About Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a mind-body healing system that recognizes that an individuals the totality of their experience.  So a person’s condition – is affected by everything in their life, including diet, what one thinks, feels, what behaviors one inherits from parents, lifestyle patterns, and stress levels.  While a person may not have imbalances within all those arenas, the Science of Ayurveda helps address each area and find a state of balance where it is needed.

 

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Welcome To Ayurveda – An Introductory Guide

Ayurveda, meaning “The Science of Life,” or “Life Knowledge,” is one of the oldest holistic approaches to health in the world, and originated in a region which is now known as India thousands of years ago.  “Health” according to Ayurvedic theory is achieved by addressing the root cause of disease, understanding that the mind, body, and spirit are all part of the picture; instead of the approach Western Medicine takes which tends to treat individual symptoms. Ayurveda has many acute treatments available for diseases/symptoms – but the real focus is on avoiding sub-optimal nutrition and lifestyle choices that CAUSE disease.

How Ayurveda Works

Ayurveda focuses on bringing balance into your life through herbal medicine, food intake, lifestyle choices & habits, body therapies, and contemplation.

Ayurveda places a great deal of importance on you and your unique constitution, called your Dosha. Ayurveda believes that “nothing works for everyone – but something will work for everyone.” You are an individual, not a stereotype, and not your symptoms. You must be treated as an individual if you wish to bring balance into your life. What helps one person achieve balance, can completely throw a person with a different constitution out of balance (this is why Ayurveda cannot and should not be practiced by yourself). It is important to work with someone who has a great deal of education to help you identify your constitution, sort through your habits and lifestyle choices, and help you choose new patterns which will bring YOU into balance.

What throws a person out of balance? Life. Just being alive on the earth and interacting with the environment and other humans throws you out of balance. Food choices, daily life activities, your job, the weather, changes of season, physical pain, sleep patterns, genetics, environmental toxins, bacteria/viruses, and interactions with other humans.

To bring balance in Ayurveda, the imbalanced or dis-eased state of the individual is opposed to bring balance through the application of the opposite quality. The easiest, most basic example is, if someone is hot, cool them down. If someone has inflammation, apply an anti inflammatory diet, anti inflammatory herbs, anti inflammatory activities & lifestyle. The culprits, or the causes of disease, are removed and replaced with new, harmonious, factors that support healing.

Your body and mind are always being pulled out of balance by a multitude of factors, and Ayurveda helps you to identify those factors, and what YOU must do to restore it and maintain balance.

“There have been many discoveries, mostly about food, personal choices, and how it (food) affects my body. I am paying lots of attention to what my body “feels” about everything I consume: water, tea, salt, sugar, meats, processed stuff, veggies, air, etc. This is very new for me.

I always had had issues with overproduction of acid and GERD. I have not had any symptoms .  I’ve slept very well.”
-EM

 

What Are The Doshas?
When you learn about Ayurveda, you learn that everyone has their own constitution that is unique to them. “Dosha” is the term used meaning Constitution in Ayurveda. Before describing the Doshas, or the Ayurvedic constitutions, it is important that you understanding their building blocks.

The 5 elements: the building blocks of the Doshas
The 5 elements – ether, air, fire, water, and earth, are all metaphors used to describe the state of your body and mind.

Ether represents space and expansiveness. When someone has in balance Ether element, they are open to new ideas and thought processes, they may even be philosophical. A great example of out of balance Ether is that post-partum, women have “a space where something used to be” in the womb, which can contribute to a host of psychological imbalances. So, in this case, we would say that the Ether element is present and needs to be reduced. Another example of the ether element out of balance is someone who is spacey, or zoned out. Ether is cold, dry, and unstable, and so symptoms associated with it have these qualities. There are foods, herbs, and lifestyle practices that increase or decrease the ether element.

The Air element represents movement, change, and variability. Anything that moves in the body, from circulation to elimination, to the movement of the mind, is described by the air element. Some examples of air imbalance is anxiety, worry, insomnia, poor circulation, and constipation.  Air is cold, dry, light, and mobile, and so symptoms associated with it have these qualities. There are foods, herbs, and lifestyle practices that increase or decrease the air element.

The Fire element represents metabolism, heat, transformation, and understanding.  Digestion of food, as well as sensory and mental impressions is due to the fire element. When the fire element is healthy, people have strong digestion and immune system, as well as a perceptive and logical mind. When the fire element is out of balance, there is inflammation, burning sensations, heated emotions, fever, and so on. Fire is hot and so symptoms associated with the fire element are hot. There are foods, herbs, and lifestyle practices that increase or decrease the fire element.

