Originating in India several thousand years ago, Ayurveda is often referred to as the ‘sister science’ of Yoga, as it shares the same fundamental philosophy. Together, Yoga and Ayurveda provide a framework for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
In recent years, we have heard a lot about the importance of ‘gut health’ as Western medicine discovers how important a role our digestion plays in helping maintain overall health. According to Dr. Joanna McMillan, the gut contains 70% of the body’s immune system, and the gut microbiota plays a major role in immune health (www.womenshealth.com.au/how-to-improve-your-gut-health). This is not a new concept in Ayurveda; in fact, it has emphasized the importance of good digestion and metabolism for literally thousands of years!
This ancient system of holistic healthcare “teaches us how to live in greater harmony with the cycles of the day, year and life” (http://muditainstitute.com/about/ayurveda.html). It utilizes a range of techniques to promote optimal health, including cleansing, yoga, massage, herbal medicines, and specific diets. These practices help prevent the development of disease by reducing toxins in the body, strengthening the immune system and keeping both the mind and body peaceful.
There are 3 doshas, or vital energies, which are a fundamental concept of Ayurveda, and each dosha has its own key qualities:
Vata’s qualities are dry, erratic, light, cold, rough, dispersing, subtle, mobile, and clear;
Pitta’s qualities are oily, sharp (penetrating/perceptive), liquid, hot (passionate/fiery), and light;
Kapha’s qualities are cold, heavy, oily, slow, slimy, smooth, dense, static, stable, and soft.
These 3 doshas influence our physical characteristics, mental capacities, and emotional tendencies. While all 3 are present in everyone, we each have our own unique combination, which Ayurveda refers to as our ‘constitution’. When the doshas are balanced according to your unique constitution, you experience good health. This ‘balance’ can be tricky to achieve because the doshas are affected by influences from both inside and outside of the body. The time of the day, the season, the thoughts we engage with, the activities we choose to do, the people we meet, and also the foods that we eat, all have an effect!
We are most susceptible to imbalances related to our predominant dosha. When considering whether something will pacify or aggravate a dosha, the key point to remember is: “like increases like while opposites create balance” (http://www.eattasteheal.com/ayurveda101/eth_bodytypes.htm). For example, if you’re predominantly a Vata type, with lifestyle factors that increase vata, such as irregular meals/ lack of routine/ cold climate, your vata dosha will become excessive unless there are opposite qualities in your life. An aggravated dosha may initially express as minor ailments but Ayurveda views this as the start point for ‘dis-ease’. While you can easily complete a quiz to determine your constitution, the interplay of the doshas is complex and consultation with a skilled practitioner is recommended.
Another core concept of Ayurveda is ‘Agni’, or digestive fire. But we’ll talk about that in the next blog!
For more information about Ayurveda visit http://muditainstitute.com/