Hello, readers! I’m glad you’re all enjoying the yoga updates, because this week there might be quite a few of them…The big exam is this Sunday, so I’m going to take advantage of this studying-via-blog-posts (it’s helping!).
Today I’m super stoked to share with you information about ayurveda! You’ve probably heard me mention it before, as I’ve been familiar with it through my Lefty spiritual soul sister at absolutely ayurveda. She is truly one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known in real life—she embodies ayurveda teachings so humbly and gracefully. The summary of ayurveda that I’m about to provide pales in comparison to her vast knowledge, and so I urge you to visit her site for more lessons on yoga’s “sister science.”
Ayurveda is a sanskrit term for “the science of life,”* and is one of the oldest systems of healing. Ayurveda seeks to prevent and treat illness by maintaining balance in the mind, body, and consciousness through proper drinking, diet, and lifestyle. In order to determine how to create balance in our lives, it is important for us to become familiar with our doshic composition.
Doshas are “a special combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics.” Everyone has elements of all three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—but it’s likely that an individual will possess a greater number of one or two dosha types. Once you determine your dosha, you will have a better understanding of how to create balance, which is essential to prevent and treat dis-ease in our bodies, minds, and lives.
So how do you figure out your dosha? I’ll provide you a very short overview of some usual qualities of each dosha, but then I suggest you take this super fun online quiz to get a better assessment of what you fall under.
Vata: (space + air)
Physically vatas are usually either tall or short with a thin frame and have trouble holding onto weight. They are quick-minded and restless, have irregular hunger (can skip meals without noticing), and perform activities quickly.
Pitta: (water + fire)
Pittas have medium frame, both in terms of height and weight. They are competitive, have a sharp intellect, and a quick temper. They are not pleasant to be around if they miss a meal. Their fiery nature mean they are passionate and inspiring but also irritable and angry.
Kapha: (water + earth)
Kapha frames are generally larger and have a tendency to hold onto weight. They have a calm, steady disposition, and move through life at a slower pace. They are grounded, centered, and loving, but also have a tendency towards attachment and depression.
I’d suggest taking the quiz and reading more before you determine which dosha seems most like you. It’s also important to remember that each of us have some of all the doshas that impact us at different times. For example, Kapha energy is particularly prevalent in women during their menstrual cycles. Pitta energy tends to strike midday, which is why ayurveda recommends eating your largest meal at lunch time when digestion is fired up. Vata energy usually occurs most in the late afternoon/early evening.
After determining your dosha, you can learn how to balance out the extreme qualities by incorporating more of the other dosha elements into your life. For example, Pittas may have a tendency to crave spicy food, but because they are already rooted in warmth and fire, they might be better off enjoying cooling Vata foods, like watermelon (especially in the warm months of the summer).
Yoga asanas can also be more or less beneficial for particular dosha types. Vatas should emphasize poses that compress the abdomen and strengthen the spine. Because vatas are already full of non-directed energy, more centering poses are helpful. These might include: uttanasana, supine twist, savasana, balasana.
Pittas need calming and cooling postures. It’s also helpful to include poses that target the small intestine. The following asanas are good for pitta doshas: ustrasana (camel), bhugangasana (cobra), should stand, triangle, half moon, headstand.
Kapahs should focus on poses that are invigorating and heating, and that open up the chest (as Kaphas tend to hold mucus in the sinuses, stomach, and lungs). Helpful asanas include: backbends, sun salutations, twists, and arm balances/inversions.
Ayurveda has a lot more to offer beyond dosha analysis and yoga poses. The practice also provides wisdom into diet, herbal remedies, meditation, digestion, seasonal recommendations, and so much more. A few random ayurveda tidbits I’ve learned over the past year include: avoiding drinking very cold beverages (impedes digestion); avoid drinking liquid while eating (ditto); incorporate dry brushing, netti-pot-ing, and tongue scraping in your daily routine. (So much fun stuff!). In addition to absolutely ayurveda, I’d recommend checking out Spinach and Yoga, another great ayruveda blogger, to continue learning more about this healing science.
On a personal note, ayurveda has been really powerful in my own journey towards a more yogic modality because it keeps in check my tendency to romanticize extremes. I am a fairly by-the-book pitta, and have always clung to my “passionate” (often irritable, attitude-y), “productive” (high-stress), “determined” (stubborn) disposition. After years of yoga, and since being in teacher training, I have started to notice that I possess more elements of the other doshas (particularly kapha) in ways that even me out. Fortunately, I’m getting better at aparigraha (non-grasping), and no longer feel wedded to have a personality of superlatives. In addition, I have found tremendous compassion in ayurveda’s approach to diet and “cleansing.” As someone who was admittedly partly drawn to detoxing and cleansing because of my history with disordered eating and body image, I have found nothing but positive, non-extreme messages from ayurveda’s teachings. Ayurveda warns certain doshas away from certain types of cleanses/detoxes. Pittas, for example, should be wary of any type of liquid-only fast (even juice “feasts”) because of their response to missing meals. This was really profound for me–to realize that my “failure” at juice fasts (which have never lasted more than a day), is not a failure at all, but just a sign of my best, natural state getting thrown out of balance. This was a truly loving realization, especially compared to many of the messages we get from “the detox-world.”
Yeah, ayurveda! Up next? Chakras! (So juicy, stay tuned).
What’s your dosha? If you were already familiar with ayurveda, how do you incorporate this wisdom into your life? If this is new to you, how do you think you might take this information to create more balance?
*All direct quotes are taken from a handout provided by Kim Ferrel during our lecture on ayurveda.