The Water element represents the idea of flow. The body is also made of water!! From our saliva to protective mucus membranes, to the fluid in our joints, the water element is very important for the body. When the water element is healthy, skin is soft, and mucus membranes are healthy. When the water element is out of balance, there is water retention and excess mucus for example. The water element is moist, and so symptoms of the water element have this quality. There are foods, herbs, and lifestyle practices that increase or decrease the water element.

The Earth element represents the idea of solidity, stability, and structure. The presence of healthy earth element would be for example healthy bones and tissues, as well as emotional stability and reliability. When the earth element is out of balance, there can be for example excess tissue, growths, heaviness, stagnation, depression. The earth element is heavy, and so symptoms associated with the earth element are heavy. There are foods, herbs, and lifestyle practices that increase or decrease the earth element.

The Doshas Explained 

Ayurveda divides the elements that make up an individual person’s constitution into “Doshas.” The three Doshas, as they are commonly called, are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These have come to be understood in the west as:
– Vata Dosha, described by the air and ether elements, otherwise known as “wind”
– Pitta Dosha, described by the fire and water elements, otherwise known as “fire”
– Kapha Dosha, described by the earth and water elements, otherwise known as “earth” or “water”

Vata is the energy is involved with movement. Vata is always moving. Like the wind.

Kapha energy is involved with fluid dynamics, coshesion and structure.

Pitta is the energy used in transformation & digestion, as in your “digestive fire.”

Every person has traits and functions all three Dohsas.   Everyone has a unique balance of the three, which is one of our determining factors of individuality.

It is important to know that each Dosha has an in-balance and out-of-balance state, and so does each person. An individual has their state of the Doshas at conception, which is their in-balance state, as well as their current state of the Doshas, or their out-of-balance state.

The goal of Ayurveda is to help you return to your original state of balance and maintain it. When working with an Ayurvedic Practitioner, they use the unchanging characteristics in your body, as well as long term patterns, to determine your original balanced state, and they use current symptoms and patterns to determine your current or imbalanced state.

It is also important to know that Ayurveda is not just about the three Doshas in the body and mind. The framework of the elements describes everything in existence: the food you eat, your environment, and your activities. In this way, you can see how you fit within the big picture, and you can understand why the foods, environments, and activities you partake in cause you to be in or out of balance.

A Break Down of Each Dosha

The Vata Dosha is described by the air and ether elements, and is the energy of movement in the body for example breathing, muscle movement, heartbeat, elimination, circulation, absorption and elimination. Vata also characterizes the movement of the mind; when Vata is in balance there is enthusiasm, flexibility, creativity, expansiveness, and the ability to understand esoteric concepts.  The body of a person who is Vata nature from conception has long bones, is naturally thin, does not produce much sweat, and tends towards dryness. The potential interests of a person of Vata nature include art, philosophy, dance, hiking, running, jobs that require physical movement and jobs that include speaking.

Symptoms/Disease: Vata is cold, dry, light, unstable, and mobile, and so symptoms of Vata dosha imbalance take on these qualities. Examples of Vata imbalances include a dry cough, cold hands and feet, systemic dryness, dry skin, hair & or nails, poor circulation, sensitive digestion, gas, constipation, malabsorption, insomnia, forgetting to eat, worry, anxiety, PMS, twitches & tics, osteoporosis, as well as other specific disease conditions and psychological/neurological conditions. Long term Vata imbalance leads to depletion and emaciation. It may be no surprise to you then that the age of 65+ is also characterized as the Vata time of life.  Aging in Ayurveda is seen as an increase in Vata.

Diet & Lifestyle: To bring balance to Vata dosha we apply the opposite qualities. The digestive fire is strengthened with warming foods and digestive spices, to increase the fire element, as well as healthy moisture in the form of oils for Vata like ghee, sesame or avocado oil. The best tastes for Vata are sweet, salty, and sour. Food is cooked, unctuous and warm, lots of soups and broths.  Warming spices like fresh ginger and cinnamon help balance Vata individuals.  It is contraindicated for people with Vata dosha to eat raw or cold foods. Since Vata dosha inherently brings variability, Vata is reduced by having strict routines around meal times and sleep. There are specific herbs that target Vata type diseases and symptoms.

Season: Vata tends to accumulate in the body when the summer starts to cool down, and peaks in the coldest dry months of winter. Vata can also be aggravated during a change of seasons as your body adjusts to the new environment. These moments are when humans tend to catch a cold or experience cold, dry symptoms. This does not mean this is the only time of year that you can experience a Va imbalance. A Vata imbalance can occur at any time, however they are more likely during the Vata time of year.

