Most of us are familiar by now with golden milk, the benefits of turmeric, and several other recipes stemming from Ayurveda. But what is it really? Ayurveda literally means “the science of life” (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge. It is an ancient holistic healing science over 5,000 years old focusing on all areas of health, including diet, lifestyle, exercise, digestion, detoxification, sleep, and the mind. Achieving balance on all levels of being, not just eating a healthy diet, represents vibrant health.
According to Ayurveda, health is a continuous and participatory process that embraces all aspects of life: physical, mental, emotional, behavioral, spiritual, familial, social, and universal. Ayurveda emerged from the sacred texts of ancient India, known as the Vedas, or “Books of Wisdom.” There is no “one-size-fits-all” in Ayurvedic medicine. Every individual is a one-of-a-kind with a unique blueprint for health. There is, however, an emphasis on supporting our true individual natures and recognizing the power of self-healing within. As we always say, the body has an incredible capacity for self-healing if we set the right conditions for it to do so.
Ayurveda says that each individual along with nature in its entirety is comprised of the five fundamental elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. These elements uniquely combine within each of us, creating a unique blueprint known as our dosha. The doshas govern all physical and mental processes and provide every living being with an individual blueprint for health and fulfillment. While one dosha tends to dominate in most individuals, a second dosha typically has a strong influence.
There are 3 main Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
VATTA – SPACE / AIR – FORCE OF MOBILITY
Controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and heartbeat.
Vata characteristics include:
Creative, excitable, lively, fun, and dreamy
Quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget
Slender and tall, with a tendency toward cold hands and feet
Irregular daily routine
Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance
A tendency to act on impulse
Often have racing, disjointed thoughts
Generally have thin, dry skin and dry hair
PITTA – FIRE / WATER – FORCE OF TRANSFORMATION
Controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and body temperature.
Pitta characteristics include:
Fiery, passionate, and determined
Sharp, orderly, and focused
Medium physique, strong, well-built
Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial
Aggressive, irritated and angry when out of balance
Strong digestion and strong appetite
Fair or reddish skinned, often with freckles
Uncomfortable in hot weather
Physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, heartburn, insomnia, and/or burning eyes
KAPHA – WATER / EARTH – FORCE OF COHESION
Controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.
Kapha characteristics include:
Easygoing, calm, relaxed, affectionate and loving
Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature
Stable, reliable, faithful and loyal
Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build
Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory
Smooth hair and skin
Prone to depression
Excellent health, good immune system
Strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings
Tend to be possessive and hold on to things
Don’t like cold, damp weather
Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, and respiratory problems
THE THREE DOSHIC STATES
1. Balanced – All three doshas are present in their natural proportions.
2. Aggravated – A particular dosha is present in a greater-than-normal proportion; also referred to as an “excess” state.
3. Depleted – A particular dosha is present in a less-than-normal proportion; also referred to as a “reduced” state.
Doshic imbalances can arise from any number of influences, including an aggravating diet, exercising incorrectly, not managing stress properly, etc. We want to remain as balanced as possible for optimal health.
The ancient healing science of Ayurveda encompasses so much more – connecting mind, body, soul, and spirit. This is just the beginning. We recommend taking a dosha quiz online or seeing an Ayurvedic or Functional Medicine practitioner to identify your individual constitution. Experiment with adhering to some of the dosha-specific recommendations and see how your health is affected.
Written by Hannah Aylward
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