What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda has a long history of being used for holistic healing. In Ayurvedic medicine, the balance between the mind, body, and spirit is super important for maintaining wellness. If there’s an imbalance, it can lead to illness.
“Ayurveda” is a combination of two Sanskrit words meaning “life” (“Ayur”) and “science” (“Veda”). You can literally think of Ayurveda as being “the science of life”!
How does Ayurveda work?
Ayurveda places a huge emphasis on preventing illness and keeping you in good health. Disease is seen as being influenced by an imbalance of energy types.
Ayurveda is not a substitute for Western medicine. Followers believe you can become healthier and prevent illness by following its principles but if surgery or drugs are needed, these should be accepted. Ayurvedic medicine can then be used to rebalance the mind and body. Ayurveda practitioners look of symptoms of illness, especially ones linked to imbalances. Taking the pulse, examining the tongue, eyes, and body, and listening to how you speak can all be used.
A brief look at dosha types
Doshas are a combination of 5 different elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth.
In Ayurveda, everyone is made up of the 5 elements, and they come together to create 3 different energy types (known as doshas).
There are 3 main doshas:
● Vata (comprised of space and air)
● Pitta (comprised of fire and water)
● Kapha (comprised of earth and water)
Understanding how Vata, Pitta, and Kapha work together to balance the body, mind, and soul is key to Ayurveda.
● Vata is linked to movement and is important for breathing and movement in the muscles, tissues, and cell membranes. When it’s unbalanced, fear and anxiety are super common.
● Pitta is linked to the metabolic system and is important for digestion, nutrition, metabolism, and temperature control. When it’s unbalanced, negative emotions such as anger and jealousy can feel out of control
● Kapha is linked to body structure and is important for healthy muscles and bones, joint lubrication, skin moisturization, and immunity. When it’s unbalanced, greed and envy are super common emotions.
We all have a unique combination of doshas and the make-up of these is pre-set when you’re born. It stays the same throughout your life.
One dosha usually wins out and is more pronounced than the others. It’s this prominent dosha that can affect health and wellbeing, especially when it’s unbalanced.
Your dosha is believed to affect how often you get sick and which health problems affect you, for example.
A ton of factors can alter the delicate balance of doshas, including your emotions, stress, diet, weather, and trauma. Toxins can also be a factor. If you know the triggers, you can take steps to reduce the imbalance and get back in rhythm.
You may have two prominent doshas and it’s super common to be in this situation. Balancing the two can be challenging.
When you read up on doshas, you may feel that you fit the characteristics of one dosha more than the others. If you find it super hard to decide which dosha is your dominant one, consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner can shed some light on which is most prominent for you and how to balance it.
The Ayurvedic diet
With the Ayurvedic diet, you can eat in line with your “dosha” type. Keeping it balanced is super important from a health perspective.
Once you know your dominant dosha, you can eat in line with it. This is designed to nourish your dosha type and provide the right kind of energy.
Here’s a rough guide to each dosha:
● Vata - Sweet fruits (especially when they’re cooked), cooked veggies, grains, red lentils, meat, fish, and eggs are all great choices for balancing Vata. Frozen and raw veggies, potatoes, chickpeas, and yogurt can make Vata unbalanced.
● Pitta - Sweet or bitter veggies, black beans, and chicken can work well for balancing Pitta. Avoiding pungent veggies, sour fruits, quinoa, brown rice, sour cream, and most seafood can help to balance too.
● Kapha - Astringent fruits, pungent veggies, buttermilk, and cottage cheese can be good food choices for balancing Kapha. Some of the foods that can aggravate Kapha include sweet or sour fruits, sweet or water-rich veggies, rice, pasta, kidney beans, and freshwater fish.
Some Ayurveda practitioners don’t advise sticking to dosha-specific foods and drinks as rigidly as this so there can be some freedom to eat more broadly. An Ayurvedic diet also incorporates the 6 rasas (tastes). Each meal should include each of the 6 tastes: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Mindful eating is also a big part of Ayurveda. Meals should be fully appreciated and eaten slowly without distractions. Listening to your body’s hunger cues around hunger is super important for this.
The science behind Ayurveda
Most of the evidence around Ayurveda is anecdotal or observational. Some research has been done though and there seems to be some promise in using Ayurvedic techniques to support people with certain health conditions.
Studies have also suggested that Ayurveda can encourage people to adopt healthier habits.