The Pitta Dosha ​is described by the elements of fire and water; and is the energy of transformation and metabolism. Pitta dosha governs the eyes, the skin, the lower stomach, digestive acids, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and blood. Pitta dosha governs the “digestion” and understanding of stimuli. The body of a person who has Pitta in their constitution at conception has medium size & or deepset eyes, medium sized features, angular bones for example a prominent jaw, medium height and musculature, as well as a tendency towards skin flushing, and warm body temperature. They have a strong digestive system and appetite. The mind of a Pitta nature individual is perceptive, intelligent, focused, and logical. They are natural born leaders, planners, organizers, academics, and enjoy competition.

Symptoms/Disease:  the fire element is hot, and so symptoms that relate to Pitta dosha take on that quality. Fevers, inflammation, anger, intensity, burning symptoms, loose stool/diarrhea, judgment, criticism, Chron’s disease, ulcers, burnout and burnout related illnesses, a cough with yellow sputum, arthritis, and jaundice, are all examples of symptoms caused by excess Pitta. Instead of having the tendency towards a flushed face, the out of balance pitta may be very red in the face. There are specific herbs which target Pitta type diseases and symptoms.

Diet & Lifestyle: To bring balance to Pitta dosha, cooling, anti-inflammatory, purifying foods like bitter greens; as wells as sweet, grounding, nourishing foods like grains and vegetarian sources of protein. The best tastes for Pitta dosha are sweet, bitter, and astringent.  Cooling digestive herbs like cilantro and peppermint, along with cooling oils like coconut oil, sunflower oil, and ghee help to balance Pitta individuals. Routines around sleep and eating are very important, as well as moderate exercise.

Season & Time of life: The heat of summer time is when Pitta dosha peaks in the environment and so people may be more likely to have a Pitta imbalance at this time of year. However, Pitta imbalances can occur at any time. The Pitta time of life is Puberty to age 65.

The Kapha Dosha is described by the elements of earth and water; and is responsible for hydrodynamics and structure in the body. All tissues and moisture in the body are Kapha dosha. Examples of Kapha present in the body are protective mucus membranes, the fluid in joints, the moisture in the skin, the lymph and saliva. The person with a lot of Kapha in their constitution at birth will have round  and full features like full lips, large eyes and big bones. They have a strong immune system and withstand stress well. When in balance, the Kapha nature individual is nurturing, stable, dependable, and has a great memory. They tend to enjoy calm activities and avoid strenuous movement.

Symptoms/Disease: The earth and water elements are heavy, and so symptoms associated with Kapha dosha are heavy. Examples are depression, over-attachment/clingy, melancholy, lethargy and paleness, water retention/ swelling, slow digestion, nausea after eating, excess mucus, a cough with thick white phlegm, pneumonia, cystic acne, excessive sleep, and excess tissue like growths.

Diet & Lifestyle: To bring balance to Kapha dosha, warm, light stimulating foods are consumed, focusing on the bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. Examples include cooked greens, copious amount of vegetables, small amounts of grains that are lighter in nature like quinoa and barley, and hot spices like pillali, dry ginger and black pepper. Kapha individuals should minimizing heavy, fatty foods. The lifestyle should include movement that gets them warm and sweating, as well as inviting spontaneity. There are specific herbs that target Kapha type disease conditions and symptoms.

Season & Time of Life: The season associated with Kapha dosha is spring time and early fall, when the temperatures are moist and cool. People do have a tendency to become out of balance with Kapha dosha at this time of year, but a Kapha imbalance can happen at any time depending on the person and the qualities present in their body and mind. The time of life associated with Kapha dosha is childhood to puberty.

Ayurveda or holistic- Versus – Western Medicine or allopathic
Western medicine tends to take the “Ambulance Approach”.  Acknowledgement of “feeling bad” which leads to identification of symptoms and then seeking remedies for these symptoms which may lead to a lessening of these symptoms but, neglects the underlying causes and the systems within the body in which they lie.  Sometimes the original symptoms return or there is manifestation in another set of symptoms.

