What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda translates to the teachings of life. It is the science of prolonging the quality and quantity of life. It is one of the oldest recorded ways of living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Originating in Kerala, India, millions of people follow Ayurveda to this day. From food, to clothing, to sleep, Ayurveda covers the basis of everything, just like a holistic lifestyle. When Gurus would teach Ayurveda, they would recite poems, relate all their teachings to the earth, to love and self-love, to the gods, the universe, and everyday life.
Let’s break down some base line ideas. From food to thoughts, everything in Ayurveda is broken down into energy and recycled. It is called the process of materialization. AUM is the energy source; it is the vibration and consciousness of the entire universe. It describes the expansiveness and contraction of the universe. Saying AUM will help energy go from expansive to contraction. When said backwards, MUA, it will transform contracted energy to expansive energy.
There is also the concept that enzymes work to break down this energy in our body. In Ayurveda, enzymes are related to the role of certain gods. Brahma: The ultimate reality of the universe, the creator, the generator. Vishnu: The operator, who nourishes and sustains the body, helps you stay alive. Shiva: The destroyer, transforming food into consciousness. You can relate the three to the process of life, from birth, to being alive, to death and its process. In Ayurveda, the belief is that all spiritual practices will lead you to greater knowledge.
In Ayurveda, your digestive fire is called Agni. What you offer your Agni will be your ultimate reality. To translate, you are what you eat, and that everything you consume has divinity thus creating your ultimate reality. The characteristics that form your reality, from thoughts, to physical, are called Dosha’s. Dosha’s are responsible for the characteristics of mind, body, and soul. There are three Dosha’s: Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha. Ideally your Dosha’s should be balanced between the three. When not in balance, we rely on the earth elements to bring us back: Space/Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. It is known that Space and Air govern Vatta, which is responsible for movement, and cell transportation. Fire and Water govern Pitta, which is responsible for metabolism, digestion, and body temperature. Water and Earth govern Kapha, which is responsible for stability, structure, and lubrication.
Your Asana, or seat, holds each of these Dosha’s in a certain place in your body. The seat of Vatta is held in your large intestine, Pitta in the stomach and small intestine, and Kapha in the lungs. In T.C.M. this is called your Triple Heater. When your Dosha’s aren’t maintained or functioning properly, it causes an imbalance. There are several online tests and tests in Ayurveda books you can take to find out if you’re more Vatta, Pitta, or Kapha. Or… We can feel or see if there is an imbalance in our bodies by studying the characteristics of it, or checking in with our physiological feelings. Ex: Checking our hair and nails, or feeling that there’s too much mucus in the body, and we can’t absorb food well, and our immune system weakens, thus creating a weaker Agni.
Your Agni maintains your life force. Other things that can weaken your Agni includes: Eating out of your constitution, eating the same things over and over again, eating tasteless food, drinking too much water with meals, staying up too late, irregular eating, overeating, resisting eating when you’re hungry. Keeping your Agni balanced, keeps your Ojas and Amma balances. Ojas: Vitality and vital essence that all energy gets broken down to from body, then to your brain, and finally in your heart, to your heart chakra where it can then nourish the higher and lower chakras. Ojas is the physiological expression of consciousness. Amma: Congestion and toxicity. Amma can create more mucus and unwanted plaque in the Shrotas, a.k.a. Organs. Although fat and mucus can protect the body, too much is not favorable, it causes excess and imbalance.
Along with Dosha’s there are taste principles in Ayurveda that also relate to actions and feelings a person can portray. In Ayurveda, it is believed that taste affects the mind. Madhura: Sweet, compassion, satisfaction, or attachment and possessiveness, balances Vatta and Pitta. Amla: Sour, discrimination, stimulation, or envy, jealousy, and anger, balances Vatta. Lavana: Salty, confidence, zest for life, or greed and over ambition, balances Vatta. Katu: Pungent, extroversion, boldness, or anger, violence and hatred, balances Kapha. Kashya: Astringent, introversion, or insecurity and fear, balances Pitta and Kapha. Tikta: Bitter, dissatisfaction, isolation, or grief and sorrow, balances Kapha and Pitta. Let’s break down the characteristics of the Dosha’s some more.
Vatta Dosha: Governed by air and space/ether. Vatta dominant people tend to be dry, cool, subtle, clear, rough, light on feet, creative, head in the clouds. Functions of Vatta: Movement, communication, breath, circulation, elimination of waste, hearing, sensory perception, and orgasms. When out of balance, Vatta people tend to have anxiety, pain, live in fear, and have fatigue, or headaches, and constipation. When in balance: Happiness, joy, creativity, and flexibility. To keep your Vatta in balance: Stay warm, eat soups, and spices, rest, and stay on your routine.
Pitta Dosha: Governed by fire and water. Pitt dominant people tend to be dry, hot, expansive, intense, energy, focus. Functions of Pitta: Digestion, hunger, thirst, visual perception, intelligence, and understanding. When out of balance, Pitta people tend to have stronger smelling body odor, inflammation, jealousy, hatred, nosebleeds, digestive issues, get burnt out easily, and may have liver issues. When in balance: Outgoing, determined, focused, and has robust energy. To keep your Pitta in balance: Eat cool, dry, light and sweet tasting foods, meditate, stay cool and practice healthy competition.
Kapha Dosha: Governed by water and earth. Kapha dominant people tend to be moist, cool, solid round features, patient, and sturdy. Functions of Kapha: Emotional calm, physical support, lubrication, endurance, and keeps things together. When out of balance, Kapha people tend to be more slow, cool and clammy, have slow and oily digestion. When in balance: Save money well, have a calming presence, are emotionally stable, and are reliable. To keep Kapha in balance: Have a daily salad, eat dry fruit, have pungent and bitter greens, don’t eat later in the evenings.
In order to keep your Dosha’s balanced, you would follow the Taste Principles and eat in categories called the Triple Gunas: Rajas, represents human movement, activity, intense, challenging, passion, energy, and excitement. Rajas foods: Onions, garlic, radish, caffeine, sugar, tobacco, night shades, heavy spices, salt, too hot, too bitter, too sour, too salty. Rajas foods are too be eaten when in need of more excitement and movement. Sattva represents expansiveness, a balanced mind, purity, rare qualities, positive, pleasure, divinity, and harmony, like a calm yogi. Sattva foods: Grains, breads, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, herbs, natural sweeteners, humane dairy, cold pressed oils, and water. Sattva foods are to be eaten to come back to center and to calm. Tamas, builds, sustains, creates mass, or is lethargic, slow, destructive, lazy, and dull. Tamas foods: Meats, dairy, eggs, mushrooms, fungi, potatoes, fermented foods, alcohol, drugs, stale, rotten, under or over ripe foods, frozen, and canned foods. Tamas foods are to be eaten when in need of building mass in the body.
Although nutrition is a major part, it is not the only way we maintain our Dosha's. There is also Ayurvedic massage, done with specific oils like sesame seed. And don't forget about sleep! In Ayurveda, there are specific times to sleep, and certain routines to follow at specific times of the day, different for each Dosha. Keep in mind that your Dosha’s are not always 100% one or the other, we are made up of all three, and they are constantly changing. Just like the seasons change, we change. It’s important to pay attention to your body and your needs. From emotional, to physical, nourish yourself in a balanced way for your specific needs. Take a Dosha test every day and see how your body is changing with the food you eat, and how your routine is day to day. Be mindful of your self-care practices.You’ll be surprised as to how much you learn about yourself and how your food, actions, and environment affect everything.
XO - Chenu