Ayurveda is a comprehensive natural healing system that covers all aspects of our being: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. The term Ayurveda is made from two Sanskrit words, ayur meaning life and longevity, and veda meaning wisdom, science, and knowledge. Ayurveda translates to “the science/knowledge of life/longevity.”
Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India; its roots go back over five thousand years. Often referred to as the “mother of all healing,” Ayurveda may be the oldest health care system in the world. It is not only a medical system, but also a framework for living a healthy life with a peaceful mind.
Ayurveda works wonders for both chronic and acute imbalances because it addresses the root cause of the problem, not just the symptoms. Ayurveda also gives us guidance on how to live day-to-day, in sound health, with a focus on prevention. Since Ayurveda is based in nature, its treatment methods aim to restore balance, naturally through:
- Dietary Changes
- Lifestyle Modifications
- Herbal Medicine
- Yogic Practices, Including Asana (physical postures), Pranayama (Breath Techniques), and Meditation
- Cleansing Practices, such as Panchakarma
Working with the principles of Ayurveda is fairly simple, once you understand the basics. One lovely aspect about Ayurveda is that with a little knowledge you can accomplish a lot. However, one difference between Ayurveda and other systems of medicine is that YOU have to take an active role in your health. It is the only way for Ayurveda to be effective.
The Three Doshas
Ayurveda is based upon five basic elemental principles that comprise our physical universe: earth (solid matter), water (liquid matter), fire (that which transforms solid, liquid and gas), air (gaseous matter) and space (the container for the other four elements). These elements combine in different ways to produce three energetic forces called “Dosas”: Vata, Pitta and Kapha (VPK).
Each of us is born with out own unique combination of the doshas, called “prakruti”. Your prakruti is the genetic predisposition that, throughout life, governs your inherent strengths, weaknesses, characteristics, and tendencies. It is determined at the moment of conception from your parents’ combination of the three doshas.
After understanding your prakruti, it is essential to look at your current changeable state of health, called “vikruti.” Your vikruti is how you have been feeling recently and is often different than your prakruti. Knowing your vikruti shows you where to focus in order to bring yourself back into balance.
How To Balance Your Doshas
The dosha self-assessment can help you understand the ratios of doshas in your prakruti and vikruti. If your prakruti and vikruti are about the same, then you would follow a program (diet, lifestyle, etc.) for your strongest dosha. For example, if your vikruti shows Vata higher than in your prakruti, then you would follow a Vata reducing program, which would include following a diet and lifestyle to balance Vata dosha.
Vata is balanced by the following basic lifestyle habits:
- Keeping a regular routine for eating, sleeping, working, and leisure time
- Staying warm and calm
- Receiving plenty of rest and going to bed early
- Favoring soothing music
- Choosing warm colors for your clothing and environment, such as earth colors, pastels, browns, and warm yellows
Vata is also balanced by the following dietary guidelines:
- Eating ample amounts of warm and moist foods, such as porridges and stews
- Using mild spices such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, basil, and oregano
- Generously eating healthy fats and oils such as ghee, sesame oil, and avocado
- Avoiding cold, frozen, and raw foods
Pitta is balanced by the following basic lifestyle habits:
- Practicing moderation in all endeavors
- Trying not to create unnecessary pressures and stress
- Avoiding exposure to excessive heat, such as in saunas or being outside in the heat of the day
- Practicing soothing yoga and meditation and exercise during the cooler times of day
- Choosing cool colors for your clothing and environment, such as white, green, blue, and silver
Pitta is also balanced by the following dietary guidelines:
- Eating cool, soothing foods, such as cucumber, coconut, and melons
- Favoring cooling spices such as cilantro, fennel, coriander, and mint
- Using olive, coconut, and sunflower oils
- Avoiding hot, spicy, salty, oily, and sour foods
Kapha is balanced by the following basic lifestyle habits:
- Focusing on stimulation and invigoration
- Varying your routine
- Keeping active and getting plenty of exercise
- Staying warm and avoiding dampness
- Favoring warm and bright colors for your clothing and environment, such as yellow, orange, and red
Kapha is also balanced by the following dietary guidelines:
- Generously using spices, such as ginger, pepper, and mustard
- Using small amounts of extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil
- Minimizing intake of dairy and wheat, and heavy, oily, and fatty foods; using small amounts of low-fat, non-fat, or goat dairy products
- Drinking hot ginger tea with meals to stimulate digestion