Introduction to Ayurveda

“Ayurveda” means “the science of life” in Sanskrit.

It is one of the oldest healing sciences in the world and it focuses on paying close attention to balance in order to maintain good health. This involves correct diet, lifestyle, thoughts and occasional use of herbal medicine.

The way to achieve good health varies vastly from one body to the next. Ayurveda identifies three main qualities (“doshas”) present in the body. Each person tends to be dominant in one, but the goal is to achieve a balance between the three.

The three doshas:

  1. Vata
  2. Kapha
  3. Pitta

There are numerous internal and external factors that influence the balance of doshas. Examples include seasons, food choices, emotional state, physical trauma, sleep and relationships. Understanding how these factors affect us allows us to address the root of many diseases.

It can be difficult to translate the ideas of Vata, Kapha and Pitta to English, but this article will give a brief introduction to how each dosha manifests itself in the human body.

Vata Dosha

Vata dosha is analogous to the wind. It is the dosha of movement, therefore vata-dominant people tend to be:

  • Active and light in the body
  • Restless in the mind (irregular thinking, fast speech)
  • Light sleeper with many dreams
  • Easily cold
  • Excitable and easily distracted

In balance, vata promotes creativity and productivity. However, too much vata can lead to burnout, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and digestive issues.

Cooked vegetables, warm soups and curries can be very soothing for someone with too much vata. Root vegetables such as turmeric, parsnip, ginger and beetroot are especially grounding too.

Kapha Dosha

Earth and Water are combined to symbolise kapha dosha. People dominant in kapha dosha tend to exhibit the following qualities:

  • A heavier body, easy to gain weight
  • Experience a lot of inertia and lethargy
  • Heavy sleeper
  • Sweet cravings
  • Tolerance and patience

In balance, kapha promotes resilience, steadiness and generosity. Excess inflammation, water retention and mucus is a sign of kapha imbalance.

The key to pacifying kapha is stimulation. This means kaphas greatly benefit from vigorous exercise in the morning. Stimulating foods include spices (chilli, ginger, cayenne, cumin) and alkalising, bitter foods (lemon, dark leafy greens and turmeric). Kaphas should try to avoid too much dairy and sugar.

Pitta Dosha

Pitta dosha we can visualise as Fire and Water. Pitta dosha has oily and warm qualities, therefore pitta-dominant people tend to have:

  • A hot body temperature
  • Oily skin and a tendency to sweat more
  • Strong digestive fire
  • Tight hips
  • Excellent concentration and logic; able to execute a plan in an effective manner

A good level of pitta dosha promotes intelligence and understanding, but in excess it arouses anger, jealousy and a short-temper. Too much pitta dosha can cause health problems such as hyper-acidity and high blood pressure.

To bring pitta back into balance, it helps to eat cooling foods such as salads, fruits, coconut water, yogurts and herbs such as coriander, fennel and mint. Slow exercise like yin yoga and walking is excellent for pitta-dominant people.

Which dosha do you think you are dominant in at the moment?

Published by Mary Barry

Yoga instructor

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