An Introduction to Ayurveda

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

I don't think I'm alone when I say, quarantine has really thrown me out of balance. I’d overhead on the radio that the comfort and gratification we get from the food is good for us at a time like this, so for first couple of weeks I ate more crisps, biscuits and cereal... anything I could get my hands on quickly without too much remorse. Any semblance of routine started to dissolve as one day merged into the next, but by week 3 the fun was over. I was experiencing low energy, bloating, dry skin and an erratic mind. In the past I’d increase my intake of raw fruit and veg if I felt I needed a health boost, but thanks to Ayurveda I know this would have left me feeling worse because it’s all wrong my mind-body type.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is the world’s oldest health system, originating in India over 3,000 years ago. It's the sister science of yoga and focuses on balancing the mind and body for radiant health. Ayurveda identifies three mind-body types, AKA, doshas, air (vata), fire (pitta) and earth (kapha) which express unique blends of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics. Identifying which unique dosha you fall into, can help you choose optimal diet and lifestyle choices to achieve and maintain a vibrant and joyful state of health. In my case, I predominantly fall into the vata or air dosha. Air is considered cool, light and dry so my new quarantine diet of crisps, cereal and biscuits, i.e. dry, cold food had pushed me out of balance resulting in more air in my system in the form of bloating, cracking joints and dry skin. Air is mobile so us vatas do best with a steady routine to keep our minds from running wild like the wind. To counteract these qualities, I benefit from more oily, heavy, warm food in my diet like olive oil, ginger tea, soup and almond butter. This might seem confusing but put simply it's about balancing opposites to stay in tune with our internal and external environments. As natural beings, we unknowingly practice Ayurveda all the time, for example eating cooling salads in the summer, and more warming foods like soups and stews in winter.

What's your Dosha?

Vata (AIR)

Vata types tend to be of a slender build, with long fingers, thin lips and fine hair. Someone who is vata dominant is enthusiastic, creative, an ideas person and loves new experiences. Out of balance they can experience irregular digestion and issues like bloating and gas. They're also prone to dry skin, hair and joints. The creative in them loves to start projects, but their erratic nature means new ventures can be left unfinished. Out of balance, vatas can become anxious and can struggle to stick to commitments and routine.

Sound like you? To balance Vata think warming, oily, heavy food to keep grounded. Limit the number of cold, icy drinks, and replace them with warm water and hot tea. Add good quality oils to your diet (olive, sesame, avocado) and minimise raw, cold and dried food unless they’re dressed in good quality oils. Cooked, nourishing dishes are best, things like stews, soups and curries. Vatas should stick to a consistent routine where they can, particularly when it comes to sleep and mealtimes. Vatas should avoid cold and windy conditions, as well as dry climates.

Kapha (EARTH)

Kaphas tend to be of a heavier build with big, loving eyes, thick eyelashes and full lips. Someone who is kapha dominant is calm, grounded, and forgiving. Kaphas are the friend you go to when they need advice but their good nature can sometimes be taken advantage of. An imbalance in kapha can lead to jealousy, a slow, sluggishness digestion, resistance to change, lethargy and weight gain.

Sound like you? To avoid the heaviness of kapha, lots of movement and exercise is encouraged to energize the body and mind. It’s important to make time for fun and to change up the routine every now and again. Kaphas do well with warm, light, dry, foods, like lightly cooked food, hot spices, and raw fruit & veg. Kaphas should avoid heavy foods that contain a lot of fat, sugar, and dairy, food like ice cream, which is cold, dense and heavy, should be kept to a minimum.

Pitta (FIRE)

Pittas are typically of a medium / athletic build, with warm tones in their skin and hair. They have a strong appetite and fortunately have a strong digestion to go with it. They’re the high achievers, competitive with a powerful intellect and an abundance of energy. An excess of fire can lead to anger, outbursts of emotion, impatience, overexertion and burnout. Physically, they can be prone to acne, rashes, heartburn and indigestion.

Sound like you? To balance excess Pitta, think cooling foods like salads, mint tea, milk and ice cream. Pitas should consume lots of milk, grains, and vegetables and limit their intake of hot spice, red meat, fried food, pickles, vinegar and caffeine. Pittas tend to love high intensity workouts and competitive sports; however, they should balance this with grounding and contemplative activities like meditation and restorative yoga.

The beauty of Ayurveda is that the right diet for me won’t be the same for you. And what works for me in the Spring will not be the same that works in the winter. Ayurveda understands that we’re unique, changing beings, therefore our diet and lifestyle should match out needs. As my plans to train as an Ayurvedic therapist this year are very much on hold, I thought I'd give a very brief overview of the doshas to see if it can help you as it's helped me during this time. You might fit into one, two (bi-doshic) or all three (tri-doshic). You can take Jasmine Hemsley's dosha quiz after to see if you're right, let me know what you get!

Yoga and Ayurveda go hand-in-hand. If you'd like to flow with me during quarantine, you can check out my virtual classes by clicking here.

N.B. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never not be relied upon for specific medical advice.