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Your Guide to the Ayurveda Lifestyle

Ayurveda is a system for keeping your mind and body balanced through your diet, lifestyle, and sleep. It was developed by yogis in India seeking to optimize their ability to access spiritual knowledge about 5,000 years ago. These same mystical aficionados developed the practice we know as yoga today.

Traditional yogis ate specific herbs and plants that balanced their emotions based on their dominant dosha. A dosha is essentially the physical and emotional body type you were born with, which can fluctuate slightly depending on environment, stress, diet, and exercise.

There are three doshas and each have recommended lifestyle tips we can use to balance our mind and body. Ayurveda is known as the sister science to yoga.

Ayurveda in Your Daily Life

Ayurveda, or ayurvedic medicine, is a healthy-lifestyle system that people in India have used for more than 5,000 years. Ayurveda emphasizes good health and prevention and treatment of illness through lifestyle practices (such as massage, meditation, yoga, and dietary changes) and the use of herbal remedies.” - Sahara Rose Ketabi

Modern science in the West often refers to the three body types as mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph, which reflect the three doshas discovered by the ancient sages.

The Sanskrit terms are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Most people have one dominant dosha and a secondary dosha. This interesting science allows you to look at someone’s physical constitution and deduce their core personality, food preferences and even sleep patterns. For example, slow-moving Kapha often has wide hands and feet, thick hair and a naturally heavy build while a Vata is thin, tall, and moves around quickly.

The 3 Doshas & Their Elements:

We have all three doshas to a certain degree in our lives. Ideally, we find balance in the ways that each of these doshas express themselves. Because this system is so old, it is also something that cannot be mastered by reading one article. Your dominant dosha can be determined by in-depth quizzes developed by Ayurvedic experts. When we are born, we have one dominant dosha, which is our prakruti. This is our natural constitution which we can learn about in order to keep our emotions and health as balanced as possible. The fluctuating imbalance that we are constantly paying attention to is referred to as vikriti. Imbalances are revealed by low energy, negative emotional states, and health problems. The solution mostly lies in balancing the elements using herbs and foods.

The two main principles that guide Ayurveda are that the mind and the body are inextricably connected and nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind. The mind becomes aware of the state it’s in through meditation and then chooses how to best regulate the body chemistry like adding colors to a painting to get the desired result, except the colors are a variety of plants.

Vata

Vata is linked to the air element. Someone with a dominant Vata dosha is often thin and has a small bone structure. They are likely to forget to eat and even have irregular sleep patterns. They get scatterbrained and anxious if they have too much caffeine because their metabolism and brain are already active by nature. They often have trouble putting on weight or keeping it on so eating foods with healthy fats is essential to staying well. Because they have a lot of mental energy they can stay balanced by eating root vegetables and cooked vegetables. Eating on a regular schedule can help reduce scattered thinking and anxiety that can come from hyperactivity or too much mental stimulation. An exercise that is fast could lead to too much energy and slower more deliberate exercise is recommended. Vata’s don’t do well on an all raw diet and can utilize their natural intellectual abilities best when they eat every couple of hours.

Pitta

Pitta is linked to the fire element. A person with a dominant Pitta dosha will be muscular and athletic. They often have strong motivation, natural leadership abilities and can be a bit aggressive when out of balance. They can have a temper if they do not work to cool their jets through cooling foods and calming exercises. They are advised to avoid spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol because foods with heat will stoke their natural flames into a blazing bonfire so to speak. That can lead to over-acidity in the body which can appear as rashes. The pitta can be a strong and charismatic person when in balance. They are naturally confident and love to accomplish great feats, always willing to take on a challenge. However, they also can tend to be workaholics or perfectionists because of their strong desire to achieve and push themselves. An exercise that calms their nerves helps balance their fast metabolism and foods like cucumber, mint, and slow carb grains can give them proper energy that balances their emotions. Skipping meals will make a Pitta dominant person ‘hangry,’ and they need to have snacks handy to manage their blood sugar.

Kapha

Kapha is linked to the water and earth elements. These are people who have a slow metabolism, heavier bone structure and tend to move slowly. They crave comfort foods but that can exacerbate their slow metabolism. They should avoid dairy and red meat which require energy to process. They can stick to lightly cooked vegetables, fruit, spicy foods, and some caffeine to boost their metabolism. They can become depressed if they don’t get exercise daily. Fast walking and yoga are great for a Kapha dominant person as well as breath of fire, which boosts their slow metabolism. They are loyal, kind-hearted, salt of the earth type people who tend to put others before themselves. They can fall into laziness if they don’t stay balanced with light foods and daily movement. They often have big eyes, wide cheekbones, and wide hips. They are slow to make big decisions but if out of balance, they can become stubborn and resist necessary change.

Ayurveda & Diet

The foods we eat require a certain amount of digestive power. If we have a slow metabolism, we need to eat foods that do not require a lot of energy to digest. If we are anxious or having insomnia, we can ground ourselves by eating heavier foods. If we are having depression, we can look to eat light to raise our energy levels. Being aware of what emotions and mental states you’re having as well as your energy levels can help you choose which foods will be best for you. Our doshas can fluctuate depending on the weather and other factors such as stress and activity levels. Herbs and spices are used as medicine to help balance your stress levels as they fluctuate by helping your hormones stay balanced.

We look at foods in terms of their bitterness, sweetness, spiciness, sourness, and heaviness to manage the metabolic rate as well as mental energy. Someone with too much creativity and no ability to implement could look to ground their energy while someone with no creativity and too much analytical energy could look to the stimulating foods. We start to see our energy in a much more intimate and chemical manner and we study how the shifting environment and demands of our lives require new foods to be introduced or eliminated. There are seasons that are dominated by each dosha and we can adjust our diet to balance those energies as well although that is more in-depth than we are going today.

Other Ayurveda Practices

Ayurveda could be considered a lifestyle that prevents sickness because it’s not just about diet. There are practices which help cleanse the body and even hours of the day when it’s recommended to do certain things based on the way our body interacts with the planet. For instance, our brain is most active from 10AM-2PM and that the time when we can get things done and be most alert. The Ayurvedic clock is a schedule that can help optimize your energy. There are actually times during the day when certain doshas dominate but don’t get too caught up with that while your first learning.

Ayurveda includes many daily cleansing rituals such as morning tongue scraping, which helps remove toxins from the mouth, as well as 20 minutes of oil-pulling, which is traditionally done with sesame oil swished in the mouth and then spit out to collect bacteria. Other practices such as dry brushing the skin and massaging the body with almond oil before a cold shower helps the body stay free of toxins. The use of a neti pot is another cleansing mechanism used in Ayurveda. Those who developed this system and use it see the body as a temple for the soul and modern humans use it as a sophisticated healthy system for optimal well being.

Related Article: Beginner’s Guide to Hatha Yoga

Shannon Yrizarry

Shannon Yrizarry

Trusting her intuition has brought Shannon a wealth of gifts and she brings this wisdom to Daily Life … daily! Instead of following the "norms" of career development, Shannon followed her gut. It's led her to some extraordinary places and experiences as a healer, clairvoyant, metaphysical teacher and Kundalini yoga instructor.... Read More

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