Autumn is considered the season of Vata, the air element of the three doshas of Ayurveda.
We’re here to guide you through Ayurveda, its history and the three doshas and the energy they produce. By tuning into the doshas, you can create balance within yourself and promote your own wellbeing.
What is Ayurveda?
In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “The Science of Life.” Ayurvedic knowledge originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and is often called the “Mother of All Healing
Ayurveda gives a strong foundation to our yogic well-being and through the lens of the three doshas gives us a map to navigate how we perceive and deal with stress in our lives
The Three Doshas
Vata (Air element) governs movement. It is the most dominant of the doshas and also governs the nervous system. A typical Vata person moves fast, talks fast and is creative and dynamic in short bursts.
If a Vata person is stressed, they are more likely to be anxious, restless and suffer nervous system problems, insomnia, migraine, neural pain and burn-out.
Pitta (Fire element) governs our digestion, hunger and enzymes – the fuel and fire as well as the hormonal network of the body. Pittas have a sense of clarity, purpose and leadership, but might often put too much expectation on themselves to achieve and succeed.
If a Pitta person is stressed, they tend to be irritable, frustrated and angry leading again to anxiety, but also indigestion and acidity.
Kapha is the most stable of the doshas governing the physical structure and stability of the body. In a stressful situation, Kaphas tend to be calm and collected. But if there is long-term stress, Kaphas can tend to withdraw and isolate themselves, suffering from depression.
Our mind-body dynamic can be a combination of two or even all three doshas. Most people are a combination: Vata/ Pitta or Pitta/ Vata – depending on which one is more dominant; Pitta/ Kapha or Kapha/Pitta and least likely Vata/Kapha or Kapha/ Vata; while some are a combination of all three.
Understanding our dosha dynamic helps us navigate our day-to-day lives. What are the best foods to nourish our body? Which type of exercise or yoga do we best respond to? What kind of teacher will guide us? Is our job satisfying our dosha – our creativity or our need for stability and routine?
What is Ayurvedic Philosophy?
Ayurvedic philosophy is a process of self-enquiry. Being brave enough to answer the questions and see ourselves clearly. Often, we know the foods that cause indigestion or sleeplessness and yet we ignore what our body is telling us. How can we use foods to alleviate symptoms of stress rather than exacerbate them? Is our asana practice nourishing or at a deeper level contributing to restlessness?
A traditional ayurvedic doctor is as likely to prescribe meditation and yoga asana as much as herbal medicine.
For one dosha, a dynamic yoga practice might clear the mind and mental fog helping us deal with a stressful day and give us a restful night’s sleep; while for another body type, a dynamic practice is going to add to the wear-and-tear, over-stimulate and create a fitful night’s sleep.
Similarly for one dosha, a hot milky drink before bed is going to pacify, while for another it is.
Cultivate beneficial practices – asana, meditation, getting out in nature. In the West, we often focus on getting rid of “negative” habits – in the yogic and ayurvedic world, the best way to do that is to lessen their habitual nature – by cultivating more nourishing practices and beliefs – so we start to focus on the positive or beneficial.
Tune Into Your Dosha
- Check out a Dosha Diagnosis to work out which dynamic you are. You can find them online or in a good book on Ayurveda.
- Once you know your dosha – listen to your body – if you eat food from the aggravating list – what do you feel? Do you feel nourished by the ‘balancing’ foods? Sometimes our body needs to re-learn and tune in. If you suffer from headaches, think about your day – your food – the pace of your day.
- For Vata types, massaging their feet with warm oils before bed can help sleep; while for Pitta types a warm milk drink will help… Kaphas tend to sleep OK.
- Seek out an Ayurvedic Doctor if you want to learn more about herbal medicine for your dosha.
- Get fresh air – get out in Nature if you can and connect to the elements.
This Ayurveda explanation was written by our Philosophy Lecturer and Kundalini Teacher, Viriam Kaur.
You can read more about Ayurveda in the blog from her recent Ayurveda and Yoga For Spring Workshop here.