An Introduction to Ayurvedic Living

If you haven't heard the word yet, Ayurveda is back in a big [modern consumerism] way. This month The Washington Post wrote from the New York Fancy Food Show about the 10 trendy foods we'll soon be seeing on our supermarket shelves. Goodbye plain old Kombucha, hello Ayurveda and Apple Cider Vinegar tonics. Actually more than one of the top 10 trends have origins in Ancient Indian food medicine. 

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But before we all jump on the bandwaggon placed by the check-out, let's have a little look at what Ayurveda is exactly.

What Is Ayurveda?

Much like the traditions of Chinese medicines such as Acupuncture, Ayurvedic Medicine, or Ayurveda can be traced back thousands of years, some say 3,000, others say 5,000, whichever it is, it's a lot. The origins of the practice are found in the ancient Indian texts called The Vedas

Principally, Ayurveda isn't medicine in the sense we know it - that is treating problems only after they've arrived. Rather, Ayurveda is a lifestyle, a way of living. In Sanskrit, Ayur means life, while Veda means science or knowledge, so quite literally, Vedic culture considers Ayurveda a science of living. 

In Ayurveda, the two guiding principles are that a) the mind and body are unequvicobly connected and b) that there is no greater healer or transformer of the body than the mind. 

Fundamentally, the practice of Ayurveda seeks to nourish the body and mind into harmony and balance through diet, exercise, and self-awareness. 

Another popular Vedic science is the humble practice of Yoga. With the rise of alternative lifestyles and health, not to mention the rapid uptake of Yoga, it is easy to see how Ayurveda is set to become a mainstream trend. Or at the very least on the radar of people interested in health and wellbeing. 

What About The Science?

In most Western societies Ayurveda is considered a complementary medicine. A number of studies have tried to assess the efficacy of Ayurvedic treatments of illnesses verses Western science, generally the results were inconclusive. Which given that principally Ayurveda is a prevenative lifestyle rather than reactive treatment, the outcomes are unsurprising. 

This 2012 Current Science Association article, The quest for evidence-based Ayurveda: Lessons Learned does a good job at accounting some of the studies in the last decade towards evidence-based Ayurveda as well as global acceptance of integrative medicine. 

Ayurveda seems to be accepted as a generally healthy lifestyle option, with natual tonics which can in-fact impart benefits, tumeric for example. However, some scientists warn agains the over consumption of potentially toxic tonics. Even in ancient medicines too much of a good thing can be bad. 

What Are The Doshas?

An individuals practice of Ayurveda is well, individual to them. Because the lifestyle is fundamentally seeking to bring harmony to the mind, body and spirit, the practice must be unique to the individual. Experts in Ayurveda guide individuals in their practice by first identifying the unique proportions of the three Doshas that exist within them. Ayurveda teaches us that falling out of balance with our Doshas will lead to illness - mentally and physically.

Naturally, it's never that simple, finding our perfect balance is considered more of a life long journey than and easy destination. And while we may have a dominant Dosha that prevails immediately, letting this Dosha absorb us, putting the other Doshas out of balance will also lead to illness.

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Each Dosha has a unique profile and set of implications - positive and negative - for our bodies.

Vata - Air

Is considered the energy that controls our mind and bodily functions. It is associated with all our physical motion including; blood circulation, breathing, blinking, our heartbeat and waste elimination.

The qualities associated with Vata are; 

  • Cold
  • Light
  • Dry
  • Irregular
  • Rough
  • Moving
  • Quick
  • Changeable

If you are someone who is driven by the Vata Dosha then you are generally creative, energetic and always on the go. Change doesn't bother you, you are easily excited, quick to anger but also quick to forgive. The Vata Dosha is generally aligned with a lean and tall body type. 

When your Vata Dosha is in balance there is creativity and vitality, when you are out of balance fear and anxiety can rear their heads. 

Pitta - Fire

Pitta Dosha is the energy in control of your metabolic systems. It governs your digestion, absorption, nutrition, and temperature.

The characteristics aligned with Pitta are:

  • Hot
  • Light
  • Intense
  • Penetrating
  • Pungent
  • Sharp
  • Acidic

Those governed by the Pitta Dosha are characteristically; strong, fiery, determined, fast decision makers, sharp-witted and often outspoken. Physically, they're known to run warm, have a strong metabolism (the kind that can eat whatever, whenever), are typically of a medium build, often have red hair, and are prone to balding. 

When the Pitta Dosha is in balance it generates contentment and intelligence. However, when the Pitta is off balance it can cause ulcers and anger.

Kapha - Earth/Water

Kapha is considered the energy which controls growth in our body. Responsible for supplying water to all our body parts, moisturizes our skin, and maintaining our immune system.

The characteristics which define Kapha Dosha are:

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    • Heavy
    • Slow
    • Steady
    • Solid
    • Cold
    • Soft
    • Oily

    People driven by Kapha are known to be calm, thoughtful, and loving with an inherent ability to enjoy life. Their calmness makes the prone to routine and sometimes to holding onto relationships longer than they should. Physically the Kapha Dosha manifests as soft eyes; smooth, radiant skin,  and thick hair. However, when Kapha becomes out of balance it can quickly lead to lethargy, weight gain, and allergies. 

    When Kapha is in balance it is expressed as love and forgiveness. When out of balance it an lead to insecurity and envy.

    Balancing Your Doshas

    This is the science and practice of Ayurveda at it's core. Based on your unique position, your combination of Doshas and their relevant point of balance will guide your "treatment" / lifestyle. Primarily the Doshas are balanced through diet, but naturally Yoga and Meditation are vital to the wholistic success of Ayurveda. 

    There are a number of resources available to help you learn more about your Doshas and how best to balance them. For Yoga and Meditation, you can count on Salt Power Yoga.