Ayurveda 101: A Personalized Approach to Wellness
No two people have the exact same health and wellness needs. What might work for you may not work for somebody else. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to personalize a health and wellness plan based on your exact needs?
Through the concept of Ayurveda, there is. Through the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda, many people create customized wellness plans that include anything from specific nutrition plans and aromatherapy to exercise, massage, meditation, and much more.
Could Ayurveda be right for you? We invite you to learn more about this popular concept, including the three key energies of Ayurveda and the role they play in restoring your body's balance of wellness. From there, we'll dive into some specific nutritional tips for following the principles of Ayurveda and some final words on this complementary wellness approach.
What is Ayurveda?
Literally translated from Sanskrit, Ayurveda means "The Science of Life." The concept itself dates back more than 5,000 years to the ancient Vedic culture in India. In simplest terms, Ayurveda is a complementary health approach that focuses on prevention and health maintenance through the use of specific herbs, diets, meditation, and exercise practices. The idea of Ayurveda revolves around achieving a balance of energy based on the unique individual rather than a "one-size-fits-all" approach.
Diving a little deeper into Ayurvedic theory, this concept also hinges on the idea that everybody is made up of some combination of water, fire, air, earth, and space—with each person's "formula" of these elements being totally unique to the individual.
The combination of these elements within a person is thought to form three life forces known as doshas. These doshas (more on these in the next section), when properly balanced, help a person stay well and avoid any number of ailments and illnesses. When these doshas are out of balance, on the other hand, Ayurvedic theory maintains that a person is more likely to fall ill.
The 3 Principle Energies of Ayurveda
So, what are the three doshas associated with Ayurvedic theory? They are the vata dosha, the pitta dosha, and the kapha dosha. Let's dive into these more below to get a better feel for what each entails and how it relates to the overall concept of ayurvedic medicine.
The vata dosha is thought to be made up of space and air. This dosha is believed to control such basic body processes as breathing, circulation, cell division, blinking, and more. Those who have a vata dosha that is in balance tend to be quicker to think on their feet; these people also tend to be more creative. When the vata dosha is out of balance, this can result in feelings of anxiety and fear. An imbalanced vata dosha could also manifest itself in physical symptoms that include intestinal problems and dry skin.
The pitta dosha is made up of fire and water. This dosha is believed to have a great deal of control over the body's digestive system, hormones, glandular system, metabolism, and absorption of nutrients. When the pitta dosha is in proper balance, a person may have a greater sense of understanding and empathy. Meanwhile, when this dosha is out of balance, the effects can range from experiencing anger issues to physical ailments like inflammation and stomach ulcers.
Last but not least, the kapha dosha is believed to be made up of a combination of water and earth. This system is thought to supply the water that all the body's systems need to operate smoothly. When the kapha dosha is balanced, this is often seen in a greater expression of calmness and love. Those with a kapha dosha that is not in balance may experience feelings of greed and envy, as well as physical problems such as congestion.
Ayurveda and Living a Balanced Life
As you could probably gather from reading about the three doshas, the concept of Ayurveda is very much centered around the idea of vibrational energy in balance. According to Ayurveda, we are all made up of some combination of five elements that create our doshas. Energy feeds each dosha—but when there is an imbalance of energy within or between any of the doshas, we are more likely to suffer from health problems, emotional/behavioral challenges, and other issues in our daily lives. In this sense, Ayurveda is very much connected to our sense of body, mind, and spirit.
If you choose to follow Ayurveda in your own life, you'll need to be on the lookout for the signs of imbalances. From there, you can typically track your symptoms back to one (or more) of the three doshas. Depending on the exact dosha that is imbalanced, making changes to your diet/nutrition and taking some proactive physical measures can help restore your balance over time.
The Ayurvedic Diet
Each of the three doshas is thought to be kept in balance with help from the right nutrients, Ayurvedic herbs, and other dietary factors.
For example, keeping the vata dosha balanced is generally thought to require the ingestion of warm and well-cooked foods throughout the day. This can include foods such as cooked rice and oats, as well as cooked vegetables and ripe fruits.
Meanwhile, the pitta dosha does better with a vegetarian diet. Foods like barley, oats, rice, and grains are also thought to be beneficial to the pitta dosha—as are some spices. Hot spices (such as cinnamon, turmeric, and the like) should be avoided, however.
Those looking to keep the kapha dosha in-check tend to do best without fried or greasy foods. Many also find that they have a harder time with dairy, so some choose to avoid it altogether. Other foods that are great for those with a dominant kapha dosha include leafy greens, raw vegetables, and dried fruits. All spices are also fair game, though ginger and garlic are thought to be best.
Regardless of your dominant dosha, herbal teas are a popular recommendation for those following Ayurveda. A ceremonial-grade matcha green tea added to your daily Ayurvedic ritual, for example, can be a great way to keep the doshas in balance and live your best life.
Ayurvedic Massage, Meditation, and More
In addition to making changes to your diet and nutrition in order to keep your doshas in balance, the Ayurvedic lifestyle may also involve physical practices like massage, meditation, yoga, and the like. Some examples of massages and other body treatments that can help to target the different doshas include:
Many people who decide to follow the Ayurvedic lifestyle will benefit from consulting with a practitioner who specializes in this type of wellness plan. Because you will get the most out of Ayurveda with a plan that's customized to your needs, it can be helpful to speak with an expert. It is important to note, however, that there are currently no licensing standards for Ayurvedic treatment in the United States. As such, you'll need to do your research to find a reputable practitioner. Likewise, the advice of your regular or physician should always come first.
Is Ayurveda Right For Your Lifestyle?
With its focus on balancing the three doshas and utilizing energy from air, water, fire, earth, and space—Ayurveda is becoming an increasingly popular concept across the United States and beyond. Through the use of specialized nutrition plans, massage, aromatherapy, exercise, and more, you can strike that ideal balance of energy in your own body. From there, you may find that you enjoy a greater sense of overall health and wellness.