Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga. Simply put, Ayurveda is food medicine, and ultimately looks at the organism as being composed of the elements. In Ayurveda there are three main elemental compositions: Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. In Ayurveda, your health is dependent on both your elemental composition and the way your composition interacts with the outside world.
I started my yoga practice first, but I’ve always had a love affair with Ayurveda. I’ll never forget being a small child and asking my mother about yoga. She said that yoga was like a dance where your body moved to your breath rather than to music. She then informed me that Ayurveda was natural health care, and she thought I would like that very much. She was right, I have always loved the idea of turning to nature to support my experience. In my opinion, Ayurveda offers practical applications of medicinal herbal remedies that support the natural fire, absorption, and transfer of energy to sustain internal and external processes essential to life.
Ayurveda as a practice and lifestyle might sound daunting, but really it is simple to integrate Ayurveda into your daily life. The firs step is to identify your dosha. There are three doshas in Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Every person is a composition of all three doshas, but usually there is a one dominant dosha that overshadows the others.
The first step in integrating Ayurveda into your daily practice is to identify what your primary dosha is, and to cultivate an awareness of what each dosha represents. Once you have this knowledge you can quickly apply these concepts to food, liquid, textiles, and your supportive practices.
Each dosha is said to have qualities of the elements it represents. For example, Vata is said to have airy, lithe, brittle, and dry qualities. Vata represents air, so one can consider the qualities associated with air to cultivate an awareness of the attributes of Vata. Pitta represents digestive fire, and is said to have hot, bitter, pungent qualities. Kapha represents earth and is said to have oily, heavy qualities. You can identify your dosha by taking a test or by meeting with an Ayurvedic practitioner. Some yoga teachers are well versed enough in Ayurveda to provide a dosha assessment and recommendation. Yoga Therapist use an awareness of the way your dosha presents in your experience to develop comprehensive yoga therapy plans to help stabilize and balance the system. Overall, simply understanding the doshas yields great insight into our patterns and behaviors.
The Six Tastes of Ayurveda
Rasas, or the six tastes of life are composed of the elements and water and directly contribute to the manifestation of our dosha characteristics as they present in our experience. The six tastes are sweet, salty, pungent, sour, bitter, and astringent. Of these six tastes, some pair nicely together and some do not. Some of these flavors neutralize while others intensify. Understanding the six tastes helps us to understand our bodies reaction to excess amounts of elemental compounds in the body. From this place we can seek balance by adjusting our diets to support our bodies physically.
Seasons and the Doshas
The doshas govern the seasons that we experience externally in our calendar year as well as the seasons of our lives. The fall is Vata season and is characterized by windy, dry, cold weather. The winter and early spring are known as the Kapha season and are cold, damp, and foggy. Late spring and early summer represent Pitta season and are hot, humid, and bright. In contrast, the seasons of our lives can be likened to the doshas, too. Childhood is considered the Kapha phase of development. Adulthood is considered the Pitta stage of development, and our senior years are considered the Vata period of our evolution.
Principles and Application of Ayurveda
Once you have a thorough understanding of the three doshas and their properties you can ascertain their antidotes and their catalyst. For example, if you are looking to down play the Vata in your life, perhaps you are feeling anxious or particularly scattered, then you will want to counter the undesirable qualities with their opposite. Anxiety and a feeling of scattered disorganization can be countered by grounding Kapha activities and food. Likewise, if you’re are experiencing lethargy, inability to take action, or depression you can counter these Kapha imbalances by adding Pitta activities and foods to your routine. The more familiar you become with the principles of Ayurveda the more integrated it will become in your routine.
Ayurveda in the Modern Household
As the collective consciousness continues to expand its awareness ancient traditions and fundamental truths are being applied to modern day living. With more organic sustainable produce available, a consistent supply of whole and raw foods, and an increasingly vegetarian diet more people are opting for a lifestyle intertwined with the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. It is virtually impossible to explain Ayurveda comprehensively in an online article, but I sincerely hope this new knowledge and outline of principles and practice deepen your curiosity around integrative Ayurvedic living.