Ayurveda for Everyone:
Doshas, Diet, and Meditation Practice to Connect Your Mind + Body
The Basics: What is Ayurveda?
Long before modern medicine scientifically proved the connection between the mind and body, the sages of India developed the practice commonly known as Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur= life, Veda=science or knowledge) that has been and continues to be one of the most holistic and individualized medical systems available. The guiding principles designed to enhance every individual’s human potential are based off the mind and body interconnectedness.
Ayurveda is unique in its individualized practice of healing the human body. It’s believed that humans are composed of various elements of nature and biological energies that influence their health and lifestyle tendencies. These elements provide every living being with an individualized blueprint for health and fulfillment. The doshas are parallel to the properties of the five elements found in nature: air, water, fire, earth, and ether (space).
What Dosha are you?
Knowing your dosha will allow you to understand your unique mind + body type and the specific needs that derive from it. The key is to maintain balance of these elemental energies to achieve optimal health. It’s recommended to eat foods that have a balancing effect on your dominant dosha for stability.
Vatta Pitta Kapha
Vata: Space and Air
Vata’s tend to utilize their creative mind and energy to keep themselves on the go. Physical characteristics of Vata dosha usually have low body fat, delicate bone structure, and may find it difficult to gain weight. Vata’s tend to experience qualities of light, cold, rough, subtle, flowing, and dryness. When in balance, Vata emotional characteristics are lively, flexible, and creative. When out of balance, Vata’s may experience anxiety, memory loss, and confusion. Some of the physical signs of imbalance are dry skin, the chills, nervousness, insomnia, and bloating. Because Vata is dry and cold, heavier warm foods in larger quantities with good quality oils are recommended for balance. Pungent and bitter foods are to be minimized. Scheduled meals and bedtime along with regular meditation are ways to create balance for Vata. Aromatherapy is another essential method to restoring the mind, body, and spirit. Each dosha is associated with aromas that aid in balance and healing. Vata’s thrive off the aromatherapy of sandalwood, jasmine, lavender, chamomile, cinnamon, and rosemary. At O’o Hawaii, we use essential oils to enhance our skincare line in exchange for artificial aromas. You can find these Vata balancing aromas in our Golden Nectar (sandalwood), Brilliant Feather (lavender and hawaiian jasmine), Bird Song (hawaiian jasmine), and Soar (hawaiian jasmine) products.
Pitta: Fire and Water
Those with a dominant Pitta dosha have a fiery nature. Pittas tend to be medium in size and weight, have healthy digestion, and warm body temperature. Pitta’s may experience more qualities of heat, light, hard, acidic, and intensity. Their personality is focused, organized and hard working. When in balance, productivity is high and they have the energy to work until they drop. If imbalanced, they may be easily agitated under stress, irritable, and overly competitive. Physical signs of imbalance are skin rashes, burning eyes, and excessive perspiration. It’s recommended Pitta reduces harsh spices and red meat in their diet and increases cooling astringent foods with sweet spices such as fennel and cardamom. The aromatherapy associated with Pitta is sandalwood, rose, lavender, honeysuckle, lily, and frankincense. You can find these natural aromas in our Birdbath (rose), Birds + Roses (roses), Golden Nectar (sandalwood), Brilliant Feather (lavender), and Soar (rose) products.
Kapha: Earth and Water
The primary purpose for Kapha is protection. Kapha controls and holds the cells together to form the structure of the body. Physical characteristics of Kapha are larger with a strong and powerful build. They tend to experience qualities of oily, cold, heavy, slow, static and smoothness. Emotional characteristics are naturally calm and loving. You can rely on their support, peacefulness, and even temperament when balanced. If Kapha is imbalanced, there is tendency to hold onto things that no longer serve them. Resistance to change and stubbornness can be balanced through stimulation of new experiences to break up their routine. Because Kapha may easily gain weight when imbalanced, it’s recommended to reduce high-fat and heavy foods including meats, gluten based grains, and starchy vegetables. Drying and heating foods that are lighter are recommended. The aromatherapy associated with Kapha is clove, patchouli, cinnamon, sage, basil, and cedar.
Food along with other lifestyle influences are used as a tool in balancing the mind + body. It’s important to seek qualities that oppose those of the presented imbalance to reduce the impact of each dosha.
Taste is constructed from the same five elements of the doshas and each taste can impact your dosha balance. Sweet tastes, prominent in wheat, rice, and dairy aid in increasing Kapha and decreasing Vata and Pitta. Sour tastes prominent in lemon, vinegars and fermented foods decrease Vata and increase Pitta and Kapha. Salty food in sea vegetables decreases Vata and increases Pitta and Kapha. Pungent foods such as hot peppers, ginger, garlic and hot spices increase Vata and Pitta and decrease Kapha doshas. Bitter foods such as raw vegetables and green/black tea aid in increasing Vata and decreasing Pitta and Kapha. Lastly, astringent foods such as cranberries, pomegranates, and unripe bananas are good for increasing Vata and decreasing Pitta and Kapha doshas.
Illness is not categorized by disease, but rather dosha imbalances. The functional nutrition aspect of Ayurveda, is supported by mindfulness and lifestyle practices to improve digestion, your natural sleep rhythm, and overall health, some of which are:
Eating at the same time each day in a peaceful environment without the TV
Being aware of the artwork and pictures in your home that can impact your mood
Brushing the skin daily for increased circulation
Using a netty pot and tongue cleaner
Eating seasonally and locally
Avoiding artificial light after the sun has gone down, as much candlelight as possible
Sleep with the shades open to allow the natural light to awaken you in the morning
Meditation: The body is naturally balanced through the process of meditation. The practice of expanding our awareness through the body is one piece of the Ayurvedic puzzle to becoming free of illness. Meditating allows us to slow down, practice patience, and set an intention. Speaking or writing your intentions down can be a powerful tool to opening yourself up to infinite possibilities.
Meditating allows your body to decrease the production of cortisol and adrenaline, known as ‘stress’ hormones, and increase the production of neurotransmitters that enhance wellbeing. If you’re new to meditating, try this simple 5 minute meditation:
Sit with your feet grounded or in a comfortable position on the floor with your back straight.
Close your eyes and rest your hands gently on your lap.
Begin bringing your awareness to your breath. Observe your breath as it goes in through your nostrils, allowing the breath to resonate in the back of your throat with your mouth closed.
As thoughts arise, allow them to dissipate without judgement by deepening and listening to your breathing.
Nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind. The practice of Ayurveda offers ancient wisdom designed to keep the mind vibrant and the body healthy to maximize full human potential. We hope to have given you the tools to identify with your dosha and specific mind + practice that will enhance your well being.