what is ayurveda?
Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of the ancient culture of India. Steeped in tradition, and dating back 5000 years, this system of medicine is applicable to modern life and shows a way to navigate life for optimal health and happiness.
Ayurveda looks at each person as a unique individual knowing that the same diet and lifestyle habits do not work for everyone. Ayurveda’s secret is to discover our unique body-type (dosha), and learn to make diet and lifestyle choices that are best suited to us.
The Three Ayurvedic Body-Types (Doshas)
Ayurveda explains that everyone is made up of the five elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (Space). When these combine they create the three body-types (doshas). Vata dosha is made of Space and Air, Pitta dosha is made up of Fire and Water, Kapha dosha is made up of Water and Earth. We each have a unique combination of the three doshas, which is what makes us unique and different from everyone else. It is like a fingerprint. Your dosha is defined by the most dominant combination of elements.
The literal translation of the word dosha is “fault” Just like a fault line in the earth, your dosha indicates where you have the tendency to go out of balance. While each dosha has unique beautiful strengths, its weaknesses is what has to be kept in balance in order to stay healthy. Balance is made possible by the correct healing foods, exercise, habits and lifestyle for your dosha.
The Vata dosha is made up of the elements air and ether. Because of the light qualities of air and space, Vata people have light bodies and minds. They are generally skinny and don’t gain weight easily. Their movements are quick and they are happiest when they are on the go. Like their bodies, their minds move quickly as well. They have many ideas and inspirations. They are open-hearted and friendly, making friends easily and having connections to several social groups. They like to be independent and free. They are super-enthusiastic, often starting projects and initiatives. Generally artistic and creative, their ethereal nature allows them to tune into the thoughts, concerns and difficulties of others. This makes them excellent healers and counselors.
Out of balance Vata can cause many problems. Vata goes out of balance with foods that are too light and dry. This is exacerbated by a lifestyle that changes too quickly due to travel, emotional instability and lack of routine. People with Vata imbalance may lose weight and become physically weak. Their movements become erratic and they are often on edge. Their minds and thoughts move too quickly making them anxious and nervous. The excess air in their bodies can cause problems with gas and constipation. They find it hard to focus and stick to a routine. Simply put, they are not grounded.
When Vata is out of balance it is as difficult to control as the wind. Air and ether are hard to bring under control, but with the right foods and a balanced lifestyle based on routine, it is definitely possible.
The Pitta dosha is made up of the elements fire and water. People with dominant Pitta have hot and moist qualities. Therefore, they tend to have oily hair and skin. Well-defined musculature, an angular face and sharp features are typical physical characteristics of a Pitta person. They are warm, full of passion, and visionary with strong determination. Pitta people are often leaders or organizers.
Imbalanced Pitta results in an overheated body and emotions. Spicy, acidic foods cause a Pitta imbalance. This is exacerbated by excessively hot weather and a lifestyle that keeps going with no break or peace and quiet. People with excess Pitta may suffer from hyperacidity, indigestion or heartburn. There may also be inflammation in their bodies. They can be judgmental and critical and tend to impose their opinions on others. When stressed they become angry, disagreeable and can “fly off the handle” quickly. They do not like to be crossed.
Pitta people tend to have the discipline it takes to maintain a well-balanced diet and choose the foods that are best for them. However, they may become overly intense and hard on themselves when they fail. Pitta is best brought into balance by cooling foods and gentle, soothing self-care practices.
The Kapha dosha is made up of earth and water. Because of this, people with dominant Kapha have cool and moist qualities in their bodies and minds. They have dense bodies, solid musculature and stocky bones. They have luxurious thick hair and their skin tends be soft and smooth. They are usually calm, thoughtful and compassionate. Loyal, steady and able to be calm under pressure makes them great at getting the job done.
The main sign of Kapha imbalance is weight gain caused by heavy, sweet foods. This often leads to lethargy and lack of motivation. Digestion may be slow, leading to heaviness or sleepiness after eating. The excess moisture in the bodies of people with Kapha imbalance is exacerbated by cold, damp weather and a sedentary lifestyle. Other common signs of a Kapha imbalance are colds, excess mucus, and congestion.