Although Ayurveda is incredible for dealing with disease conditions, the approach of Ayurveda is not reactionary to diseases or symptoms. Ayurveda takes the Holistic Approach.  The first step is Awareness where we pay keen attention to the body.  If symptoms are present, we consider which systems are affected looking for the root causes.  Deeper curiosity is often needed to find the conditions within that lead to the symptomology and possible manifestation.  With Awareness comes understanding of bodily systems and what fosters balance.  A balanced harmonious system is one in which optimal conditions for on-going health and healing are possible. Support of nutrition, herbal medicine and lifestyle therapies helps to maintain and expand the harmonious state. Ayurveda focuses on removing the CAUSES and CONDITIONS of imbalance of disease, rather than waiting until you have already become diseased to take action.

Ayurveda is not necessarily a substitute for Western medicine. Drugs, emergency services and surgery can be absolutely necessary when symptoms or diseases have become chronic. In these cases, Ayurveda is used as a method to be used WITH western approaches to medicine – to either help reduce the likelihood of being afflicted with disease in the first place, to help strengthen the body after being treated with drugs or surgery, or to support to the western treatment.

In our western way of thinking – you wait until you “feel” sick, you go to the doctor and the doctor does something for you or to you to remove the “feelings” of being sick AT THAT TIME. Once the problem has passed, people tend to go right back to doing (or not doing) whatever it was they were doing before they became sick. Ayurveda does not follow this approach. Instead, along with symptomatic relief, Ayurveda addresses your lifestyle, habits, and choices that will inevitably lead to you developing illness and disease. Ayurveda is a lifestyle program, and not a quick fix.

So why would someone choose Ayurveda?

Often it is because of awareness.  The realization that they keep getting sick, and are faced with two choices: They can either continue taking pills, and more pills, and then more pills to offset the side effects of all the other pills – or change what is causing them to get sick in the first place. This is precisely where Ayurveda shines, and western approaches to lifestyle changes fall flat. Let’s face it, the “diet industry” is a multi-billion dollar enterprise…and we as westerners have never been more obese and more unhealthy. The Western approach obviously isn’t creating vibrant beings.  It is a system that feeds on itself.

Ayurveda is a mind-body healing system that recognizes that an individuals the totality of their experience.  So a person’s condition – is affected by everything in their life, including diet, what one thinks, feels, what behaviors one inherits from parents, lifestyle patterns, and stress levels.  While a person may not have imbalances within all those arenas, the Science of Ayurveda helps address each area and find a state of balance where it is needed.

Because Ayurveda knows the outer manifestation of illness and disease comes from an imbalance of either the physical body, the energetic body, the mental body and /or the the consciousness, it’s important to address all four of these levels, otherwise issues will continue to return.

Ayurveda acknowledges that we are unique, and each of us responds differently to the pressures of life. The patient is required to participate in the process. Often the lifestyle changes required to bring the doshas into balance can feel extreme. Especially to the undisciplined person. Often there are things a patient needs to begin, and quite a few things a patient will need to cease. This process happens one small step at a time.  And your qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner will be with you each step of the way.

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A little more about the Doshas 
As you probably noticed from the descriptions of the Doshas above, every person has traits and body functions of each Dosha. The trick is that we all have our own unique balance of these Doshas which determines our current state of health. As you saw, you can have in balance or out of balanced Doshas, which determine your unique lifestyle and nutritional needs. When you work with an Ayurvedic Practitioner, they will break it all down for you in an understandable way. Most people find that they are amazed by how accurately their Dosha describes their body and mind, and how this lays out a clear path to wellness.

It is important not to identify with your Dosha, as most of the time they indicate imbalances. Every person’s current Dosha will shift throughout their life, although they may have tendencies determined by their constitution at conception to go towards one dosha or another. Some people experience dual doshas where two of the doshas are prominent. In some rare cases, all three doshas are equally out of balance. Each permutation and combination of the doshas whether Vata/Pitta, Vata/Kapha, Pitta/Kapha, or Vata/Pitta/Kapha, all have their unique challenges to creating and maintaining balance.

Summary
The most important thing to remember is that everyone is capable of vibrant health.  The knowledge of Ayurveda states we all are Divine.  Remembering your Divinity will lead to better and better choices and a more harmonious life.

Please choose the best for yourself and use a qualified Ayurveda Practitioner who has the proper education.

What is a proper education? Just to give you an idea, the BASIC training for the initial level of Ayurveda Practitioner is usually more than a year long. Each of the next phases also require almost 12 months to complete.   I am a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist.  I have completed the Ayurvedic Health Counselor degree.  My training in Ayurveda included course work and internships.  I have been a student for the better part of the last 4 years and have another year to complete to become and Ayurvedic Doctor.  The practical approach to learning and then applying what I’ve learned has served me and my clients very well.

Deep Respect for your path,

Sincerely

Ayurveda Sacramento CA