Last week, I embarked on the next journey in my education.
I started a 3-year Master’s program studying Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine at Maharishi International University. Ayurveda is a sister science to yoga. They go together so well.
These are services that I’ll be adding to the studio when I can. I’m very excited to be learning another addition to holistic medicine and studying such an ancient yet proven science!
So, what is Ayurveda?
Pavitra Sampath (2014) defined Ayurveda as a medical practice that originated in India. Thought to be far superior to other forms of medicine, it promises treatment for various ailments that would normally not be found in other systems of medicine.
Ayurveda is based on the principle that the body is made up of 5 elements – space, air, water, fire, and earth. When all these elements work in congruence they make a healthy person. While all of us have all the five elements, they are in different proportions in our body – making a person one of these three – vata, kapha or pitta. An imbalance in any of these elements makes a person ill and a realignment of these humours can cure a disease.
Photo source: Ming Chen Chinese Healthcare, “Herbal Medicine”, chinamedic.co.uk/new-page-4
According to Dr. Ramesh, CMD of Aryavaidyasala, Kotakkal, ‘Although all these five elements flow through the body at all times, each individual has certain elements which are more dominant than the others. For instance, a person having a vata constitution has more air and space; pitta has more of fire and water, and kapha, water, and earth. At the time of conception, each person’s predominant constitution (prakriti) is created by the way in which the three doshas combine through the union of parents. Besides genetic, the prakriti is also affected by emotions, diet, lifestyle, and even environmental factors like climate and time of the day. Once a person recognises his prominent dosha, a lot can be done to take care of the diseases that one is most prone to.’
In her R&R Retreat workshop Yoga and Ayurveda, Kripalu School of Yoga faculty member Jurian Hughes points out that:
“Ayurveda isn’t a one-size-fits-all philosophy.
We’re constantly in flux throughout the day: Our energy level and our mood, for example, are different first thing in the morning than they are at noon.”
Ayurveda, then, is a personalized, intuitive health philosophy. According to Ayurvedic principles, each of us has a unique constitution governed by our physical and emotional makeup, as well as our lifestyle—the foods we eat, what time we go to sleep.
Photo source: Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, https://bit.ly/37Gu8Y3
Due to the dominance of one of the doshas it affects a person’s temperament, the diseases that can affect him and even governs how he reacts to stress. Apart from that it also dictates the type of body structure he has and the foods he is likely to love. Knowing our doshas and how to balance them can help us customize our yoga practice for maximum results.
Below is Jurian’s yogic guide to the doshas.
Vata. “Vatas are mentally quick, enjoy movement, and are creative,” Jurian says. “Signs of imbalance for them are insomnia, anxiety, and dryness.” For those who might be experiencing vata imbalance, Jurian recommends slow, steady, grounding postures—Mountain pose, spinal twists, inversions—as well as deep, calm breathing to cultivate stillness, nurture, and self-care.
Pitta. The qualities of pitta dosha are passion, enthusiasm, and courage; on the flip side, anger, competitiveness, and inflammation are a sign of imbalance. Thus, Jurian suggests practicing cooling, relaxing postures to release heat and tension, such as forward bends, as well as heart-openers, such as Bow and Camel, to encourage compassion, patience, and the ability to slow down.
Kapha. “Those with a kapha constitution tend to be consistent, devoted, stable, and strong,” notes Jurian. Signs of kapha imbalance can include procrastination, dullness, and congestion, so stimulating movement such as Sun Salutations and vigorous breathing exercises such as kapalabhati can help foster enthusiasm, heat, and focus.
What you eat, where you live, even the colours you are attracted to can be explained by Ayurveda. According to the principles, a person’s dosha mitigates this and therefore being in an environment that is contrary to your dosha will elevate one particular humour in the body leading to an imbalance and disease. Ayurveda seeks to negate that effect and bring the balance back into equilibrium.
The basic scripture of Ayurveda talks about living life the Ayurveda way, where every aspect is in line with keeping your body’s humours in check. So if you have diabetes, and with Ayurveda your blood sugar levels have been brought under control, you will notice that along with the medication there are several lifestyle changes you will have to make. Therefore, if you follow those principles for as long as you live, your diabetes will stay under control.
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