What is Ayurveda?

what is ayurveda?

 
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What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is the world’s oldest and longest standing health system, that originated in ancient India 5,000 years ago. It is the “sister science” of yoga, where yoga is about the spiritual aspect of being, while Ayurveda is concerned with the physical and mental aspects of our being. The Sanskrit term Ayurveda translates to “the science of life” (ayus = life, veda = science). The Ayurvedic system takes a holistic, preventative approach to wellness, considering the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life. The main goal of Ayurveda is to restore balance to the body and mind, so that one can reach their full potential and become their highest self.

5 Elements

The foundation of the entire physical world, including our bodies, are based upon five key elements:

  1. Ether/space

  2. Air

  3. Fire

  4. Water

  5. Earth

In relation to the physical body, Ether relates to the mouth, nostrils, throat, abdomen, respiratory tract, and cells. Air relates to our muscles, lungs, intestines, cell movement, and touch. Fire relates to the metabolism, enzymes, digestion, and sight. Water relates to plasma, blood, saliva, digestive juices, and taste. Earth is manifested in our bones, teeth, nails, muscles, tendons, cartilage, and hair.

Ayurveda combines these elements into three basic types of energetic, subtle bodies, known as the three doshas.

Three Doshas

Ayurveda combines the five elements into three basic types of subtle energy bodies (not physical), known as the three doshas.


Vatta = space + air

Pitta = fire + water

Kapha = Water + Earth


While we have all three doshas, one or two dominant our being. When we are born, we are in perfect balance of our natural typography (known as the “prakruthi state”). As we go through life, our living environments, lifestyles, habits, diets, emotions, stresses, and the flux of the universe, all affect our dosha balance. What results is our “vikruti”, or the current percent balance of the doshas. When your doshas are imbalanced from your natural state, then you are susceptible to illnesses and diseases of the physical body and the mind. Ultimately, Ayurveda aims to restore balance to the doshas so that you remain the absolute best version of your true, highest self.


Health = the balance of the doshas

Vata

Vata in Sanskrit means “to move like the wind”, with elements being air and ether (space). Think of that one friend that is able to eat all of the ice cream, pasta, french fries, and carb-y foods in the world and still doesn't gain an ounce of fat. Or that one friend that cannot decide what color shirt to buy so they buy all five colors. Vatas can be a bit in their heads and “spacey”, but they can also be extremely creative, energetic, playful, and in pretty good shape.

Common physical attributes: Thin body/slender, tall, small eyes, dry skin and hair

Tendencies: Experiences bursts of energy and fatigue, quick memory, very active, walks fast, speaks fast, lively, creative thinker, energetic, don’t like cold weather, overthinks situations, difficulty making decisions

Imbalances: Can suffer from anxiety, fear, insomnia, overactivity, overindulgence, dry skin and hair, brittle bones, cold hands and feet

Pitta

Pitta in Sanskrit means “to heat” or “to burn”, with elements being fire and water. Pittas are passionate in nature, with an ambitious, go-getter mentality. They can have strong personalities that often help them achieve their goals, but sometimes find themselves in trouble when their fiery personality clashes with others. Sometimes Pittas need to coooolll down and take a chill pill.

Common physical attributes: Medium build, strong, naturally muscular, blue/green/hazel eyes, fair skin that burns easily

Tendencies: Decisive, outspoken, high energy, ambitious, competitive, disciplined, argumentative, short-tempered, stubborn

Imbalances: Excess spicy, greasy, and salty foods may aggravate digestion. May experience skin rashes, excessive body heat/sweat, heartburn, indigestion. Can be aggravated, aggressive, and judgmental towards others.

Kapha

Kapha in Sanskirt means “to embrace”, with elements being water and earth. Kaphas have a super chill vibe, and prefer slow paced, easy living. They like sleeping in until 11am on a Sunday and going all out on brunch, versus hitting the gym for an intense workout sesh. Kaphas are the ones you can talk about anythingggg with, and know you’ll get all of the support and guidance you need. They make ya feel loved.

