The Healing Art of AyruvedaThis blog contains my summary notes after reading Ayurveda: The Easy Ayurveda Cookbook - An Ayurvedic Cookbook to Balance Your Body and Eat Well Kindle Edition. If you want more information consider picking up a physical copy or e-book from Amazon. You can read e-books using the free kindle viewer online.
Over the past few years I've become more interested in ayurveda. After meeting people from India at a local indian grocery store who gave me free literature on the subject, and speaking with them about ayurveda, I began reading more and more about it. Over the past year I have bought a few essential oils to help me stay alert, and some oils to relax. Since I began using the oils I have noticed they now have a profound effect on my mood and well being.
Ayurveda is the world's oldest continuously practiced system of medicinal healing. Ayurveda began being used in India 5000 years ago. The term ayurveda means life knowledge in Sanskrit. It is a holistic approach to healing that centers on the belief that your health, longevity, and wellness depend on the balance of your mind, body, spirit, and environment.
The practice is centered around three personality concepts otherwise known as doshas:
When one starts to learn and practice ayurveda, they need to identify themselves with one of these three types of doshas.
Grounding - Routine - Warmth
Vata personalities are light and airy in mood. They resonate with open spaces and clean air. They tend to be tall and thin and their thoughts are fast and fluidic. When vata is in balance they will feel a lot of energy rush into your body and your senses will be more active. Their deductive aspects of the brain will sharpen and your digestion will improve. When in balance the vata personality type's communication skills will improve, and you will inspire others to connect with them more often.
Vata personalities should exercise in an average way, and don't over exert yourself. Yoga, tai chi, qigong, and swimming will agree well with vata people. On the downside vata personalities can easily over do it and run out of energy quickly, and as a result are prone to become exhausted. Too much sensory input can heavily affect them, and wear them out. They also become bored easily, and can be fickle in relationships.
Vata personalities need to watch for these symptoms that indicate they are out of balance:
- Feeling tired
- Skin disorders
- Respiratory disorders
- Muscle cramping
- Unfocused mind
Vatas need to become settled down and focused when they become out of balance. Some foods that help this are hot cereals, soups, roasted vegetables, grains, fruits, and nuts. Avoid cold, dry, crispy, crunchy, pungent, bitter, or raw foods. Avoid sodas as well. Stick to warm temperatures when possible and enjoy warm foods. Sleep regularly when possible, and go to bed early. Focus on hobbies that keep you focused mentally.
Stimulation - Self Expression - Dryness
Kapha personalities are in tune with earth and water elements. Kapha grounds vata and pitta, and provides balance. Kapha body types tend to be larger, and more overweight. Their thoughts are not as quick as vata personalities, but they retain more that you have learned and also have more endurance overall. When kapha is in balance and harmonious with pitta and vata aspects they can feel more love, joy, happiness, and forgiveness. Kapha personality types will be more relaxed and easy to get along with. Their compassion will also be heightened and you will feel calmness and relaxed.
Kapha tend to gravitate naturally into leadership roles in communities due to their ability to deal with stressful interaction better. Unlike vatas, kaphas have much more endurance and are able to perform physical tasks better. When out of balance though kaphas become exceedingly sluggish and lazy. Overly sensitive reactions may also occur, and strong attachments to items or concepts may increase the reactions.
Kapha personalities will know they are out of balance when they:
- Gain weight
- Become slothful and lay around all day
- Develop sinus problems or allergies
- Do not want to socialize and instead want to close up and be alone
- Eat too much food for emotional reasons
- Become jealous, envious, or overly judgmental
- Become materialistic
- Can not accept change
- Become addicted to a substance or way of acting
- Sleep too much
Kaphas need to find inspiration and interesting things that motivate them when they become out of balance. Learn new things constantly and develop new routines that are unique, learn new hobbies. Foods to focus on should be dry, spicy, warming, and light. You are looking for something to wake you up and give you energy to get motivated. Spiced teas, fruits, smoothies with ginger, foods with garlic or pepper. Rye breads, rice and wheat are good foods to try as well. A little nuts would be ok, and vegetables of all types. However avoid heavy foods that are cold, sweet, or runny. Starchy and moist foods like potatoes, zucchini, squash, corn, and tomatoes should not be eaten. Make your largest meal at lunchtime, and have a light dinner. When choosing fruits choose light fruits like apples, pears, cranberries, and apricots instead of heavier fruits like bananas and melons or figs.
Eat more raw foods than cooked foods. Pungent, bitter, and astringent foods should be preferred over sugar rich foods that are oily or buttery. Avoid sweeteners and drink warm coffees, teas, and avoid cold foods and drinks. Lemon and lime are also good options for garnish or flavoring in drinks.
Activities you should try should be mentally engaging and you should avoid relaxing or lounging around too much. Do not take naps during the day and go to bed early. Be aware of your personal boundaries, and do not let people cross the line and take advantage of your nice easy going nature. Use aromatherapy scents such as eucalyptus to invigorate you throughout the day. Walk, bike, stretch after meals to avoid becoming a couch potato. Give your self dry massages (no oil) in the morning and night time to help with circulation and energy. When exercising make sure it is very active such as running, kickboxing, cycling or aerobics. Dress in bright clothing with interesting patterns.
Calmness - Moderate - Cool
Fire and water are what pitta doshas resonate with. Pitta supports kapha and vata personalities with motivation and energy. Transformation and change are central. Pitta personalities tend to be more malleable and fluidic, both in their bodies and minds. Physically they tend to be more muscular and strong with medium build, warm or oily skin, and a lot of body heat radiating outward. They are passionate, loud, and usually dominate conversations.
