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What is Ayurveda?

Posted on October 14 2017

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The word "Ayurveda" translates literally as the "science of life" (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). In addition to providing guidelines for basic health, it provides wisdom which allows us to achieve our full potential. The essential idea of Ayurveda is simple: our minds and bodies are completely connected, and our minds are utterly capable of healing and transforming our bodies. By cultivating our own awareness, we can bring our minds into balance and in turn extend this to our bodies. 

Most people familiar with Ayurveda are aware that it categorizes people into three mind-body types, or doshas. Of course, human beings being what we are, most people fall into at least two doshas. Each dosha is based on a combination of two elements. Pitta is made of fire and water, while Vata is composed of space and air. Kapha is derived from elements of the water and earth. 

Pitta types have a fiery nature. When in balance, they have good digestion, warm body temperature, sleep soundly, and have a strong sex drive. They can be excellent thinkers with a strong ability to concentrate. When imbalanced, however, they can be argumentative and short-tempered, and suffer from skin rashes and heartburn. Physically, Pitta types are of medium height and weight, with lustrous skin.

Vata types are energetic and creative. They tend to sleep lightly and may have sensitive digestion. When imbalanced, this will manifest as weight loss, weakness, and constipation. Mentally, imbalance will create anxiety and insomnia. Vata types tend to be thin and agile, with dry hair and cold hands and feet.

Kapha types tend to be strong with excellent stamina. They sleep soundly and have regular digestion, and are calm, thoughtful and loyal. When out of balance, they may become stubborn and resist change. Physically, imbalance manifests as weight gain, excess sleep, allergies, and depression. they tend to have large eyes, radiant skin, and thick hair.

Try to see if you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions, and note that your dosha will change as you age. For example, I was strongly pitta in my youth, but now that I am in my mid-forties, my nature has become more vata. Once we begin to look to look at and listen to our bodies in this more holistic manner, our true needs will become more obvious, and our self-care routines become simpler. The optimal routines for self-care based on dosha type will follow in subsequent blog posts.

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