Ayurveda 101

Written By Hannah Hannah Rose Friend, 500RYT
Follow @hannahrose.friend

Translated from Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “life-knowledge”. It is one of the oldest natural wellness practices to date, originating over five thousand years ago in ancient India. Today, Ayurveda has gained acclaim for being a system that incorporates food, herbs, movement, meditation, and breath to create a whole body holistic practice designated for health and longevity!

The ‘goal’ of Ayurveda is to achieve a state of balance in all things, and most importantly within. Balance is characterized by bringing the 3 Doshas to a state of neutrality. Each Dosha- Vata, Pitta, and Khapha, is a constitution composed of elements manifesting physically. In Ayurveda, there are five elements: Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Space. Each Dosha is a combination of these elements, Vata being Air and Space, Pitta composed of Fire and Water, and Khapha is Earth and Water. Every living thing that has Prana (life) can be identified by one or more doshas. Seasons, food, movement practices, and entertainment, among others, all have qualities of the doshas. Summer, for example, is Pitta because that season is usually defined by intense heat and longer days of sunshine, which are qualities of Fire. Yin Yoga is Kapha because it is a practice that stays low to the ground, and offers slower sustained movements, which has qualities of the Earth element. A raw salad is very Vata because the crunchy vegetables are still Airy, and haven’t softened from cooking. As humans, we all have a primary Dosha that resonates with our bodily makeup.

Though we have qualities of all three doshas, there is usually one that can be identified as dominant. Vata qualities are cool, crisp, and light. Vatas typically have smaller builds, like to feel creative and organized, and can struggle with anxiety, fatigue, and constipation/bloating when out of balance. Pitta is characterized as hot, sharp, and intense. Pittas tend to have medium to muscular frames, are determined and passionate, and feel irritable, burnt out, and inflamed when out of balance. Kapha is cool, stable, and grounded. Kaphas can have larger builds, and are loving, relaxed, and in tune with nature. Out of balance, Kaphas feel under the weather with allergies, lethargic, and depressed. Discovering your predominant dosha is key to understanding your patterns in life and how to balance them out to achieve a state of equilibrium!

*Try taking a Dosha Quiz to find your constitution, I’ve linked a few below!

In Ayurveda, like-increases-like. If you are already a fiery Pitta, have a hot temper and start perspiring in a room warmer than 72 degrees, eating a spicy soup from your favorite Thai restaurant in mid July might not be the most balanced choice. The heat from both the contents and temperature of the soup will add to that internal fire, and increase the Pitta already present in your personality, your pores, and your digestion. Alternatively, you can learn to neutralize your predominant Dosha by adding the opposite. Cooling, watery, and light, Vata/ Kapha foods offer a balance to Pitta. Fresh fruits like melons, grounding nuts and seeds, and adding mild but potent spices to your favorite dishes can work to minimize the flame and bring harmony to your dosha.

Food is medicine in Ayurveda, and is a great place to start when first working to balance your dosha. How we are digesting and assimilating said food is just as important as its contents. Because each dosha deals with some struggles with digestion/absorption, discovering foods that a) balance your dosha and b) are simple and intuitive can seem to be a struggle at first! Luckily Ayurveda has a “chicken soup” of foods that is tri-doshic, and can be enjoyed any season of life. Kitchari is an age-old meal composed of mung beans, basmati rice, a little ghee, and spices that create a healing and easily absorbed food. The beans and rice band together to form a perfect protein, and the spices bind to the fat they’re cooked in to offer richer potency. Traditional Kitchari can be eaten on its own for maximum balancing and “detoxing” benefits, but can be combined with cooked vegetables, other grains like quinoa, and even condiments like honey and tahini to jazz it up. As you begin to dive deeper in your own bodily composition, use your intuition to discover what foods make you feel  your best and most balanced! That looks different for everyone, and only you know you. Treat Ayurveda as a practice of self-study, and enjoy the process of caring for your physical and energetic body.

Here is my favorite Kitchairi recipe from yogahealer
I’ve been making this Kitchari for 2 ½ years now and I love it!