What's all this hype about Ayurveda?

Chances are if you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve come across the word Ayurveda. If you practice yoga, you’ve definitely heard of Ayurveda but what the heck is it, and how is it relevant to us? I honestly only learned the major concepts of Ayurveda about 1 year ago, but it’s changed my life and truly helped me to maintain better harmony both internally and with my environment.

Ayurveda, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, is one of the oldest medical systems, created over 3,000 years ago in India. Ayurveda is a holistic healing method which works to balance and harmonize the person as a whole, taking the entire self system (e.g. mind, body, energy) and how it relates to environmental changes into account. Ayurveda looks at disease as stemming from two main factors: a disharmonious relationship with the external world such as food, climate, and lifestyle, or a disharmonious relationship between internal energies caused by negative thoughts or emotions. In the world of Ayurveda, 3 energetic properties comprise the internal and external world: vata (air + ether), pitta (fire + water) , and kapha (water + earth). Collectively, these three energies are known as the doshas. Everything contains a different combination of these three energetic properties, including us, and based on our energetic makeup, what we need for achieving balance will vary. Everyone has all three energy types within them at varying ratios, often with one predominate dosha. Ultimate, holistic health of the mind body and spirit is achieved with balance, and balance will look differently for everyone. Don’t worry this will make more sense after you read more about the different doshas below:

Vata ( air + ether)

Physical qualities: tall or short, thin in build with more of a tendency towards lower body weight, dry skin, nervous digestion, and constipation. Vata types are also more vulnerable to cold, dryness, and pain in the joints. Movements may be quicker and more jerky or erratic with bursts of energy but poor stamina.

Psychological qualities: more prone to anxiety, fear, restlessness, and inconsistency with moods. Vatas tend to be more sensitive, expressive, and creative. They like to be busy, moving and doing. They are quick to learn and quick to forget. Vatas are typically drawn to novelty and travel. Vata personality types embody ethereal, air-like qualities and may be described as spacey, ethereal, or artistic but when off balance tend towards fear, anxiety, and aloofness.

Pitta (fire + water)

Physical qualities: medium/average in build and height and a tendency towards good digestion, good circulation, warm and oily skin, normal or loose stool. Pitta types have average energy and stamina. Pitta types are more vulnerable to heat because they already contain the element of fire within.

Psychological qualities: more prone to anger, willfulness, determination, and efficiency. Pitta types tend to be very good business people as they are assertive, goal-oriented, and can have strong opinions. Pitta types embody fire and water qualities so they are often passionate, achievers, but when off balance prone to anger and agitation.

Kapha ( water + earth)

Physical qualities: bigger in build and weight, with a tendency to hold onto weight or water in the body. Kapha types tend to have poor circulation, sluggish digestions with large appetites but poor metabolisms. Physical energy tends to be consistent with good stamina. They are vulnerable to sluggishness, cold and damp weather.

Psychological qualities: more prone to strong, consistent, steadfast emotions. Kaphas tend to be more easy going, content, loyal, and to develop deep connections with others. When off balance, kaphas can tend towards sluggishness, low motivation, laziness, or depression.

Your unique doshic ratio, also called your prakrti, is determined at birth and cannot be changed. The goal is to keep your energies in balance, so that you never have excess vata, pitta, or kapha. Lifestyle and food choices are prescribed based on what imbalance you’re experiencing at present. Based on your doshic makeup, what you need for balance will differ. For example, vatas, since they embody the properties of air and either, need structure and consistency to ground them. Kaphas, since they embody earth and water need movement to energize them. Pittas since they embody fire and water need moderation, and cooling foods to calm the inner fire. Again, the key is balance. All things have an energetic makeup including food, exercise types, climate, and seasons. Finding the right foods, and lifestyle habits are key in achieving balance in your own energetic makeup. Look for more Ayurveda posts to come and in the meantime, take a dosha quiz to find out your unique prakrti.

Check out my favorite free online dosha quiz here.