In writing articles for the blog about the health benefits of those foods we’re growing I noticed I reference Ayurveda…a lot. I wonder if I’m just rambling-on while few even know what I’m talking about.
To remedy this potential situation I’m gonna school y’all real quick on Ayurveda.
Bring ya up to date on this ancient health system hailing from India. Oh, and when I say “real quick” I should say studying Ayurveda is one of those things that takes a lifetime…maybe two, so give yourself time.
I found Ayurveda when I began studying yoga. This led to two years living and working at a yoga retreat center in California, which was also home to a College of Ayurveda. Knowledge of Ayurveda seeped in like osmosis, it’s the nature of being secluded and surrounded by something.
I find Ayurveda fascinating and over the years have experienced many benefits like reduced anxiety and improved digestion from this lifestyle.
And that’s exactly it Ayurveda is, a lifestyle.
The bottom-line is; Ayurveda’s all about collaboration. It’s between you and your body, what we consume and how we consume it.
Same team here people, same team.
Ayurveda is the study of this, with the ever-present goal of cultivating balance between our body, mind, and spirit.
Ayurveda is not…
- just cooking a certain way. Yes it is plant based/nature based, however it also encompasses your mental state and certain yoga postures to help certain conditions. For instance, if you’re experiencing sluggish digestion then poses with spinal twists or torso compressions may be helpful. In addition, body-work, vastu (which is the Indian version of Feng Shui), astrology, gems, colors, aromas, all of these things are incorporated in Ayurveda. All can facilitate balance or perpetuate imbalance.
- like Western Medicine. There’s no magic pill to take symptoms away. It doesn’t treat acute ailments. I’ve heard this concept described as Ayurveda won’t make you well.
Ayurveda is built on the concept of doshas, an Ayurvedic term for constitution or body-type. Each dosha is a mixture of natural elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. We’re all born with a certain dosha and then it can morph as life kicks in and we eat certain things, do certain things, live in certain climates, seasons change, etc.
The three doshas are: VATA, PITTA, KAPHA, with a mix of two predominant doshas being most common. Oh, there is so much to this really! But basics…
Vata is ruled by the elements of air and ether
Pitta is fire and water
Kapha is water and earth
So it’s common to hear someone described as Vata-Pitta or Pitta-Kapha.
Many Ayurvedc texts describe each dosha according to typical physical and personality characteristics, and this is a simple way to get a grasp on your general body-type, however it just doesn’t do it total justice. To truly know your dosha your pulse and other subtle clues are taken into account, which can be measured by a knowledgeable practitioner.
The pulse is important because Vata, Pitta, and Kapha move through the body and reveal themselves in the pulse. It is possible one practitioner will tell you they read one thing and another will tell you something different. This can be true for many forms of alternative medicine considering a number of variables can manifest as a certain symptom of ailment. This is why I believe it’s important to get familiar with your own system so you can throw-in some of your own body intuition/wisdom.
My personal interest in learning about my dosha began because a practitioner described me as Vata-Kapha, which can have opposite qualities, therefore working against each other. Something I learned from reading a book by a wonderful Ayurvedic doctor named Dr. Vasant Lad (reading list included below) is that a Vata-Kapha can have the physical appearance of a typical Pitta type person. So without the guidance of a practitioner it would appear I’m Pitta, however, I know my personality characteristics aren’t typical of Pitta. So it’s helpful to get guidance and clarity.
When you start to get acquainted with your dosha…
and experience the effects foods and lifestyle have on your system your ability to cultivate personal health and balance skyrockets. However, I’ve heard the feedback we can care too much about being in optimal health and trying to “feel good.” I can agree, sometimes part of finding balance is embracing those moments of feeling less than stellar.
So why don’t we hear about this in our weekly yoga classes?
My first thought is in The U.S. we typically want to focus on the physicality of yoga when we’re in a class for 75 minutes. We go to a yoga class to feel good or sometimes get a workout and to please the entire room.
However, as Ayurveda becomes more prevalent in the west you can find teachers that bring these teachings into class, which I think is awesome and empowering.
Also, if you spend some time studying yoga outside of a class you’ll begin hearing about it as Ayurveda is discussed in ancient yoga texts. In India, where Ayurveda comes from, it’s often engrained in their everyday lives. Passed down from generation to generation.
I’ve had an Indian doctor tell me Ayurveda’s not considered special, it’s just the way it’s done.
So there you have it. Helpful? Not sure. Will this help you next time I reference Ayurveda (probably next post)? Who knows.
Have a question? Ask!
Some books and websites I recommend:
Any book by Dr. Vasant Lad. A good start is The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.
Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution. Dr. Robert Svoboda.
The Yoga of Herbs. Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasanat Lad
Dr. John Douillard and his website www.lifespa.com. He’s got a database of awesome, well researched, videos about different health topics from an Ayurvedic perspective. One of my faves.