The term Ayurveda – combining the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge) is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. An holistic system of healing which evolved in India some 3000-5000 years ago, it is believed the medical knowledge was passed from the Gods to sages, and thence to human physicians.
Ayurvedic Medicine is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The majority of India’s population uses Ayurvedic medicine exclusively or combined with conventional Western medicine.
According to Ayurveda Medicine, anything that affects your physical, spiritual, or emotional well-being can and will cause you to be out of balance with the universe. Examples of the type of things that can cause an imbalance are your genes, injuries, seasonal changes, food, age and emotions.
Key concepts of Ayurvedic medicine include universal interconnectedness among people, their health, and the universe, the body’s own individual constitution (prakriti), and life forces (dosha).
How your body works to keep you healthy and your unique physical and psychological characteristics combine to form your body’s constitution, or prakriti. Your prakriti is believed to stay the same for your entire life. However, how you digest food and eliminate waste can influence it.
Every person is made of a combination of five basic elements found in the universe – space, air, fire, water an earth. Using these concepts, Ayurvedic physicians prescribe personalized treatments, including compounds of herbs, and lifestyle recommendations such as dietary changes and the correct exercise for the patient.
Personalized treatments are recommended to –
- Restore balance
- Improve spiritual healing
- Boost your immunity
- Reduce symptoms
The treatments used to do this may include –
- Breathing exercises
- Dietary changes
- Herbs, vitamins, minerals, and metals
- Plant-based oils and spices
- Lifestyle changes
The 3 Doshas
Different elements combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called Doshas. Ayurvedic medicine believes a balance of the doshas results in health, while an imbalance results in disease. They control how your body works, and each person should modulate their behavior or environment to increase or decrease the doshas and maintain their natural state.
Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas, however one dosha is usually more dominant. Each Dosha controls a different bodily function and the balance of your doshas will determine your health. The 3 Doshas are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata (space and air) types are said to be thin and bony with restless minds and thought to be the most powerful of all three doshas. They tend to have a light build, naturally creative, sensitive, preferring warm, humid climates and have dry skin.
- Vata controls very basic body functions, and also controls your mind, breathing, blood flow, heart function and the ability to get rid of body waste through the intestines.
- If Vata Dosha is your main life force, you are more likely to develop –
- – Anxiety
- – Asthma
- – Heart disease
- – Disorders of the nervous system
- – Rheumatoid arthritis
- – Skin problems
– Craving warmth
– Frequent viral infection
– Weight loss
– Disturbed sleep
What disrupts Vata –
- – Eating dried fruit
- – Eating too soon after a previous meal
- – Fear
- – Grief
– Staying up too late
What helps to balance Vata?
– Boiled or steamed starchy vegetables (moderate broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and leafy vegetables)
– Ripe fruits
– Warm milk (moderate dairy)
– Soupy grains: rice, wheat
– Mild spices: cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, salt, cloves, mustard, black pepper
– Tea: chamomile, fennel, ginger, licorice, lemon
– Nourishing soups, casseroles and dahls are great for balancing Vata, particular during winter.
The pitta dosha (fire and water) types have a medium, muscular build with muscular limbs and an alert mind. They are productive, hard working and irritable. They prefer cold climates and tend to have fair skin. Pitta controls digestion, the ability to break down foods (metabolism), and certain hormones linked to appetite.
If Pitta Dosha is your main life force, you are more likely to develop –
- – Anger and negative emotions
- – Crohn’s disease
- – Heart disease
- – Heartburn a few hours after eating
- – High blood pressure
- – Infections
– Over-heating, profuse sweating
– Colourful, violent dreams
– Excessive hunger
– Frequent bacterial infections
What disrupts Pitta?
– Eating sour foods
- – Eating spicy foods
- – Fatigue
- – Spending too much time in the sun
- What helps to balance Pitta?
- – Boiled, steamed, raw vegetables
- – Sweet fruits
– Moderate amounts of dairy
– Soupy grains: rice, wheat, barley, oats
– Mild, cooling spices: coriander, cardamom, cloves, turmeric, cumin, curry leaves, mint
– Tea: fennel, chamomile, peppermint, spearmint, licoric, red clover
The kapha dosha (water and earth). Kapha types have heavy, broad frames, are strong and stable with long limbs. They tend to be calm and patient, methodical, and easy-going, preferring warm, dry climates. Their skin tends to be oily. Kapha also controls muscle growth, weight, and immunity.
If Kapha Dosha is your main life force, you are more likely to develop –
– Asthma and other breathing disorders
- – Obesity
- – Sluggish bowels
- – Procrastination
- – Craving warmth, spicy foods
- – Frequent candida
- – Water retention
- – Weight gain
– Excessive sleep
What disrupts Kapha?
- – Daytime sleeping
- – Eating after your stomach is full
- – Eating or drinking items that have too much salt or water
- – Eating too many sweet foods
- – Greed
- What helps to balance Kapha?
– Boiled, steamed, raw vegetables
– Ripe fruits (except banana)
– Fat-free buttermilk (other dairy reduced)
– Grains: corn, millet, rye, oats, barley, wheatbran
– Strong spices: pepper, paprika, salt, garlic, basil, cloves, allspice, fennel, mustard, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper
– Honey instead of sugar
– Tea: cinnamon, fenugreek, peppermint, raspberry
Winter = Vata/Kapha Time
Ayurveda divides the year not into seasons – spring, summer, fall, and winter, but according to the most prevalent Dosha during each period.
We have just gone through the Vata seasons of autumn and early winter, with Kapha making its presence known in the latter part of winter. Kapha season lasts from the second half of winter through until spring.
If you’re feeling sluggish, fatigued, and depressed, are gaining weight, suffering with allergic symptoms or water retention, these are signs that your Kapha dosha is out of whack and needs adjusting.
Things you can do to maintain a healthy balance in the cooler months, no matter what your Dosha.
- Eat on foods that are light, dry, and warm.
- Include 2 tbsp. of raw honey per day. Preferably from a local source.
- Sip warm liquids throughout the day. This keeps your core optimally functioning and aids in digestion.
- Drink 2-3 cups of hot ginger tea per day. It stimulates digestion.
- Eat your largest meal at lunchtime.
- Eat a small dinner portion and ideally let your body digest for 3 hours before bedtime.
Wetness and heaviness define the Kapha season, along with the cold in the earlier part of the season. You will be influenced by Kapha’s nature at this time of year no matter what your Dosha.
This winter try not to indulge in too much heavy, high carb’ foods. Be mindful of moving your body daily by doing something you like – be it dancing, walking, cycling, yoga, Qi Gong. Stay warm by rugging up (in natural fibres) and frequently sipping on warm herbal teas. Try and avoid cold, damp environments for any prolonged period of time, and remember that soon winter will pass and spring (Kapha) will be upon us once again, beginning yet another cycle of growth.
Janella Purcell 2016