Ayurveda. You’ve probably heard of this ancient medicine practice. But you have no idea how to pronounce it. Don’t worry, you’re not alone as indicated by the 237,000 results on Google for people asking the exact same thing.
So what exactly is ayurveda? Originating in India, this holistic practice is over 5,000 years old. Ayurveda literally translates to the “science of life” and is essentially a complementary and alternative medicine to prevent illness and keep people healthy.
The elements of Ayurveda
The central idea of Ayurveda is that what can be observed in the natural world consists of 5 unique elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. Likewise, living things including humans are also made up of these same elements.
As in nature, each element represents different parts of our body. For instance, your bones, muscles and tissues are said to have an earth quality. You yourself can even make this connection when you compare the two; words like structure, stability, heavy, slow and cold might pop into your mind. Another example is our digestion and metabolism, linked to fire: hot, intense, transformative and liquifying.
Essentially every part of the human body can relate to one of these 5 unique natural elements.
The Ayurvedic doshas
Within these 5 elements, Ayurveda developed a very unique concept called the doshas. There are 3 doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Don’t worry, you can Google how to pronounce those too! Because each of the 5 elements in our body cannot function on its own, the doshas were established as a balance of the elements. For instance, digestion (fire) requires fluid (water). Bones (earth) are made up of cells (space). The list goes on. No one element is independent of another.
Vata is made up of air and space, Pitta is fire and water, and Kapha is water and earth. Each of us has a unique combination of all 3 doshas. Most of us have two dominant doshas with a lesser amount of the third.
Your very characteristics are a reflection of your unique dosha type. Your body build, personality, exercise requirements, relationship patterns, decision-making abilities, nutrition habits and other traits all are a factor of your dosha type. Even your heartbeat relates to it!
If you’re interested in understanding the doshas better, and also to figure out what your unique makeup is, visit our article here.
But what do we do with this information? How can it play an important role in your life? Here’s where it gets really interesting.
Why Ayurveda is so important
This all might sound a little (ahem) ancient to you.
And you’re wondering, how can I apply this to my own modern life? We’re here to tell you, to this day Ayurveda is practiced on a widespread scale around the world. Whereas curative medicine has its place in the world, so does alternative medicine. A recent study showed that in fact 2 out of 3 Australians use a form of alternative medicine annually (including Ayurveda). Ayurveda is a tried and true practice that has helped millions of people live a healthy life.
Once you understand that Ayurveda is about the elements, you can start to understand how important balance is. For instance, too much water will put out fire. Too much earth will remove space. And so forth. If you apply this same concept to the human body, you can see how the elements can become imbalanced internally too.
Oftentimes you can be living with an imbalance without even understanding the cause. You might be aware of the problem, such as illness, aches and pains, skin issues, poor circulation, etc. But once you understand what your dosha type is and possible imbalances you may experience, you can start to incorporate meaningful changes in your life that truly make a difference to your health and happiness.
The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is for you to choose a lifestyle that creates balance and harmony in your entire body and mind system. Here’s 2 things you can do today to start living a more balanced lifestyle:
Eat for your dosha
What we eat matters. Eating is a form of self care that greatly affects our mental and physical health. When you consider your dosha type, you have a road map to staying balanced.
For example, if you are pitta dominant and want to stay balanced, you might choose to stay away from spicy and stimulant foods (caffeine, chocolate, cinnamon). Instead of reafching for that warm meal you (probably) cravy frequrntly, you should favour cooling foods such as a quinoa salad and spices like fennel and coriander.
You might notice that what you should eat for your dosha type doesn’t feel natural all of the time. But ultimately if you learn how to eat for your dosha, you will start to notice a change in how you look and feel.
Exercise for your dosha
Movement and exercise is an extremely important aspect of your health and wellbeing. It can have an effect not only on your body but also your mind. When you understand your dosha, you’re better able to understand what exercise you should seek out.
For instance, if you are kapha dominant, you might gravitate toward slower paced movement or even have trouble with motivation in general. In order to stay balanced, you might choose a more rigorous exercise first thing in the morning to kickstart your motivation levels and get your circulation moving. At night before crawling into bed, consider practicing yoga to reset the mind and stretch out tired muscles.
Yoga as a holistic system of movement, breath and mindfulness is well aligned with Ayurveda. In fact in yoga classes, you are given the practical tools to be present, focused and look inward. It can also improve your body awareness, leading you to better understand imbalances in your own body. Depending on your dosha type as well as your current state of being, you can use yoga as a tool to bring you back to your original state of being.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ayurveda, you can find an Ayurveda clinic near you to get professionally assessed by a doctor who specialises in the practice.
Ready to try our yoga classes, or one of the many other classes we have on offer here at Virgin Active? Book your free tour today.