When I was in the Bahamas studying yoga for a week, I met a woman while eating dinner who told me she was an ayurvedic practitioner. The word “Ayurveda” was a word that I had heard before but wasn’t quite familiar with.
Ayurveda is a system of medicine with its roots deeply embedded in India, that is also closely connected to yoga due to its origin. While many yogis practice Ayurveda, a large chunk of the yogi community has heard the word, just as I have, but aren’t quite sure what it all entails.
No matter how young or how old you may be, we all have our moments in life where we are too afraid to ask questions. “Am I not a true yogi if I don’t know what Ayurveda is?”
Before you even ask a single question, pause– I am about to give you the quickest crash course in Ayurveda that you’ve ever had, or ever hoped to have!
So What Exactly is Ayurveda?
Ayur = life and Veda = science or knowledge, so Ayurveda can be defined as “the science or knowledge of life.”
What Ayurveda is All About…
Now that you know what Ayurveda is, you must know that Ayurveda is all about the elements! According to Ayurveda, everything in life, including humans, is a product of the five elements, namely: earth, water, fire, air, space. When these elements come together, they form “Doshas,” or what influences and/or dictates our individual characteristics and tendencies.
Two Key Concepts…
When taking the holistic wellness approach that is Ayurveda, remember Agni and Prana.
Agni is Our Digestive “Fire”…
The Ayurvedic lifestyle works to ignite our internal furnace and fuel our digestive fire to ensure that the food we are eating and digesting is properly and effectively providing us with the nutrients we need, while also releasing all waste products to minimize toxicity.
Prana is Our Vital Life Force…
Prana is the life force that flows through every single living thing on earth. Through Ayurveda, we are taught to optimize this energy, through ways of eating and living overall, to help us nurture and encourage our body to maintain its natural rhythm in ways that are most helpful to us as individuals.
The Three Doshas…
The three Doshas are Vata (Air & Space), Pitta (Fire & Earth) and Kapha (Earth & Water).
Vata governs all movement and is composed of space and air elements. From a qualitative perspective, vata is dry, cold, light, rough, subtle, and clear.
Vata people are typically tall and very thin, with small eyes, rough skin, thin hair, and often move awkwardly. They are often described as energetic and enthusiastic, lean and strong, vibrant, and quick learners.
When vata is balanced, this Dosha is linked to creativity and flexibility.
When this Dosha is imbalanced, a vata person will suffer from anxiety, or similar symptoms.
Pitta is composed of fire and water. From a qualitative perspective, it is hot, intense, light, and liquid. It is neither mobile nor stable, but it spreads similarly to fire.
Pitta people typically have athletic builds with an average height, average build, and their body weight is normally distributed evenly. They are often described as muscular and have a tendency to build and maintain muscle easier than others. They often have very lively complections and an intense aura and are generally success-driven.
When pitta is balanced, this Dosha is linked to intelligence and a clear mind.
When pitta is imbalanced, this Dosha is linked to one becoming more dominant and angry in nature, and one may expereince heartburn, acne, indigestion, etc.
Kapha is composed of earth and water. From a qualitative perspective, it is heavy, slow, cool, steady, and soft.
Kapha people typically strong and wide. Their skin tends to be fair, and their eyes tend to be large. They are often strong, yet steady, soft, and grounded in nature.
When kapha is balanced, this Dosha is linked to one being generous, affectionate and calm, while also being courageous and supportive.
When kapha is imbalanced, this Dosha is linked to one resisting change, along with other common symptoms such as weight gain and depression.
The Emphasis On Food…
The secret of Ayurveda is food, and the importance it has in our everyday lives, especially regarding the way it truly affects our overall well-being. Many Ayurveda practitioners teach that we have the power to flourish most when we properly nourish our bodies– because properly feeding and nourishing your body means nourishing your heart and mind as well.
Unlike most Western approaches to eating and dieting that focus on carbohydrates, proteins, and things such as “macronutrients,” Ayurveda looks at what we eat from the perspective of six tastes: Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent.
We know our meal is complete, and we will leave the table feeling completely full and without craving when we eat a meal that contains all six tastes.
According to Ayurveda, our Prakriti is our baseline constitution, or dosha balance, at birth. To achieve top-notch health, it is important that we seek to maintain our Prakriti, and learn to harmonize the doshas within our body through our diet, and other lifestyle alterations, since an imbalance in the doshas actually has the ability to manifest illness.
(Click here to create your Prakriti!)
Following Natural Rhythm…
Ayurveda knows that each and every one of our bodies has an internal, natural rhythm that matches the cycles that exist outside of ourselves in nature.
Each cycle is a combination of two of the five elements, and in total, there are 6 cycles– three during the day and three at night.
First 12 Hours: 6am- 6pm…
6 am – 10 am: Kapha (Water & Earth)
During this period, kapha increases. While your body may feel a bit slow during these hours, kapha is heavy and meant to support your physical and mental strength, so this is a good time to workout, just before the sun is at its hottest.
10 am – 2 pm: Pitta (Fire &Water)
During this period, pitta increases. Pitta is at its strongest during this time of the day, so it is best during this period to eat your biggest meal.
2 pm– 6 pm: Vata (Earth & Air)
During this period, vata increases. Vata increases your creativity and clears your mind, so it is best during this period to do any sort of creative-related activity.
Second 12 Hours: 6pm – 6am…
6:00 pm – 10:00 pm: Kapha (Water & Earth)
During this period, kapha increases. Kapha is heavy, so this is the best time to begin settling down to prepare for sleep.
10:00 pm – 2:00 am: Pitta (Fire & Water)
During this period, pitta increases. This is the best period to be asleep. The liver, or your pitta, works on detoxing your body and digesting the food you’ve consumed throughout the day.
2:00 am – 6:00 am: Vata (Earth & Air)
During this period, vata increases. This is normally the time when dreams occur, and your nervous system may become agitated. Allowing yourself to remain in a deep sleep will help you to wake up naturally during this period.
Where Do I Begin?
Learning about Ayurveda can help truly understand our bodies connections with nature, and teaches us to work with what we’ve got rather than attempt to resist it. Every single characteristic, trait, and oddity we may possess is part of our natural makeup. To feel more grounded, have more energy and feel good, examining your life through Ayurveda can be very rewarding.
To get started, take the quiz to determine your Prakriti, and get started on reading up on the way your body works!