An Introduction to Ayurveda
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Resolutions can be made any time—no matter how far away you go from yourself, you can always come back to your true balanced nature. Consider Ayurveda your step-by-step guide in making that possible.
Another new year, another list of resolutions. If you’ve been thinking about ways to “better” yourself or find more balance in your life, ponder this: What if you actually didn’t need to improve, but instead needed to come back to the way you already are? When your mind, body, and spirit are aligned, you operate in a natural state of ease and this place of balance is actually your natural state, the way you already are. Living out of sync with nature’s rhythm causes sickness, stress, and dis-ease. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda helps to uncover the easeful, balanced place within by recognizing your very unique constitution and identifies the ways you can live in harmony with your surroundings. This year’s resolution? Uncover your natural state of being—balance through a daily experience of conscious living.
Practiced in India for at least 5,000 years, the ancient lifestyle practice of Ayurveda remains the time tested way to bring our bodies, minds, and spirits back into balance with the ebb and flow of our surroundings. External circumstances (seasonal changes, job changes, loss, pregnancy, moving to a new city or state) are constantly in flux, meaning self-care must also ebb and flow in response to what’s going on around you. Ayurveda provides the tools and knowledge to avoid dis-ease (imbalance) and bring you closer to your natural state of ease (balance).
We begin by identifying our unique individual constitution or “dosha,” which is our personal makeup of the three energies called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata, governed by the elements air and ether, is the energy that controls kinetic bodily functions such as the beating of your heart and the circulating of blood throughout the body. Vata types are super creative, bursting with ideas, and are often makers of some sort when they’re in balance. An imbalanced Vata may suffer from poor sleep, dry skin, anxiety, and an overall sense of feeling ungrounded.
Pitta dosha represents the fire element in each of us, and regulates the body’s temperature, digestion, and transformation. Those with a predominant Pitta dosha tend to be intelligent, focused, and motivated, while an imbalanced Pitta is quick to anger, may suffer from heartburn or indigestion, can be competitive, and has a tendency to over exert themselves.
Kapha, the water element, is the dosha that maintains the immune system while providing structure and fluids throughout the body. Kapha types often have thick, lustrous hair, exude a nurturing, motherly energy, and tend to be stable in life. However, an out of balance Kapha can begin to feel heavy, congested, and have a hard time letting go.
Keep in mind everyone has a bit of each dosha as part of their makeup. The intelligence of Ayurveda helps us identify how we fit into the big scheme of things, and offers accessible practices to bring our minds, bodies, and spirits back into alignment.
These three doshas govern not just our own constitution, but everything around us, as well. In Ayurveda, the seasons are divided into three parts—three doshas for three seasons. Vata season is the time from late fall to early winter. Kapha season marks the coldest part of the winter into early spring time. Pitta season is the hottest time of the year, from late fall to early spring. Understanding the qualities of each dosha/season aids in maintaining balance as the seasons shift and change.
During the season of your predominant dosha, life is more likely to feel off kilter for you, so it’s the time to truly amp up the self-care routines! Here in the south we have a predominantly Pitta climate, so all we need to engage in more Pitta pacifying practices to keep cool. This means predominant Pitta doshas need to be extra cautious of falling out of balance while living in a hot climate, so trade your spin class for some yin yoga ASAP. If you are predominantly of Vata constitution, it is imperative to find some kind of routine in your life during Vata season. This could be a simple ritual, such as making coffee quietly in the dark of the early morning before the kids wake up, five or 10 minutes of meditation each morning, or taking some time to journal and set an intention before starting the day. Kaphas need to be sure to make time each day to move their bodies, especially during Kapha season, and to avoid getting sucked into repeat episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Below you’ll find a quick guide for practices, foods, and habits that aggravate or pacify each dosha. Keep in mind, just because dry foods like chips and popcorn aggravate Vata dosha, this doesn’t mean Vatas should never eat them. It means enjoy in moderation and increase the practices that pacify the qualities of Vata.