Ayurveda is a holistic health system from the East, dating back over 3000 years and holding the origins of many aspects of today’s modern medicine. Consisting of the words Ayur meaning ‘life’ or ‘longevity’ and Veda meaning ‘knowledge’, Ayurveda is known as the knowledge of longevity or the science of life. Having survived for thousands of years, the practices are still as relevant today as they were back then, and by diving into this fascinating world of wellbeing, we’re able to reconnect to more natural and intuitive ways of developing harmony and health in mind and body.
Know Thy Self
Within the realms of Ayurveda, the term dosha is often used. Dosha refers to each person’s mind / body type, or their unique psychological and physiological ‘signature’. Each person’s dosha is determined by the amount of varying physical qualities within them, how they respond to stress, and their inherent characteristics. Knowing your dosha or your ‘type’ can be incredibly insightful and helpful when searching for the right foods, spices, exercise regimes and daily routines for you. It can also be very useful to know more about the doshas and their energies when you’re feeling unwell or out of balance, as this is a sign that certain qualities may be too high, and others too low.
The three doshas are Kapha consisting of earth and water elements, Pitta consisting of fire and water, and Vata consisting of air and ether. The primary qualities of Kapha are steadiness, heaviness, slowness, kindness, endurance, growth, coolness, stability, loyalty, lethargy and oiliness. The qualities of pitta are hot, fiery, dynamic, passionate, acidic, determined, irritability, anger and order. The predominant qualities of vata are quickness, change, coolness, dryness, fragility, movement, creativity and lightness. We’re all born with one or two (sometimes three) doshas – for instance your inherent nature may be made up of a dual dosha or pitta and vata, or one single dosha of kapha. Think of this as your default mode or blueprint. Our everyday wellbeing can move in and out of balance easily depending upon the season, our actions, diet, weather, social interactions and much more. This is known as your vikruti, or current state. Actions such as eating hot spicy foods can increase your current level of pitta energy, whilst cool and heavy foods like dairy can increase kapha. The season of Autumn is governed by vata energy, so many of us are likely to experience an imbalance of vata during that particular season.
Discover Your Dosha
To determine your own dosha, take the following test and think about you in your natural state, or the way you have been for most of your life. To determine your current state or vikruti, take the test again and think about how you’ve been feeling over the past few days or weeks. You may well feel that more than one answer suits you, in which case simply circle both answers. Add up the total amount, and your dosha or vikruti will be the one or two highest total amounts.
Each person’s dosha may seem similar when we look at it on paper, but everyone has a completely unique mind / body system, so what works for one person may not work for another. Determining your dosha or current state is the first step, the next step requires a close listen to your body and observation of how the things you do each day affect you. Try these quick daily tips to find balance.
To balance the cool, wet and heavy qualities of kapha, try adding warm and dry spices like ginger and cinnamon to your foods. Dairy can also increase any existing sinus issues and lethargy, so try reducing the amount of dairy in your diet, or mitigate the effects by mixing with spices. Kapha types can be slow to get moving, but once they start they have great endurance. Try opting for a morning exercise regime and choose something that gets your heart rate up and prevents the qualities of heaviness and slowness from setting in. As a loyal and consistent person, kapha types are great teachers and guides, so anyone with a kapha dosha would benefit from sharing their wisdom with others.
With a fiery temperament, pitta types can stay in balance by opting for cooling herbs like coriander and mint, and staying clear of hot and spicy foods or the use of too much vinegar (which they probably crave and enjoy!), especially as they’re likely to experience acid reflux. Pitta people are competitive which makes them good at sports, but brings out their aggression. Activities that require kindness and cooperation can be a challenge for pitta types, but are also very helpful for developing their softer side. Born to ‘get things done’, pitta types work well on their own, and can often be relied upon to take the lead and complete tasks when the pressure is on.
Naturally creative but a little scatty, vata types make great artists and musicians, but are difficult to rely upon when it comes to making plans. The quality of movement within vata types means they love to travel and experience different cultures, yet their digestive system can be fragile and they’ll need to make sure to stick to regular meal times and grounding foods. The qualities of dryness and coldness mean self massage with warming oils like sesame can be beneficial especially if they suffer from muscle pain or stiff joints as is consuming enough oily foods and healthy fats. With a tendency towards anxiety and rumination, a daily routine is very helpful for vata types, and can help channel their energy rather than letting it scatter and dissipate.
Observe how you feel upon trying out these tips, and tap into your intuition to get to know what may be sending you in or out of balance in mind and body.
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