If you practice yoga, chances are high that you have heard of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a traditional system of holistic medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago. For generations, it was passed down in the ancient language of Sanskrit before gaining popularity in other parts of the world. Ayur means “life” and Veda means “science” or “knowledge”.
Ayurveda teaches us that creation comes from the five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Since we are also part of the divine creation, the elements are present within us. Every individual is made up of all five elements, but we each have different levels of these forces, which determines the nature of our physical and intellectual body. The three Ayurvedic types (Doshas) are:
Vata Dosha (Ether and Air)
Much like the elements it consists of, the Vata Dosha has dry, subtle and light qualities. People whose constitution is dominated by Vata have a thin frame, delicate and dry skin. They are creative, lively and enthusiastic. Always looking for a new challenge, Vata types embrace change. When Vata is out of balance people typically suffer from anxiety, restlessness and a feeling of being ungrounded.
Pitta Dosha (Fire and Water)
The most prominent quality of the Pitta Dosha is fiery heat. Pitta types have warm skin, medium proportions, and fine hair. Their ambitious character and self-confidence make them excellent leaders. An aggravated Pitta results in inflammation, impatience and an angry, irritable temperament.
Kapha Dosha (Earth and Water)
The Kapha Dosha combines the qualities of Earth and Water elements: it is cold, soft, oily and heavy. As a result, Kapha types have smooth skin, rich hair, larger proportions, and a robust frame. While balanced, they tend to be grounded, stable and calm even during challenges. Signs of a Kapha imbalance are lethargy, depression and lack of motivation.
While all three energies are present in every individual, one or two Doshas tend to be dominant, thus determining one’s personal constitution. Knowing your Doshas can help you live a healthier, more balanced life.
According to Ayurveda, our disposition is affected by our lifestyle: the food we eat, the quality of our sleep, the weather, and our thoughts. When the Doshas are out of balance, their negative qualities arise. Health is achieved by rebalancing the three Doshas according to one’s original constitution.
Yoga and Ayurveda
Yoga and Ayurveda are the sister sciences of Vedic knowledge that guide us on a path of self-realization and liberation. Both have their unique purposes, but they overlap on various levels. Ayurveda is seen as the theory that provides the knowledge to keep our mind and body fit and healthy. Yoga puts that theory into practice in order to connect with our Higher Self.
While Ayurveda teaches us how to balance our Doshas through lifestyle and dietary choices, certain yoga postures can help as well.
Signs of an aggravated Vata Dosha are the inability to rest and be calm and grounded. Yoga poses like Mountain Pose or twists encourage exactly those lacking qualities, thus bringing Vata back to balance.
In order to rebalance Pitta, calming and cooling poses such as deep forward folds are beneficial. If one is suffering from an irritable and impatient temper, heart openers bring back patience and relaxation.
The lethargy of an aggravated Kapha can be balanced by strong, fast-paced movements, for example in Sun Salutations. Certain breathing techniques, such as Kapalbhati Pranayama, also have heating and activating properties.
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