Optimize Your Health with Ayurveda
With so many diets, guidelines, tips and tricks out there in the world of wellness, it can be tricky to figure out which ones work best for you.
The thing is, there’s probably no ideal diet or self-care tools that will work for everybody, all of the time. Our body’s needs change throughout the year, and at different times in our lives.
This is why the system of Ayurveda is so incredible – it leaves flexibility for these changes.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a system of holistic medicine originating from India, and dating back to more than 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda literally means “the science of life” in Sanskrit.
It’s based on the idea that as individuals we have our own unique bodily constitutions, or “doshas”, which influence our energy levels, emotional patterns, dietary needs, physical body type, and so much more.
Ayurveda seeks to find a balance between the different elements, or patterns of energy, that each person is made of through holistic methods. This balance is felt not only on a physical level, but emotional and mental as well.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, there are three main energies, or doshas, that someone is comprised of – kapha, pitta, and vata. Most people are dominant in one of the doshas, but may also have a mixture of them.
Kapha is a mixture of earth and water. People who are kapha dominant tend to have a thicker, more muscular build, and may be prone to slower digestion. These people tend to be grounded, loyal, and calm, but when out of balance, can become stubborn, lethargic, and complacent. To stay balanced, they benefit from lots of fresh fruits and veggies, plenty of exercise, and brain-stimulating activities.
Pitta is the dosha of fire. People who are pitta dominant, tend to have a medium build, are more muscular and may have sensitive or acne-prone skin. These people are typically busybodies, and always doing or creating something, when out of balance they may become angry or irritable easily, or burn themselves out from doing too much.
Because they tend to have a strong metabolism, they can eat a wide range of foods but may benefit from incorporating grains into their diet and minimizing spicy foods. Self-care looks like leaving space for relaxing and letting themselves do unstructured activities.
Vata is ruled by the element air and revolves around movement. People who have a vata balance may be more thin and tall, with drier skin. They tend to have a lot of ideas and free-flowing creativity, but may become easily anxious or lack the groundedness to put their ideas into action.
These people benefit from proteins and fats, as well as root vegetables like beets and sweet potatoes. Spending time in nature, and other grounding activities help vata stay balanced mentally.
Based on these brief descriptions of the three different “vatas”, you can see how these different elements come into play within each of us, and may have an idea of which one is dominant in you.
Given that Ayurveda is the science of life, it makes sense that it would shift and reflect depending on what life is like at any given moment.
In addition to people having doshas, Ayurveda also divides the seasons into doshas. Vata is from late fall to early winter. Kapha is late winter to early spring. While Pitta is from late spring to early fall.
Understanding how these doshas dominate the different parts of the year, lets you shift your diet, habits, and lifestyles with the seasons. In simple terms, this is why we tend to crave hydrating fruits and vegetables in the summer, and warm, grounding soups and stews in the winter.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate Ayurveda into your lifestyle is by eating seasonally and locally. The human body is in tune with its natural surroundings. If you eat according to what’s in season in your area, you’re able to get what nutrients your body needs during that time of year.
Try it Yourself
Within the system of Ayurveda, there are countless tools and modalities that you can incorporate into your life.
Massage is another essential component of Ayurveda and is often even prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners.
One massage practice you can try at home is called Abhyanga. This is done by using warm oil, sesame or avocado oil for vata, sunflower or jojoba oil for pitta, and sweet almond or flaxseed oil for kapha.
Before starting, lay down a mess towel that you won’t mind getting dirty, and make sure your oil (about ¼ a cup) isn’t too hot. This technique involves using circular strokes on joints and organs, and long strokes on your limbs, while always massaging towards your heart.
- Sit or stand in a warm room, and gently begin pouring the oil on the crown of your head. Use circular strokes to slowly massage your whole scalp.
- Continue on to massage the face, don’t forget your ears!
- Move to your arms, then chest, spending extra time on your abdomen.
- Finish by taking extra care by massaging your feet.
- Give yourself a few minutes to bask in the relaxation before going to shower. There’s no need to scrub the oil off. Not only will you feel incredibly relaxed, but your skin will also be super soft too!
There are countless other Ayurvedic tools that you can do on a daily basis to help find more balance and grounding in your life. From oil pulling to waking up early, gentle exercise, meditation, and bathing – you choose what works for you to help balance your mind and body while optimizing your health.
Natasha (she/her) is a full-spectrum doula and health+wellness copywriter. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, health, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more education and empowerment. You can connect with Natasha on IG @natasha.s.weiss.