Because of their strong, solid constitutions, Kapha people tend to be naturally healthy. Gaining weight which can prove difficult to lose, may be their main challenge along with other health issues related to excess weight. The quality that Kapha excels in is steadiness and consistency. Once they commit to a proper Kapha balancing diet and exercise program, they will keep at it and thrive.
We are all a combination of all three types, but our bodies usually have stronger traits of one or two of the types. Thus we have Pitta-Vata, Pitta-apha, Vata-Kapha, and Tridoshic (all three) body types as well.
Discovering Your Dosha
Correct diagnosis of one’s constitution takes the skill of a trained Ayurvedic clinician who can tell the difference between what is constitutional and natural and what is an imbalance. The following dosha test is devised to help you gain more insight and awareness of your tendencies and traits.
Give yourself one point for each statement that applies to you
1) My favorite weather is hot
2) I feel cold often, especially my hands and feet no matter the weather
3) My build is slim with below average weight
4) If I pick up weight, it’s usually easy to lose it
5) My skin tends to be dry
6) My hair is dry and kinkier than other members of my family
7) I walk fast and like to be on the go
8) I can skip meals without noticing if I’m busy
9) I eat quickly and like to snack
10) I have difficulty falling or staying asleep
11) I find it hard to stay in one place
12) Variety is the spice of life – I change homes, friends and jobs easily
13) I seek new and exciting adventures
14) I get tired easily
15) I am flexible
16) I become fearful, anxious and nervous when I face difficulties
17) My moods and mind change quickly
18) I am easily excited, and often speak without thinking
19) I have lots of new ideas
20) I have a short attention span
21) I am creative and imaginative
22) I am a quick learner
23) I am forgetful
24) I often start projects that I don’t finish
25) I make friends easily, but don’t stick to one social group
1) I do not like hot weather
2) My hands are usually warm and can be sweaty
3) My weight and build are average
4) My weight is easy to maintain
5) I have a rosy complexion and blush easily
6) My hair is fine
7) I am prematurely grey or balding
8) My eyes are brightly colored
9) I walk with determination
10) I don’t like skipping meals
11) I like spicy food
12) I enjoy physical activity, especially competitive sports
13) I am strong and form defined muscles easily
14) In the face of difficulty, I become intense and irritable
15) I am easily angered
16) My mood changes over time
17) I like to lead and be in charge
18) I tend to be critical or judgmental
19) I am a perfectionist
20) I have a strong, analytical way of thinking
21) I first take in information, then form an opinion
22) I am focused and detail-oriented
23) I mostly socialize for work or with colleagues
24) I sleep well and wake up easily
25) I dream in color
1) I don’t like humid or damp weather
2) My hands are often cold
3) I have stocky or broad build
4) I gain weight slowly over time then find it hard to lose
5) My hair is textured and thick
6) My skin is soft and smooth
7) I move slowly and steadily
8) I like to eat, though I’m never really super-hungry
9) I eat slowly and sometimes feel heavy after eating
10) I think about what I’m going to say before I speak
11) I like to relax and enjoy leisurely activities
12) I like routine, most days are the same except for events and vacations
13) I have good stamina
14) I can get lazy or sleepy easily
15) My moods are mostly steady
16) In the face of difficulty, I get depressed and melancholic
17) I can remain calm and patient
18) I tend to be stubborn
19) I like to see people come together for humanitarian causes
20) I learn slowly but almost never forget
21) I like to see projects through to the end
22) I am a sincere and compassionate friend
23) I like to have money saved
24) I sleep soundly and sometimes have difficulty waking up
25) I don’t remember my dreams
Vata:________ Pitta:________ Kapha:________
One of these numbers will be the highest. That is your dominant dosha. If the scores of two of the doshas are equal or close you may be Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha or Pitta-Kapha. If all three are equal or close you are Tridoshic or Vata-Pitta-Kapha.