I'm pretty tall with super dry hair and skin. I love to travel but it makes me ridiculously un-grounded. I find it hard to concentrate, which can be a real pain in the butt when you work from home and for yourself, and I know going to bed at 10 pm is my optimal bedtime. My hands and feet are always cold and as soon as the temperature drops below 20 degrees, I'm ready to move to a tropical place until the summer.
I had no idea that had anything to do with anything in particular until I started reading Elephant Journal and kept hearing about these things called doshas and if you've stumbled upon any website discussing health and wellness, chances are you've at least heard about them or Ayurveda. From »golden milk« or dosha-balancing yoga classes and workshop, Ayurveda and its philosophy is pretty much everywhere but what exactly is it and why would we even want to balance our doshas, whatever they happen to be?
What is Ayurveda?
First things first... Ayurveda (in Sanskrit, Ayu means life and Veda means knowing) is the ancient Science of Life that doesn't only encompass science but religion and philosophy as well. It focuses on creating balance in our bodies by balancing the body, the mind, and the spirit. This healing system has been practiced in India for more than 5000 years and it was first recorded in the Vedas, the world's oldest extant literature.
Ayurveda teaches us that man is a microcosmos, a universe within himself, and, just like in nature, all five basic elements---Space (Ether), Air, Fire, Water, and Earth---exist in each person.
So how is Ayurveda different from modern medicine?
- It doesn't believe that »one style fits all,« especially when it comes to diets, exercise, and food.
- Unlike modern medicine, it doesn't (just) focus on the cure for a certain ailment but focuses on prevention by adopting the right lifestyle.
- Food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine.
What are Doshas?
Based on Ayurveda, five basic elements combined in different ways create bioenergies that we call doshas. There are three doshas---Vata (Air + Ether), Pitta (Fire + Water) and Kapha (Water + Earth)---and everyone is born with their own mix of doshas (Prakriti in Sanskrit) that determines our emotional, physical and mental characteristics.
The gentle one (Vata)
Since Vata is composed of Air and Ether, this dosha is all about a movement. Vata people are normally »airy,« floating a few feet off the ground, lean and tall, they change their opinions often and can sometimes seem flakey.
When this dosha is in balance it can lead to creativity, non-attachment to material things, alertness but when out of balance, Vata can be anxious, overwhelmed and unable to complete tasks.
Best kind of yoga practice to keep Vata in balance is a slower paced Yin yoga or restorative and standing, grounding poses. Fast paced Vinyasa flow classes would »pour fuel on the fire« and even increase already aggravated Vata imbalance.
The fiery one (Pitta)
Do you know someone who's usually motivated, has tons of energy and is ambitious and athletic? There's a lot of chance they have a predominant Pitta Dosha.
Pitta is all about that fire. When in balance, it enables us to manifest our ideas into actual plans but when out of balance, it can lead to anger, irritability and burn out.
Pittas should avoid any kind of yoga that would increase Agni (fire) in the body. Avoid Bikram yoga, hot yoga and any other exercise that is done in higher temperatures.
The grounded one (Kapha)
Kapha is a mix of Water and Earth. It's all about groundedness and stability and Kapha people are usually dependable and that one friend who is always there for us. Kapha enables us to follow through with our ideas, bring them to life and to follow through with them.
Balanced Kapha is grounded and peaceful but can become depressed when out of balance.
Since out of balance Kaphas tend towards depression, engaging in physical exercise is a must. Any type of vigorous yoga like Ashtanga, Vinyasa, power or the like is the best choice.
So what have doshas got to do with anything?
Based on what Dosha predominates in our Prakriti, it's wise to adopt a lifestyle regimen that doesn't aggravate it but keeps its balance in order to enhance its positive characteristics. Although it's always best to visit an actual Ayurvedic practitioner to determine your Prakriti taking an online quiz like this is a good start.
Stay tuned for more on how to balance a specific dosha and keep balanced and renewed in a specific season coming in the upcoming articles.