have elevated levels of certain qualities depending on your constitution. Eating foods or doing activities with the same qualities can increase these levels and push you out of balance. Striving for a diet and lifestyle with the opposite qualities will essentially ‘check’ your dosha and help keep you in balance.
Example: if you are a pitta person, you already have a lot of fire and heat in your body so doing hot yoga or eating a lot of acidic or spicy foods will probably cause you to overheat. This will likely lead to you losing your temper and giving everyone around you a dose of what I like to call the “pitta rage”. You would be better off practicing yin yoga or swimming, and eating foods with cooling qualities. If you are a dry vata person, choosing granola for breakfast is probably not smart. Opt for soaked oatmeal with an extra dose of healthy fat instead. A kapha person will be easily imbalanced by the heavy, coldness of most dairy products and might want to consider limiting those items in their diet. A high energy vata might become way too spaced out by running whereas a kapha individual would thrive on the extra boost. There are no hard and fast rules, no “good” or “bad” foods, and no single approach. What will work for one person, won’t for another, and may even change from time to time. That is what I love about Ayurveda, and I think you will too!
Have you ever heard of Ayurveda? Interested in trying it out?