Common physical attributes: Thick hair, smooth or oily skin, heavier build, large eyes

Tendencies: Forgiving, calm, loving, peaceful, slow to learn, long term memory, easy going, don’t like moist or wet weather

Imbalances: Lack of stimulation, overeating, diet too high in sugar, fat, salt, and lack of exercise, can cause excessive weight gain. May experience excessive sleep, feelings of jealousy or insecurity.


[What is your dosha? Take the quiz to find out!]

Balancing the Doshas

Ayurveda is based on the principles of “like attracts like” and that opposites help balance one another. For instance, if you are a Vata, you may naturally be attracted to more creative activities, forms of exercise that get your heart rate up, and foods that are on the lighter, colder side like salads or fruit smoothies. But to help keep your dosha in balance, Vatas may need to practice more meditation to help ease their racing minds, give their bodies adequate rest from exercise, and consume warmer, earthier foods like soups or root vegetables.

Keeping balance of the doshas is essential for attaining optimal health for the mind, body, and spirit. Since Ayurveda is an entire system for living, there are many factors that can affect our dosha balance, including:

  • Environment: The cities we live in, the weather, our workplace, how we decorate our homes, and the people we spend time with, all affect our doshas! Surround yourself in a space that brings you peace, and people who elevate you to become the best version of you.

  • Nutrition/diet: The Ayurvedic diet is about eating foods that help maintain balance of our dosha (or dosha combination), so that we remain the healthiest versions of ourselves. Ayurveda take into account the subtle energies of food (non-physical components), and how they affect both our minds and bodies. Change your food, change your mind. [Learn more about the Ayurvedic diet here]

  • Herbs: Ayurveda uses herbs to help correct imbalances of the doshas, that are typically used in liquid or dry form, although they can also come in the form of powder or tablet. The rasas (tastes) and gunas (energetic properties) of the herbs promote their effects and help with dosha balance. Common herbs include gotu kala and ginseg for Vatas, aloe vera, comfrey, and saffron for Pittas, and elecampane and honey for Kaphas.

  • Exercise: Movement is medicine. When we move our physical bodies, we are allowing prana, the life force energy of our existence, to flow through us. Taking time everyday to exercise whether it be hitting the gym, dancing in your room, taking your fav yoga class, or simply talking a walk outside in nature, can make worlds of a difference in how you feel inside and out. Get movin’!

  • Self-care practices: Self care isn’t selfish, it’s sacred. Taking quality time to replenish your mind, body, and spirit is so so so important for keeping your doshas in balance. In Ayurveda, a few common self care practices include self-massage with oil, dry brushing your skin, spending time in nature, and oil pulling (aka rinsing your mouth with oil before your brush your teeth). Do what makes you become your highest self.

  • Meditation: When you completely clear your mind, you enter this cool space of being between your thoughts. Meditation can get you to a state that really has no words to describe it. You just simply be and you just are. There are various ways to meditate, where you can sit in complete silence, listen to a guided meditation, repeat mantras, etc. Really anything that allows you to separate from your thoughts is a form of meditation. Add meditation into your daily routine and it will change your life. Trust me.

  • Yoga: The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yug, which means “to join”. Yoga is about the union of the individual consciousness with the divine or universal consciousness. The practice of yoga helps bring vitality and balance to all three doshas. There are lots of variations of yoga, so find a style that helps keep your dosha in balance (sometimes this means realllly slowing down for the Vatas and Pittas out there. I know you all love your Vinyasa flows, but sometimes you need to slow it dowwwn even more).

  • Pranayama: Pranayama is basically just controlled breathing. It is derived from the Sanskrit word prana, meaning “life force” and yama meaning “control”. Practicing controlled breathing exercises help clear mental blockages and calm the body down, allowing life energy to flow freely.

Live Your Best Life with Ayurveda

Ultimately, the way we choose to live our lives affects how we feel mentally, physically, and spiritually. If your lifestyle isn’t allowing you to reach your true potential or mantai your prakruthi state (natural dosha balance), change it. All that we have in life is what we believe we deserve, nothing less, and nothing more. Prioritize your well being at the mind-body levels, and give yourself permission to live your absolute best life. You deserve it.

 

 
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Take the dosha quiz.

Discover your Ayurvedic mind-body type—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Learn about each dosha and how to maintain balance.