What Is Ayurveda?
In the Western world when we think about our health we tend to think of cure rather than prevention; think of all the times you’ve been unwell and visited the doctors to be given pills and potions to bring you back to health only for the problem to return again at a later date.
When something goes wrong with our mind or body we tend to isolate the problem and focus on treating the issue as a singular problem, but our minds and bodies are intricately linked and effected by a variety of different factors, such as, what we eat and our environment.
Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic approach to health and wellbeing that believes, in a nutshell, that in order to live a healthy happy life, we must make sure all the different elements and energies, inside and around us, are balanced which will help prevent disease and disharmony.
Where Does Ayurveda Come From?
Ayurvedic medicine has its roots in India and has been around for thousands of years; it is one of the oldest medical sciences that is still very much active in the world today. The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit words for life (ayus) and science (veda) so literally means the science of life. These teachings were written in scripts that have been translated and passed down for centuries and still form the basis for the Ayurveda that is practiced today.
How Does Ayurvedic Medicine work?
Ayurvedic teachings believe that there are three natural energy forces that are at work in the body.
These are called ‘Doshas’ and are:
- Pitta – This is the force that governs your body’s digestion and transformation. It is associated with water and fire elements and its qualities are hot, oily, spreading and sharp.
- Vata – This is the force that governs movement and communication in the body. It is associated with ether and air elements and its qualities are light, cold, dry, clear, rough and mobile
- Kapha – This is the force that governs structure and cohesiveness and is associated with earth and water elements and its qualities are heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, dense and soft
You can find out what your dominant Dosha is either by either visiting an Ayurvedic practitioner or using online calculators which ask you a variety of questions about your health, wellbeing and lifestyle.
All three Doshas are at work within each individual with one Dosha more dominant than the others; in order to stay healthy and prevent disease we must ensure our Doshas are in balance.
Why should You Balance Your Doshas?
Ayurveda believes in the 20 qualities principle which believes there are ten pairs of opposites called ‘20 qualities’, such as, hot is the opposite of cold and rough is the opposite of smooth. This same principle applies to balancing your Doshas; to bring harmony into your Dosha you must ensure it’s opposite quality is balanced.
How Do You Balance Your Doshas?
Ayurveda believes balancing these oppositions is achieved through managing your diet, environment, routine and thought and behaviour patterns in accordance with your Dosha. Ayurveda also teaches us that the world is in an ever constant cycle of change and to live healthily we must adapt to these changes, paying particular attention to how these seasons affect us.
It is important to think of Ayurveda as your own personal health system unique to you rather than a one size fits all approach; connect with your body and think about the foods you eat and when you consume them and then ask yourself how you feel? Do you feel heavy and lethargic if you eat at certain times or do certain foods make you feel unwell? By connecting with your body you will learn what nourishes you and what your body needs to consume to work at its full potential.
How Else Can I Incorporate Ayurveda Into My Life?
Eating the right foods for your Dosha is a great way to start your Ayurvedic journey but it’s beliefs and practices are far reaching and can be incorporated into so many different areas of your life.
Ayurveda was developed alongside yoga and is mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts. Like the foods you eat, certain yoga asanas can benefit certain Doshas; this is why if you practice yoga you may find some moves far more challenging than others! Think of yoga as the physical side of Ayurveda; whilst Ayurveda focuses on your health and healing, yoga is the actual moving of your body and mind.
Getting The Right Type Of Rest
You don’t need Ayurvedic teachings to tell you how important sleep is and getting enough rest is one of the main pillars of Ayurvedic medicine and if neglected is where you are likely to feel the most imbalances in your body. Ayurvedic teachings believe the day is split into six, four hour periods and each one is governed by each Dosha twice.
- 2am – 6am – Vata. This is the optimum time to wake up when Vata energy is most prominent. Ayurvedic teachings believe it’s best to wake up before sunrise and harvest the creative and energetic properties of Vata.
- 6am – 10am – Kapha. During this time as Kapha energy increases this is the best time for physical activity, before the sun is at its highest. This is also the best time for breakfast but as Kapha energy is quite heavy it is best to eat something light.
- 10am – 2pm – Pitta. Your digestive fire is at its strongest during this time so have your biggest meal of the day between these times.
- 2pm – 6pm – As Vata energy increases during these times this is when you will be most creative. If you crave sugary things during this period it suggests blood sugar issues and you should increase the amount you eat during your lunch.
- 6pm – 10pm – As heavy Kapha energy takes over during this time this is the perfect time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Avoid electronic devices or anything that will over stimulate your brain.
- 10pm – 2am – Pitta. The restorative benefits of Pitta take over during this time so this is when you should be getting the most sleep; use this time to let your body eliminate toxins and process all the wonderful things you achieved that day.
This guide will give you a solid foundation on which to build a daily routine that is in harmony with each Dosha’s energy flow; routine should be at the heart of anything we do and a regular well structured day will help us radiate health and peace.
Ayurveda And Your Future
Our health and wellbeing is the most valuable possession we have and we all have the ability to live a healthier more balanced life; we owe it to ourselves to nourish our bodies and minds in every way we can.
While this may look different for each of us Ayurvedic medicine is a great place for anyone who is serious about their health to start. Ayurvedic medicine is a vast and in depth practice that can change the way we view Western medical techniques and think about holistic approaches to our health and wellbeing; by employing small changes in accordance with Ayurvedic practices you will see huge benefits to your mind and body which will start you on the journey to a healthier, happier you.