Would you like more power, greater energy and deeper connection in your life?
Look no further than Ayurveda, the 5000 year old sister science to yoga.
The word ‘Ayur’ means knowledge/wisdom and the word ‘Veda’ means life. Ayurveda is the knowledge or wisdom of life. Ayurveda’s wisdom deepens your connection to who you are, and aligns you with the natural world that you call home.
The study and practice of Ayurveda is a journey to greater self-awareness. When you cultivate self-awareness, you increase your personal power. There is no greater empowerment than to know yourself well enough to make healthy choices that contribute to becoming the healthiest YOU in body and mind.
Here’s how I like to break it down for beginners:
The 5 Elements and their Qualities
Ayurveda is based on the 5 elements of nature: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (Space). Each element has an associated set of qualities. For example, Earth is heavy, cool, static and dense. Water is cool, liquid and heavy. Fire is hot, sharp and light. Air is mobile, cold, rough and dry. Ether is subtle, clear and light.
There are 20 specific qualities of nature according to Ayurveda. I won’t list them all here, but the ones listed above give you an idea. The 20 qualities are a pair of 10 opposites: light/heavy, cold/hot, mobile/static and so on.
In its simplest form, Ayurveda is the practice of introducing opposite quality and action into your diet and lifestyle to counter the quality and action of your current imbalance. The practice of opposite action and quality is also important for seasonal health
The 3 Doshas
Ayurveda organizes the 5 elements into 3 Doshas or constitutions. The word Dosha means ‘that which is most likely to go out of balance.’ The 3 Doshas are Vata (Air and Ether), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Earth and Water). Your constitution never changes, but it does go out of balance due to diet and lifestyle choices.
Each of us has all 3 Doshas present in our bodies. Most of us have one predominant Dosha or 2 Doshas that are almost of equal portion (dual Doshic).
Here’s an overview of each Dosha and how to incorporate opposite quality/action to bring it back into balance in your body:
Elements: Air and Ether
Main function: Movement. Vata influences the nervous system and all movement in the body including peristalsis, elimination, circulation, respiration, birthing, and expression of emotions.
Qualities: light, cold, dry, rough, mobile/erratic, clear, subtle.
Time of Day: 2 – 6 a.m. and 2 – 6 p.m.
Season: Fall through early winter.
Body type: People with a predominant Vata Dosha tend to be small framed, thin and light. They tend toward low stamina and energy, and often experience poor circulation, cold extremities and dry skin.
In the mind: Positive traits include creativity, enthusiasm, freedom, joy, vitality, adaptability and generosity.
Vata out of balance: When Vata is aggravated it can show up as gas, bloating and constipation. Stiff muscles and joints, cramps and spasms may indicate that Vata is high. In the mind, heightened fear, anxiety, worry and scattered thoughts become more common. Lower immunity, insomnia and mood fluctuations are also indications that Vata needs attention.
Tips to balance Vata:
- Develop and maintain a steady daily routine around meal times, exercise and sleep.
- Practice relaxing and mindful activities that are grounding such as yoga, meditation, belly breathing, yoga nidra and warm oil massage.
- Dress warmly and avoid the cold.
- Eat cooked, moist and oily foods.
- Use digestive spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric in teas and cooking.
- Use herbal formulas that include adaptogenic and nervine herbs such as Bacopa, Ashwagandha and Ginseng for the mind.
- Moderate cold drinks, raw foods (like salads) and caffeine.
Elments: Fire and Water
Main function: Transformation and digestion.
Qualities: Hot, sharp, light, oily, and liquid.
Time of day: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Season: Late spring through summer.
Body Type: People with predominant Pitta Dosha tend to be of medium, muscular build. They enjoy strong digestion, steady energy and good circulation. They tend to be strong and naturally athletic.
In the mind: Driven, ambitious, focused, strong-willed, confident, courageous and intelligent are words that can be used to describe someone with predominant Pitta Dosha. They enjoy gaining knowledge and experience, and have an aptitude for self-study and growth.
Pitta out of balance: When Pitta is out of balance in the body it can show up as inflammation, infection, skin irritation and breakouts, fever, bleeding, loose stool and burning sensations. Feelings of anger, jealousy, hyper-competitiveness and narcissism can manifest in the mind with increased Pitta.
Tips to Balance Pitta:
- Eat cooling foods and herbs such as cucumber, cilantro, coconut, aloe, dandelion, pomegranate, lavender, passionflower and bitter greens.
- Practice relaxation and meditation to cool excess Pitta in the mind and body.
- Exercise during the coolest times of day during summer season.
- Moderate alcohol, hot/spicy foods, fermented foods, salt, caffeine and sugar intake.
- Avoid staying up too late (no later than 10 p.m.).
- Moderate intense, competitive and hot forms of exercise/exertion.
Elements: Water and Earth
Main function: Structure and lubrication.
Qualities: Heavy, cold, oily, slow, slimy, soft, static, dense, liquid.
Time of day: 6 – 10 a.m. and 6 – 10 p.m.
Season: Late winter through early spring.
Body type: Kapha types have large bone structure, round bodies and tend to gain weight easily. They have large, lustrous eyes and lustrous hair. Someone with predominant Kapha Dosha moves slowly, but with great endurance and stamina.
In the mind: Caring, compassionate, nurturing, grounded, patient, supportive and centered are common traits of a person with predominant Kapha Dosha.
Kapha out of balance: When Kapha is out of balance it can lead to depression, lethargy, excess mucous, low appetite, swelling, obesity, sweet cravings and high cholesterol. Feelings of attachment, aversion to change, greed, stubbornness and clouded thinking can manifest in the mind when there is excess Kapha.
- Exercise daily (vigorous exercise is good)
- wake up early (between 5 – 6 a.m.)
- Avoid cold drinks and food.
- Drink warm water with lemon throughout the day.
- Eat warming foods with digestive spices such as ginger, cinnamon, clove, turmeric and black pepper.
- Moderate dairy, wheat, sugar, salt and snacking between meals.
- Avoid sleeping during the day and sleeping in.
You were born with a unique combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha in your body. Your knowledge and understanding of this unique combination is an important part of optimizing your health, wellbeing and immunity.
Once you know the qualities in your body and mind that are most likely to go out of balance (Dosha), you can then incorporate foods, routines and activities of the opposite qualities to restore balance and energy.
To begin your journey you can practice self-study by taking a Dosha quiz online, and reading books and articles (like this one). You can also start to notice the qualities in nature around you and in your body and mind. Pause and ask yourself from time to time: What are the qualities of this moment?
The next step for deeper understanding, customizing and optimizing your health is to consult with an Ayurveda Health Coach in one-on-one coaching and/or group coaching.
Click here for my one-on-one Ayurveda Health Coaching programs that help you become the healthiest YOU with Dosha and seasonal balance, focus on your current imbalance, your health goals and an accountability partner 🙂