What is Ayurveda
Imagine what it would be like if you knew exactly what triggers you, or even knowing you were triggered? What if there was a really simple tool you could use to understand yourself better so you can avoid what triggers you, and do more of what balances you? I believe the system of Ayurveda is exactly this, it has been around for thousands of years and is the ancient healing tradition of India. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning "life" "knowledge". Based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit. Ayurveda’s approach to health is holistic and it teaches us how to live in harmony with nature and ourselves. It has a very simple theory by treating with opposites – that is, if something is dehydrated we moisten it.
Firstly we need to understand a few finer details about our Self. Below you will find a link to an online Ayurvedic Questionnaire, fill this in to the best of your understanding, to find out what your unique constitution is – known as your ‘Prakruti’. We are all unique proportions of these three doshas – Kapha, Pitta and Vata. Our diet, career, relationships, hobbies, exercise regimes, stress, cultural beliefs and climate can influence these Doshas in and out of balance. When one of the Doshas is out of balance it shows up as symptoms, and we treat it with ‘opposites’. See below descriptions of what symptoms each Dosha can show up with, and buttons below to read more about your Dosha(s). Even if we show up as having one or two predominant Dosha type (eg Vata-Pitta), any of these Doshas can ‘flare’ up in each of us, and we treat the Dosha that’s symptoms are showing up. Eg a Pitta that gets dry skin or constipated (Vata imbalance) needs to do what balances ‘Vata’ until the symptoms are gone. A Pitta with no symptoms uses guidelines below to maintain a balanced Pitta. A Vata-Pitta showing up with lethargy, weight gain, fluid retention (Kapha imbalance) needs to balance their Kapha, until the symptoms are no longer. For a more thorough understanding personal diagnosis and support you can have an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultation with Nicole - click here
If you have not done a questionnaire before to know what your Dosha type is here is a link below to an online questionnaire:
The following are signs of imbalance on each of the Doshas, which we are our very own unique proportion of all three, however we treat the Dosha that is showing up as imbalanced regardless of our dominant Dosha type. To read more about your dominant Dosha/s characteristics and tendencies, and how to maintain your Prakruti (balanced constitution) click on links above.
Symptoms your Vata Dosha is out of balance; weight loss, constipation, dry skin, hypertension, arthritis, weakness, restlessness, and digestive challenges. When unbalanced, they are prone to worry and anxiousness and often suffer from insomnia. When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their response is, “What did I do wrong?”
Symptoms your Pitta Dosha is out of balance; skin rashes, burning sensations, peptic ulcers, excessive body heat, heartburn, and indigestion. Pitta can be critical, irritable, competitive, impatient, controlling and aggressive. Often can be short-tempered and argumentative. When Pittas are overstressed, their typical response is “What did you do wrong?”
Symptoms your Kapha Dosha is out of balance; congestion, weight gain, fluid retention, and allergies manifest in the body. Kapha types may become overweight, sleep excessively, and suffer from asthma, diabetes, and depression. People with an excess of Kapha tend to be over-attached and possessive, they hold on to things, jobs, and relationships long after they are no longer nourishing or necessary. Excess Kapha in the mind manifests as resistance to change and stubbornness, they get ‘stuck’. In the face of stress, the typical Kapha response is “I don’t want to deal with it.”
More on Ayurveda - Yoga and Ayurveda share the same knowledge base (the Vedic knowledge) and they are considered to be sister sciences. Yoga practices (Asana, pranayama and meditation) are often included as part of an Ayurvedic individual healing program. Understanding the basic concepts of Ayurveda helps us to be more in tune with our unique individuality and the constant interaction and influence between our inner world and outer environment.
Learning about Ayurveda and it’s variety of disciplines can lead to deeper understanding of Self and maintaining ultimate health. By aligning with nature’s rhythms healing occurs naturally. Ayurveda provides us with the knowledge and various tools to adjust our diet and lifestyle accordingly in order to bring balance and harmony within us.
Ayurvedic practices include:
Massage therapies and treatments including acupuncture, aromatherapy, beauty therapy, steams and scrubs, cleansing techniques
Herbal remedies and supplements
Food as Medicine - adapting diet to your individual Dosha
The Five Elements
Ayurveda is based on the idea that all things in this universe, organic or inorganic, are made up with five elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether (Space)
Each of us has a varying degree of these five elements within us and they are constantly influencing our internal and external states (physical, emotional and mental) and interacting with the elements in the outer world.
Air is the gaseous state of matter, characterized by movement.
Fire is the radiant state of matter, characterized by transformation.
Water is the liquid state of matter, characterized by fluidity.
Earth is the solid state of matter, characterized by stability.
Ether is the space in which things manifest. It is formless and omnipresent.
The balance of these elements is constantly changing both in the outer environment (such as seasonal changes in climate) and in the inner environment (including emotional and mental states).
In Ayurveda, there is a fundamental concept of three basic principles that underlie and govern all aspect of our physiological, mental and emotional functions, which are known as three “Doshas”. The three doshas are “Vata” “Pitta” and “Kapha”, and each of us have all three within us in various unique proportions. That unique individual balance that we are born with is called our Prakruti. We mostly have one or two (bi-doshic) dominant dosha, but some people are equal in all three dosha (tri-doshic). Eg you are known as Vata if 85% Vata, 10% Pitta, 5% Kapha. Or Vata-Pitta if Vata 55%, Pitta 45%, Kapha 10%.
Everything in the universe is always in flux, and our Dosha balance can be affected by a lot of factors. The climate, our diet, relationships, career, hobbies, leisure, exercise regimes, daily physical and mental routines impact the balance of these dosha. When we have imbalance we have unrest and can lead to dis-ease. Rather than treating the symptom, Ayurveda looks at the individual as a whole, including all daily routines, and determines a course of treatment or recommended lifestyle to suit that individual’s Dosha – to bring balance and harmony to body, mind and spirit.
The state of a dosha imbalance is called “Vikruti”, whereas your innate constitution or balanced state Prakruti. Any dosha can be out of balance in an individual, and the symptoms presenting show which dosha needs to be treated to bring Vikruti back to Prakruti. Eg a Vata-Pitta with only 10% Kapha can be presenting with the below Kaphic imbalances eg congestion, lethargy, weight gain – we act on treating this Kapha dosha by increasing opposite qualities, to bring the individual back to their Prakruti.
Ayurveda’s knowledge is far more vast and deeper than this brief introduction and the more you learn about doshas, Ayurvedic diet, herbs, and treatments etc…the more it may become overwhelming at first, but remember, we can always start from one or two little changes instead of trying to change everything at once!
Enjoy your journey!
Recommended further reading: Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing by Dr. Vasant Lad, The Art of Balanced Living by Dr Shaun Matthews