Ayurveda is an ancient healing system from India famously referred to as the sister science of yoga. For generations, yogis have practiced Ayurvedic medicine and yoga to support a life aligned with The Divine. Ayur means knowledge, and Veda means life, and when you put those together, you get The Knowledge of Life.
Ayurveda recognizes that as human beings, we are a part of nature, and for our bodies to function correctly, we must be aligned with the natural world. It's the OG form of BioHacking. Although Ayurveda is old (like 4,000-6,000 years old), it is still heavily practiced in India and other eastern countries.
This system is all about preserving a healthy person's health and healing the root issues of those suffering from a disease. Many western treatments only address the symptoms and not the cause. Ayurveda, however, seeks to find the current ailment and provides a plan by way of diet, lifestyle, various therapies, and herbs to get the body back into balance.
The Five Elements of Ayurveda
The five elements are Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether, and without these foundational building blocks, life as we know it would not exist. Ayurveda suggests that Mother Nature balances her five elements like a queen, and it would behoove us to take a few notes. The five elements that work to keep the natural world in balance are the same five elements that work to keep our biological bodies in balance (Mind-blowing, we know).
When addressing the elements in relationship to the body, we must understand the three biological energies known as The Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. From there, we can better understand our unique constitution and how we are interacting with nature.
Vata Dosha: Fall/Winter
A combination of air element and space element that is responsible for all movement in the body. The qualities of Vata are light, dry, mobile, and cold. Vata energy governs the nervous system, the lower gastrointestinal tract, and respiration.
Due to the "airy" make-up of Vata, individuals who have an imbalance here may experience nervousness, anxiety, and forgetfulness. They might be prone to panic attacks or feel a sense of urgency about everything. Since Vata is considered dry and cold, people who have too much Vata may also suffer from constipation, dry skin, gas, bloating, and achy joints.
To balance, Ayurveda suggests inviting the opposite qualities of Vata into your diet and lifestyle to soothe the aggravated dosha. An Ayurvedic diet for Vata should include warm, cooked foods with plenty of good quality fats like clarified butter (ghee), sesame oil, and avocados. It's best to avoid foods like popcorn, chips, dried fruit, and dry grains.
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Vatas would benefit from living in warm and humid climates to work against their dry and cold nature. When it comes to exercise, they should tend towards slow and gentle movements. Hatha, yin, and restorative yoga are all perfect for Vata dosha imbalance. Breathwork and meditation are highly suggested too.
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Kapha Dosha: Spring
A combination of Earth and Water is responsible for protecting the body by maintaining the muscles, bones, fat, and joints. Kapha energy also creates lubrication between bodily structures so we can move freely. The qualities are cold, damp, slow, soft, and heavy.
When the energy of earth and water take over, we may experience heaviness, fatigue, unhealthy food craving, excess phlegm, frequent cough or cold, and weight gain. In line with the heaviness of Kapha, those suffering from imbalance can become overly sentimental and have a hard time letting go, which can lead to depression. The best thing to do if you feel Kapha is taking over is to move your body!
Doing several sun salutations in a warm room will help break up the Kapha by increasing the heart rate and stimulating the metabolic process. When addressing a Kapha's diet, it's best to avoid heavy, sugary, and oily foods like cheese, white bread, red meats, and desserts. Instead, delight in aromatic and fresh foods or spices like ginger, clove, garlic, turmeric, eggplant, chickpeas, calciferous vegetables, and dark chocolate!
Pitta Dosha: Summer
A combination of fire and water is responsible for the metabolic process of digesting our food into nutrients and energy. The qualities of pitta are hot, light, oily, and penetrating.
Pitta folks are self-proclaimed type-A personalities, workaholics, exercise lovers, and natural-born leaders. Yes, these qualities are ones to strive for; however, we all know what happens when a fire gets too hot. Ouch! Pittas who fail to keep their cool can suffer from diarrhea, inflammation, acid reflux, redness of the skin, and acne. On a mental level, they might experience anger, frustration, and jealousy.
When pittas are out of balance, they should eat cooling and sweet foods like mangos, peaches, coconuts, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, dates, and white basmati rice to balance. It's best to avoid anything too spicy or too hot, as these qualities will only further the imbalance. Pittas tend to push their bodies in strenuous exercise classes as it is in line with their "fiery" nature.
Instead of a spin class, Pitta people should channel their intensity in a slow and controlled way. Reformer Pilates, Vinyasa yoga (non-heated), or a steep hike on a temperate day is perfect for Pitta dosha!
Final Thoughts on Ayurveda Healing
If you identify with more than one of these Doshas, do not fret, most people have tendencies in two! The dominance of which two will change based on time of life, season, stress level, and environment. For example, you might be Pitta/Vata in the summer but Vata/Pitta in the winter because your doshas are being influenced by the season.
With this information, we encourage you to deep dive into your inner knowing by deepening your awareness of the nuances of your body. We are complicated beings, but in the end, we are a part of this great earth. The deeper we can connect and relate to it, the better we can heal and restore.
Book a session with our very own healer, Ayurvedic counselor, and author of this article, Rose Barkey today!