According to the principles of Ayurveda, living beings come together with the universe to create a ‘container’ that is all-encompassing. This container consists of three components: body, mind, and spirit. Body refers to the material gross body – also known as our physical self. Mind is comprised of our mental faculties of perception. Spirit relates to the realization of the truth about life and living beings, which is considered separate from all existing phenomena.
The History of Ayurveda
The history of Ayurveda dates back thousands of years, and it remains an influential system that modern medical professionals reference during their study of holistic healthcare. Its earliest recorded use dates back to 5,000 BC. In the ancient Vedic civilization, Ayurveda was classified and studied by spiritual and scholarly classes called Brahmans and rishis (seers or sages), respectively.
The Principle of Doshas
Ayurveda revolves around the concept that health depends on achieving a balance between two opposing forces known as ‘doshas.’ These three doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. An easy way to remember them is by their first letter – ‘Vat-Pit-Kap.’
This concept is essential to Ayurveda and is the fundamental principle upon which it is based. According to Ayurvedic texts, we all possess one of these doshas that dominates our physiologies. The key to health involves creating a balance between different elements within us so that we achieve equilibrium with the universe.
The Vata Dosha
Vata is the term used to describe the elements of air and space in our bodies. These are considered cold, dry, light, rough, or sharp moving energies that stimulate sensory faculties while keeping us cool, yet flexible. If not balanced correctly, one becomes dominated by this dosha, resulting in symptoms such as constipation, insomnia, anxiety, fearfulness, low energy levels, and dry skin.
The Pitta Dosha
Pitta is defined by three qualities: heat, liquidity, and lightness. These qualities are associated with the element of fire in our bodies. When balanced correctly with Vata and Kapha doshas, Pitta is responsible for energy metabolism and digestion. When the element of fire becomes imbalanced in our bodies, we can become hot-tempered like a fire, or we might experience various skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
The Kapha Dosha
Kapha dosha contains earth and water elements within it. These qualities are associated with oiliness, stability, coldness, heavy materiality, immobility, slowness of movement or action – traits that are steady and moist. This dosha supports our immune system while providing strength to joints and bones. It keeps us hydrated during dry seasons by boosting thirst when needed most. If this elemental combination becomes imbalanced in the body, one can experience a variety of symptoms such as congestion in the sinuses and chest, feelings of lethargy or laziness, and weakness in legs.
An Ayurvedic Lifestyle
Having knowledge about one’s dosha helps people gain awareness of their unique needs so they can implement changes to live through their lives with more ease. The closest way to achieve this is by practicing an ayurvedic lifestyle. The following list provides examples of how to maintain a balance between Vata, Pitta, and Kapha:
Cautiously eat foods that are not only healthy for you but also take into account your dosha type. One should avoid increasing the qualities that are associated with their dominant dosha unless advised by a practitioner (i.e.: people with a Pitta dominant constitution should avoid excess heat, such as hot peppers).
Each dosha requires certain kinds of movements to be balanced and healthy. Vata types can benefit from gentle exercises such as walking or biking, while Kapha types might feel more energized when they sweat in the gym. Pittas do best in a moderate aerobic activity that doesn’t leave them feeling too hot and sweaty. If you’re not sure which category your body falls under, it’s suggested that you ask for professional help in order to gain true benefits from exercise.
The yoga poses that each dosha enjoys range from simple stretches to strong backbends and forward bends. Make sure before trying a new yoga pose, you know which kind of movement is best for your constitution.
There are many different cleansing techniques that can be practiced regardless of the dosha dominant within us. Some examples include steam inhalation, jala neti (nasal irrigation), and herbal body cleansers such as chyawanprash or amla powder that revitalize skin from top to bottom.
In addition to healthy diet and lifestyle practices, there are specific herbs that can be taken to balance each dosha when in need. By taking into account the three qualities associated with them – hot/cold, light/heavy, dry/wet – one can realize which quality is dominant within their body. One can also take herbs based on the season to stay in pace with nature.
Ayurveda has been an important part of Indian culture for more than 5000 years. Now, it’s known around the world as a holistic approach to wellness that offers many benefits for all types of people, no matter what their constitution may be. While everyone should seek professional help when needed, there are things that you can do each day to live your best life possible based on your specific needs and dosha type.