Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Ayu’ meaning ‘Life’ and “veda’ meaning science or knowledge. When we combine these two it means ‘knowledge of life’. Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga in India. You could say it's the cousin of Chinese medicine in China and the equivalent of Western medicine in the west. But unlike western medicine Ayurveda is a body of wisdom that teaches us more about preventative care against illness rather than treating the symptoms in the body.
Ayurvedic medicine or ‘Ayurveda’ is one of the oldest medicine systems in the world dating back 3000 years ago. Its concepts around healing the body revolves around special diets, special herbal compounds, paying attention to the individuals constitution and our environment.
I spent a lot of time in Pune, in India studying with a few Ayurvedic doctors getting lessons on the fundamentals of how Ayurveda can be used in our daily lives. One of the doctors I especially enjoyed spending time with was a Dr. Neelesh Taware who would spent afternoons convincing me of the benefits of adjusting ones diet to ones constitution. He had a lot of patience with me as I was questioning how can one do this on a western diet! Over the years I have started to see the innate wisdom in this medicine. Adjusting your diet to your own personal constitution. In some ways it means you need to listen very mindfully to the body, paying attention to what you put into the body and respecting this natural eco system we call the ‘body’. Because our society is running on ‘half empty’ pretty much all the time there is this fast and hectic quality to our lives. Our bodies have taken the brunt of this through rushing meals, eating processed foods, convenient packet foods become the norm, no fresh foods and absorbing excess toxins from our environment.
In Ayurveda our natural state is in constant shift; with the seasons, with what we put into the body and how we nourish ourselves or not. Our outer environment affects our own inner environment through our thoughts and emotions. Our bodies have a natural leaning towards homeostasis (balance) but it is when we are unbalanced that illness can manifest thus we need to get to the root cause or source of illness.
Just like nature, Ayurveda identifies three elements in a person’s constitution (doshas); Vata, Pitta and Kapha which make up the building blocks of each person. These building blocks represent the natural elements, Water, Air, Ether, Fire and Earth. These doshas manifest at varying degrees of intensity in each person. Each one of us has a dominant dosha, ‘Prakriti’.
‘Ama’ is the toxin that accumulates in the body when the inner constitution is out of balance. You could say it is that ‘pre-state’ just before a disease manifests. Ayurveda focuses on handling imbalances while they are in their infancy, and eliminating them with mild but effective non-obtrusive methods. Appropriate changes in lifestyle, routines, diet, Ayurvedic herbs, exercises, meditation, and natural procedures like oil massage, and sweating are all used. Panchakarma and rasayana therapies are employed for deeper detoxification and rejuvenation.
These archetypes of constitution are meant to enable you to evaluate how that particular person’s health is in relation to their hereditary and lifestyle. The focus of both the Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine approaches is the same: strengthen the person, THEN treat their problem.
Examine these brief summaries of each dosha and notice if you have some dominant qualities;
Vata types are flighty, spacey and restless. They are also creative, sensitive, and nervous and can be easily unsettled if one does not eat and sleep regularly. When this dosha is unbalanced there maybe one of various forms of the following; insomnia, spacing out, anxiety, drying out in the body, dry skin. Counter balance this by warming nourishing sweet diet, warm liquids, routine and certain herbs.
Pitta types are fiery, independent, goal oriented, competitive and natural leaders. They also become irritable easily, have strong digestive/metabolisms and can experience intense hunger. When imbalanced it can manifest as inflammation caused by excess heat in the body. Cooling foods, herbs with a cooling quality as well as cooling environments are good for Pittas.
Kapha is the heavy, grounding, inert principle in nature. Kapha types tend to be more grounded, earthy and usually have a very slow metabolism. Weight gain can be a sign of imbalance, thus strong exercise, and stimulating the metabolism with spicy, bitter foods is very good for kapha. Herbs of a bitter quality are very good for kapha.
Just like our bodies, our environments and the seasons can have an impact on your own dosha as well. Each season can directly affect your own dosha so when we approach the start of a season we adjust our diet, our mindset and lifestyle.
How do I determine my type?
Most books and websites on Ayurveda will offer questionnaires that can be used to determine your mind/body constitution. A good one is offered by Holistic O
nline, which is very detailed and thorough. Most questionnaires are very similar and will provide similar results. Please keep in mind that going to a qualified ayurvedic doctor will probably give you the best results as a lot is dependent on age, your current health, diet, social circumstances, your environment, current situation in life etc . Taking a few different questionnaires will give you a more definite result for your Dosha type.