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Ayurveda is the science of life. This ancient practice goes beyond the treatment of illness and seeks to reveal an entire body of insight into vitality and full human potential. Ayurveda recognizes that human beings are part of the dynamic integration of nature, thus balance is necessary between our inner and outer environments.
We are presented with three primary forces, or doshas, that govern our mind and body: Vata (Wind/Movement), Pitta (Fire/Transformation), and Kapha(Earth/Structure). Joined, they are called a tri-dosha. In this careful integration of elements, the practice of ayurveda aims to heal the sick and maintain health in the healthy. When Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are in harmony, health is present; as defined as an absence of dis-ease within the body, mind, and spirit.
Each individual carries their own unique proportion of the three forces. Although we all contain all three forces, many have one or two that are dominant. There are several self-tests available on the web to determine one’s dosha type. However, the results of the self-test are not intended to diagnose medical conditions, nor to replace an evaluation by a medical or ayurvedic practitioner. The tests serve to provide insight into one’s basic physiological nature and mental and emotional states.
Vata dominant: thin, light, energetic, changeable, creative.
Pitta dominant: intense, intelligent, goal-oriented, strong appetite, friendly, outspoken.
Kapha dominant: easy-going, methodical, nurturing, stable.
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas provide us with a completely profound view of nature. Although abstract, they also make up material in the form of blood, bones, stomach, lining, heartbeats, and breathing. Matter can also take the form of energy. For example, gravity is considered “heavy.” The five elements consist of both matter and energy.
The five elements serve not only as “real” substance, but also as an abstract and intellectual understanding in how the human being consciously perceives the world through the mind. Vata is composed of air and space. Pitta is composed of fire and water. Kapha is composed of earth and water. In this sense, one can understand the changeability of Vata because of the airy nature that it consists of.
In balancing the doshas there are four main areas of everyday life that are focused on:
As Ayurveda largely incorporates the seasons, each dosha tends to increase in a particular season. Kapha increases during spring and Pitta increases during summer. Fall is a time where the Vata force tends to increase in our external environment, thus the force increases within our physiology at this time as well. According to Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians, Vata energy is dominant from mid-October to mid-February. Even those with a less proportioned Vata element must keep in balance because of the strong seasonal influence.
An imbalance occurs when one or more elements are altered qualitatively or increased quantitatively. The goal of ayurveda is to identify and maintain one’s ideal balance of forces. When they are out of balance, an ayurvedic practitioner would offer interventions such as diet, aromatherapy, massage, music, meditation, and movement. Over time one who learns ayurveda will be able to tell the difference between their true nature and an imbalance.
Vata imbalance: experiencing anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, difficulty focusing.
Pitta imbalance: compulsive, irritable, experience of indigestion or inflammation.
Kapha imbalance: sluggish, weight gain, sinus congestion.
Since Vata dosha is considered the “leader of the doshas,” it can be common to have an obscured Vata imbalance. Vata is often the first dosha to go out of balance. Balance is an equal function of a particular dosha. When the dosha is out of balance it is either depleted or aggravated. The practice of Ayurveda aims to bring one back into balance while simultaneously allowing their true nature to shine through.
Attention to fluids – Warm fluids like tea to prevent dehydration, avoid cold
drinks. Avoid alcohol or stimulants of any kind, including coffee and nicotine.
Decreased sensitivity to stress- Avoid mental strain and over stimulation.
Environment – bright and light to absorb sunlight and emit cheerfulness.
Regular daily habits.
Quiet – No over stimulation.
Ample rest – do not overdo mentally or physically. Engage in deep relaxation
provided by meditation as it integrates the mind body link allowing the natural
cycle in the body to come full circle.
Warmth – Long warm baths or shower in the morning before meditation. Moist heat aids Vata in aches and pains.
Steady supply of nourishment – Vata is aggravated by an empty stomach, so eat regularly.
Sesame oil massage (abhyanga) – Massage the body with sesame oil in the morning. Also, as Vata tends to be dry, sesame oil can be placed in the nostrils to offset the dry nasal passages.
Three meals a day.
Warm nourishing breakfast of substantial foods.
Moderately heavy textures.
Fresh ginger to stimulate appetite and aid in digestion.
Warm fluids like tea, particularly in the afternoon with something sweet.
Avoid very cold foods and drinks.
Add healthy fats.
Favor salty, sour, sweet tastes.
Soothing and satisfying foods.
Easily digestible foods.
Sweet fruits, avoid unripe.
Favor root vegetables such as, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes.
Reduce vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leafy greens, peas, sprouts, peppers, zucchini.
Favor fruits such as apricots, avocados, bananas, cherries, coconut, dates, figs, mangoes, melons, oranges, papayas, peaches, pineapple, sweet well-ripened fruit in general.
Reduce fruits such as apples, cranberries, pears, pomegranates, dried fruits in general; unripe fruit.
Favor grains such as rice, cooks oats, wheat.
Reduce grains such as barley, buckwheat, corn, dry oats, millet, and rye.
Dairy is acceptable.
Favor chicken, seafood, turkey.
Reduce red meat.
Favor all beans except chickpeas, mung beans, pink lentils, and tofu.
Oils are acceptable .
Sweeteners are acceptable.
Nuts in small amounts are acceptable.
Favor almost all herbs and spices in moderation, with emphasis on sweet and/or heating herbs and spices.
Reduce large quantities of spice use and minimize all bitter and astringent herbs and spices.
In sum, nature provides us with beautiful gifts to nourish our body and mind. It also provides us with the indications when there is an imbalance. Along with balancing the doshas through diet and thought, one must also pursue balance through action. Upon reaching a state of balance each dosha experiences a naturalness of bliss. This is expressed by Vata through exhilaration, alertness, cheerfulness, stimulation, optimism, and flexibility. Even though Vata is the “leader” of the doshas, the other doshas must be balanced as well to sustain the pure joy for extended periods of time.
This article intends to provide insight on the ancient tradition and practice of ayurveda. The information provided is not intended for the use in diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of disease of any kind. If you may have a health concern, please consult a healthcare professional who is able to address your needs effectively. Always check with a physician before pursuing changes to diet, exercise, and/or routine.