What is Ayurveda, and How Does It Benefit Me?
We’ve had a lot of people stop by the office recently (wearing masks, of course) asking, “What is Ayurveda anyway?” Ayurveda is an ancient system of Medicine that originated in India over 5,000 plus years ago. Back then, people didn’t have iPhones or Google; they had to understand the world around them by studying it. Sages spent time in contemplation, and learned to understand the body, its nature, and nature as a whole. Ayurveda birthed from countless hours of observation, practice, experimentation, discovery, and passing down of that knowledge.
Ayurveda is often referred to as the “Mother of All Healing,” and it incorporates observational diagnostic tools (checking the tongue, eyes, pulse—to name a few) as well as medicinal diagnostic tools like, looking at blood, urine, and stool samples to better understand your body’s constitution and needs. Health history, health goals, lifestyle habits and circumstances are all taken into consideration, so that you and the doctor can see a larger picture of what balance and out-of-balance looks like for you.
Ayurveda looks to nature to explain the foundations of our bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits. It teaches us to work with the five elements, and to live in harmony with the ecosystem we’re apart of—which means: spending time in nature, living in accordance with the seasons and rhythms of the environment, eating foods that grow locally and seasonally, managing our energy, and eating foods and participating in activities that are right for our constitution and make us feel safe, supported, nourished.
The way Ayurveda is practically applied looks different from person to person, because it sees all of us as unique. Once we have a better understanding of our constitution (the elements, qualities, tendencies, balances and imbalances) of our body’s, we can better understand how to make lifestyle, dietary, career, and relationship choices that will best suit our aptitudes and needs. The three main doshas, or life forces, that comprise our constitution discussed in Ayurveda are Pitta, Kapha, and Vata; we all have all three of them moving through us at all times, but only one (rarely ever two or all three) serve as our main dosha, or constitution. Whatever our main dosha is, it remains that way throughout our entire lives. If our main dosha is Pitta, we are still Pitta even if we’re exhibiting more Vata-out-of-balance tendencies—this would be describe as Pitta with Vata imbalance.
Pitta is a combination of the Fire and Water elements. It regulates all metabolic functions, as well as, circulation, temperature change, and hormone balance. Pitta types tend to be hard working, fiery, concentrated, initiators, with a strong work ethic. When in balance, they are passionate, strong, direct, disciplined, focused, charming, attentive, bright, and action-oriented. They have a fighting-spirit and bring clarity, radiance, and a thirst for action. Out of balance they can be prone to anger, hot-headedness/stubbornness, rage, frustration, sleep disorders, digestive disorders, skin issues, inflammation, and circulation problems. For Pitta-dominant people it’s important to avoid extremes, to get regular exercise or movement, and to eat smaller meals multiple times throughout the day.
Vata is a combination of Air and Ether. Vata-dominant individuals tend to be highly creative, ethereal, sensitive, and light-hearted. Vata deals with the movement of our energy, our thoughts, and our nervous system, and has an influence (different than Pitta) over circulation and digestion. When in balance, Vata brings a love of all things creative (music, dance, art, writing, poetry, reading, creating of any kind, or appreciating the creations of others), and perception. In balance, Vata has an ability to tap into intuition and perception skills easily and to bring enthusiasm and eccentricity to life. Out of balance, Vata tends to lead to nervous disorders, anxiety, insomnia, or issues: in the colon, with communication and putting thoughts together, with focusing, and/or with setting boundaries around creative impulses. They can get restless easily and forget to eat. It’s best for Vata types to eat solid, grounding, warm, nourishing, slowly prepared foods at regular meal times every day. Actually, it’s good for Vata to have any routine of any kind throughout the day. Fasting, spending time in cold environments, or jarring/quick-paced environments ought to be avoided. Vata is already so airy, spacey, and mobile, that it needs warmth, nourishment, and grounding to feel at ease.
Kapha is earth and water. It is the most grounded of the three doshas, and rules the fluids and structures (like bones and fascia) of the body. Kapha in balance tends to be “down to earth” and soft, usually like the archetypal image of a Mother. Very homey, very cozy, very loving, very kind, nourishing, warm, grounded, and openhearted. They tend to do well in work environments that they can grow and build relationships in over long periods of time. They can handle issues calmly, when in balance, and they can be great communicators, since they often have a knack for knowing how others are feeling/what others need, and can usually address that even when they also need to make a request or set a boundary. They do well with regular, moderate exercise and movement, and smaller, lighter meals that are nourishing and uplifting. Out of balance, Kapha tends to be lethargic, dense, critical, unwavering, depressive, and prone to diabetes and obesity.
It’s exciting and easy to want to self-diagnose based on the bits and pieces of information given in this article or found on Google searches, but there’s a lot that goes into getting a clear reading on someone’s constitution; so we advise steering away from self-diagnosis, and coming into the clinic for a Consultation if you want to know your constitution and better understand the mechanics behind it, as well as, any recommendations to keep it in balance.
When working with an Ayurvedic Doctor, there is a clinical side, practical side, and energetic side of this work. From a clinical standpoint, you will go over lab reports and monitor progress with physical markers. On a practical level, you’ll be guided and given lifestyle, dietary, and habitual practices you can use at home to keep yourself in balance and living your path to wellness every day. From an energetic standpoint, you’ll work through some of the emotional and energetic “stuff” of your life that maybe hasn’t been easy to process, and you’ll learn how let go of habits, foods, or thought patterns that don’t bring you ease and balance. Your practitioner serves as medical and emotional support in that way.
Another aspect of Ayurveda involves an Ayurvedic Massage called Abhyanga. This is a specific type of lymphatic massage that helps detox the body, hydrate the body, and allow it to be more mobile, healthy, and radiant. The practice involves basically saturating your skin in warm herbal oils and lightly massaging each area of the body (focusing on areas that promote lymphatic drainage more than others). It’s relaxing, grounding, warming, and leaves you feeling incredible at the end. If you’re curious about the practice, we offer 60 or 90 minute Abhyanga Massages here at the clinic.
We’re so excited to support you on your path to wellness! Let us know if you have questions, or head to the ‘Appointments’ section of our website to schedule a Consultation and/or Massage for you, or for loved ones.
Let's have a happy and healthy new year!