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A Glimpse into Ayurveda

April 28th, 2014

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I deeply believe that we need to be responsible, proactive and inquisitive about our own health, and we need to work with our doctors as a team, as opposed to just believing and following blindly what they tell us. The fact is: nobody knows our body better than we do, even if we are not aware of that fact.

ayurvedaspices

With that in mind, I am always looking for new ways to improve my health and be more aware of the state of my body and my mind. In my constant exploration of alternative medicine, I decided to learn a little more about Ayurveda and I took a workshop a couple weeks ago, which is what inspired this post! So today I would like to share some of what I learned with you, as I find it helpful and fascinating!

Ayurveda, which translates to "knowledge of life" is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that originated in India. According to this system, the foundation of good health is in maintaining balance in the body, mind and spirit, by living in tune with one's unique constitution or nature.

One of the things I really like about this approach is the total respect for every individual as a whole and unique being, the holistic approach to treat each person as the vast combination of many aspects, which is very different from the often narrow view of traditional medicine that sees the body as a mechanical system and that treats an organ or a symptom as separated from all the other aspects of a person.

According to the holistic approach of Ayurveda, each one of us is born with a unique constitution, and we are not only part of nature but we are one with nature, so our unique constitution is made up of a combination of nature's five elements and their related qualities. These elements are: space, air, fire, water and earth. These 5 elements are combined in 3 main groups: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata reflecting the elements of Space and Air, Pitta of Fire and Water, and Kapha of Earth and Water.

For instance: a person with a predominantly Vata constitution will have physical and mental qualities that reflect the elemental qualities of Space and Air, a Vata type will commonly be quick thinking, thin, and fast moving. A Pitta type, on the other hand, will have qualities reflective of Fire and Water, such as a fiery personality and moist skin. A Kapha type will typically have a solid bodily frame and calm temperament, reflecting the underlying elements of Earth and Water.

Our basic nature, called "Prakruti" is a unique formula that combines these 3 main groups: Vata, Pitta and Kapha, with one of them being predominant, the predominant element would determine our "Dosha". "Prakruti" is our base point, when we are not in harmony with our basic nature we can become sick or distressed in many different ways."Vikruti" in contrast is the current state of imbalance in an individual’s doshas. To stay healthy or regain our health, it is important to be aware of our doshas and how they may be out of balance. So if you go to an Ayurvedic Practitioner, they will focus on your vikruti or state of imbalance and will try to bring it back to balance.

By knowing your dosha, you can make more informed choices that will help you keep it in balance and enjoy better health, mentally as well as physically.

Would you like to find out what is your Dosha? Here are a couple resources:
- Yoga Journal Online Quiz
- Dosha Quiz from Eat Taste Heal (this is a PDF you can print)

Ayurveda also acknowledges the impact nature cycles have on us: day and night, seasons, etc. These cycles are also associated with Vata, Pitta and Kapha qualities. If you want to read more about the cycles of nature and the doshas, here is a good article: http://www.whatsyourdosha.com/articles/calendar-clock.html

Ayurveda places great importance on food and uses it as medicine. A healthy and balanced diet in the right amount and at the right time is very important. We all get into the trap of eating the wrong foods during the wrong seasons, at the wrong time of day, and thus continue to create disturbance. Ayurveda gives us tools to avoiding this trap.

A famous Ayurveda phrase is "like increases like, opposite heals" this means that too much "like" will cause aggravations that could lead to disease, so it is important to counter-balance. For example, if you are a Pitta person (who naturally has more heat) and you are eating spicy foods in the hot summer, your Pitta Dosha will increase and could create heartburn or maybe a skin rash (heating diseases) or more irritability and anger. To balance it, you would use the opposite qualities by eating cooling foods and cooling drinks.

If you liked what you read and want to learn more about this fascinating healing system, or if you took the quiz and want to know more about your dosha, I suggest you read the articles listed under Resources.

Have a great and healthy week!

Resources:

 

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