In the body, pitta have energy centers in the stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, blood, eyes, sweat, and pancreas. They tend to radiate heat in their personality and in the physical body. Pittas dive right into situations and get involved.
Pittas experience balance when they feel mentally sharp, happy, strong, and knowledgeable. Pittas like to socialize a lot, and enjoy being the center of attention. People also enjoy this who are around them. They also are competitive with others. They set goals and achieve them. This make pittas natural born leaders.
To balance their natural drives pitta doshas should remember to enjoy their physical workouts instead of trying to be better than someone else. Mix yoga or qigong into the workouts as much as possible. Swimming helps calm down the inner explosive drives.
Pitta doshas are out of balance when:
- They judge others or throw tantrums
- Develop eczema, builds, acne
- Loose hair
- Drink alcohol too much
- Have digestive issues like acid reflux
- Become inpatient with people around them
- Obsess about never making a mistake
- Can't sleep
To find balance eat cooling juicy foods, instead of sweet, sour, or spicy foods. Avoid salty and oily foods as well. Don't drink coffee or soda. Try to eat alkaline foods instead of acidic ones. Good foods to try are: melons, berries, tropical fruits, beans, bell peppers, herb spiced dishes, salads, and chilled water.
Spend more time outside. Look for hikes nearby. Try to eat on a regular schedule. Meditate during the day when you can take small breaks. Avoid alcohol and smoking. Don't overwork your self if possible. Stay away from fried foods and don't use electronics before going to bed. Give yourself oil massages through out the day. Try to relax as much as possible by going on strolls. Stay away from warming spices, and foods like garlic and chilies.
Take the Quiz
In the book: Ayurveda: The Easy Ayurveda Cookbook - An Ayurvedic Cookbook to Balance Your Body and Eat Well Kindle Edition there is a self quiz you can take to determine your dosha personality type. After taking the quiz I got:
3 "a" vata
8 "b" pitta
9 "c" kapha
It seems I am a mixed bag between pitta and kapha, but slightly more kapha in nature than pitta. This is called a double nature. In other words I am kapha-pitta dominate. You can also have one dosha dominate in your mental nature, and another in your physical nature. Pitta would typify my mental nature for sure, and kapha is my physical nature. The book goes much deeper into double natures, but I am going to focus on my double nature only.
This double dosha of kapha-pitta is complimented by dry and astringent foods. Oily, sweet, and moist foods are not good choices. Choose foods such as asparagus, brazil nuts, chicken, corn, flaxseed, green beans, hazelnuts, nutmeg, raspberry, pears, red lentils, cherries, eggplant, artichoke, kale, apples, avocados, pecans, sprouts, popcorn, and plums.
Seasons seem to not affect this double dosha type as much as others because it is a mix of cold and heat.
The mind is subdivided in ayurveda into three aspects called gunas.
Tamasic aspects are usually laziness, ignorant, and deceptive. Food can also be tamasic and be dry and tainted or putrid. Processed and canned foods, or frozen or spoiled food are examples. Alcohol, red meat, eggs, and fish all are in this category. Tamasic food is the most base type of food.
Ragasic aspects resemble greed, materialism, lustful, and spontaneous actions. Ragasic food types are hot, dry, sour, and bitter. Examples of this are deep-fried vegetables, salty chips, and pungent dishes. Rajasic foods are the basis of movement, motion, pain, and energy.
Sattvic aspect are kind, tolerant, patient, and sensitive. Food examples are juicy, sweet, light, flavorful, and provide a lot of energy. Fresh fruits, nuts. vegetables, herbs, beans, spices, and grains are all sattvic in nature.
If you want to elevate you mind, you should eat mainly sattvic type foods, supplemented with ragasic foods, and avoid tamasic foods at all cost.
The Six Tastes
There are six distinguished tastes of foods that impact you mind and body in unique energetic ways. These are:
Each taste either aggravates a dosha or calms it. Every meal should contain all the tastes listed above. This makes sure you balance your dosha energy while also diversifying your intake of essential nutrients.
To balance the tastes:
Vata = sweet, sour, salty
Pitta = sweet, bitter, astringent
Kapha = pungent, bitter, astringent
- Astringent - Use to balance kapha and pitta energies because it reduces inflamation. Too much can throw vata out of whack though. Foods: Asparagus, lentils, cauliflower, grapes, green apples, and beans.
- Bitter - Use to balance kapha and pitta energies because it detoxifies your organs, cells, and systems. Too much can cause vata energies to loose balance. Foods: Bitter foods, broccoli, beets, celery, sprouts, leafy greens like kale, and green and yellow vegetables.
- Pungent - Use to balance kapha and stimulate sweat glands and clear sinuses. Too much can imbalance pitta and vata energies. Foods: Cayenne, cloves, black pepper, ginger, chilies, mustard, onions, and garlic.
- Salty - Balances vata energy, and stimulates appetite and enhances flavors in dishes. Too much and pitta and kapha will be in-balanced. Foods: Soy sauce, fish, salt, and salted or cured meats.
- Sour - Balances vata energy because it increases appetite and eases digestion. Too much can cause an in-balance with pitta and kapha energies. Foods: Pickled foods, vinegars, tomatoes, alcohol, salad dressings, citrus, and berries.
- Sweet - Use to balance vata and pitta because it soothes, and provides a calming effect to the body and mind. Too much can cause weight gain and make kapha energies become in-balanced. Foods: Sweet foods, honey, rice, bread, grains, pasta, chicken, meat, dairy, sugfar, and molasses.