Ayurveda & The Doshas
In time for my "Sattva" workshop in January, which weaves the principles of Ayurveda with yoga, essential oils, breathwork and more, I'm going to be providing an overview to the topic, delving in to the "doshas" (your unique constitution) and providing simple tips, yoga sequences and oil blends to help you living more harmoniously.
What is Ayurveda?
Developed thousands of years ago in India, Ayurveda is a powerful health system that offers a pathway to self-healing and wellness. In Sanskrit, it translates to ‘the science of life’ (‘Ayu’ meaning life and ‘Veda’ meaning science or knowledge). Perhaps even, a way of living wisely.
Its strength lies in its holistic nature; it sees body, mind and spirit as inextricably linked and looks to create balance amongst these interwoven threads of our being instead of viewing them as separate entities.
The theory goes that if there’s an imbalance in either body, mind or spirit, you’ll move towards a state of dis-ease.
Using a blend of herbal medicine, nutrition, science, massage, creative pursuits, and spiritual insights, Ayurveda supports us as a holistic whole. It tends to be preventative rather than curative although it can certainly address any elements of dis-ease.
“Ayurveda teaches respect for nature and appreciation for life by showing how we can empower ourselves as individuals. It understands that our own health cannot be considered as separate from that of our family, work, society and planet. In other words, Ayurveda works with real, deep integrated health” - Sebastian Cole, A Pukka Life
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda doesn’t adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach because it respects that each of us is unique. The system takes into account a variety of constitutions (otherwise known as ‘doshas’), and guides us in rebalancing what’s out of balance on all levels - physical, energetic, emotional, mental.
If practised consistently, this should return us to our essence, and to a state of vibrant health and wellness.
What I love about Ayurveda is that you can recognise yourself easily with a basic understanding of the key principles, which means you gain such clear insights into why you are the way you are, and also the ways in which you can fulfil your own potential. And that's all about balancing not just one area of your life, but all of them.
The rhythm of the Body,
The melody of the Mind,
The harmony of the soul,
Create the symphony of Life.
~ B.K.S Iyengar
Ayurveda is based on the belief that each of us is made up of the five elements - space, air, fire, water and earth.
These elements combine in the human body to form three natural energy forces (or ‘doshas’) that govern all of our physical and mental processes. They can manifest in varying degrees from our personality type to our build to our physiological functions.
Each one of us has our own individual constitution, decided at birth. This is known as our ‘prakriti’ (nature), and it’s derived from a unique composition of three doshas.
When our prakriti is balance, we experience health, wellness and vitality. When it’s out of balance, we get sick.
What are the three doshas?
"The three constitutions are Wind (vata), Fire (pitta), and Water (kapha). They destroy or maintain the body, according to whether they are sick or healthy" - Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita
Our constitutions are made up of all three doshas but they’re rarely equally balanced. Typically, there’ll be one dosha that’s more dominant, and the practice of Ayurveda will guide you towards a lifestyle that’s most in tune with that particular dosha.
You may find though that two doshas take precedence, or even a near equal blend of all three (what’s known as being ‘tri-doshic’).
The qualities of a vata 'dosha' reflect the elements of space and air - cool, dry, light, irregular, changeable.
If you're predominately vata, your characteristics might include:
always on the go
energetic, lively and enthusiastic
slim, light frame
dry skin and hair
cold hands and feet
If out of balance, those with a predominance of vata might be susceptible to fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, indecision, restlessness and digestive challenges.
The qualities of a pitta 'dosha' reflect the elements of fire and water - hot, intense, penetrating, sharp, acidic.
If you're predominately pitta, your characteristics might include:
medium size and weight
warm body temperature
high energy, sharp-witted, direct
powerful intellect, ability to concentrate
If out of balance, those with a predominance of pitta might be susceptible to skin rashes, ulcers, heartburn, indigestion, anger, and irritation.
The qualities of a kapha 'dosha' reflect the elements of water and earth - heavy, soft, steady, slow, cold, oily.
If you're predominately kapha, your characteristics might include:
radiant skin, thick hair
sound, deep sleeper
calm and thoughtful
loyal, patient, and supportive
If out of balance, those with a predominance of kapha might be susceptible to weight gain, fluid retention, allergies, stubborn, resistant to change, and sleeping too much.
What is my dosha?
If you’re new to the concept of Ayurveda and you’re interested in balancing body and mind, you’ll need to identify your dosha. There are so many good Ayurveda websites out there, all of which offer can help you work out your dosha through a series of questions.
I highly recommend this quiz >
Once you’ve identified your dosha, you’ll be able to start applying Ayurvedic principles to live in harmony in accordance with your true nature.
My offering to you is to give you simple tools for creating a feeling of wellbeing dependant on your dominant dosha.
simple practices to incorporate into your daily life
These are all intended to enable you to feel your most vibrant self and give you the tools to navigate the days when external stressors and worries threaten to lead you away from yourself, your centre. They can be used daily, without the need for waiting until you are feeling out of balance.
How to start living in tune with Ayurveda
If you're just dipping your toe in to Ayurveda, try to incorporate a couple fo these guidelines into your daily life. Once you've got the hang of it, you can get more specific using your dosha as a guide.
Eat the rainbow
Incorporate as many different tastes into your meals as you can (sweet, salty, bitter, sour etc.)
Sit down when you eat and concentrate on your food
Eat before you get ravenous
Chew your food thoroughly and try not to eat too quickly
Choose cooked over raw foods (they're easier to digest)
Try drinking hot water and ginger each morning
Do yoga or some light exercise every day
Try to get at least 6-8 hours restful sleep each night
Get out in nature
Tune into your body and learn to listen to its messages