At the heart of every wellness practice is a desire to return our bodies to homeostasis, or a stable balance of bodily functions. The power of the mind-body connection is essential, as wellness practitioners bring Ayurveda and the concept of dosha types into the mainstream.
Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest forms of integrative medicine, dating back thousands of years to ancient India. The name itself is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘ayur’ and ‘veda’, meaning life and science or knowledge, respectively.
The Energy Within
A key component of Ayurveda is an understanding of our individual life forces, or dosha. Think about dosha as your basic nature, physical and mental traits, and behaviors. These are the characteristics that effectively define us. Tuning into our dosha may just reveal a secret or two that can lead to healthy aging.
Dr. Deepak Chopra, renowned Ayurveda and alternative medicine expert, led a web-based seminar recently exploring the connection between healthy aging and the energies that influence our behaviors. He describes our health as a higher state of consciousness.
“Illness is a blockage of energy,” he says. “Sickness and symptoms are the body’s signal that you need to restore balance, eliminate the blockages and restore the healthy flow of energy and information.” This balance brings physiological order to our bodies and promotes optimal health.
Digging Dosha Types
Three categories of dosha exist – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Knowing which one you are is a first step toward balance. According to Ayurveda, each dosha is a combination of the five elements found in all living things: space, air, fire, water and earth.
“We have all of these doshas in us, but we come into this world with more of one or two types. And how we experience the world is very different for each of those three types,” Chopra says.
Vatas are energetic. They like to move, have a difficult time sitting still and are represented by wind (air and space). Vatas express themselves with movement in the body and the mind. They are typically thin and light physically, and may have tendencies toward dry skin and hair. Balance produces creativity, enthusiasm and liveliness. But when a Vata is out of whack,anxiety, insomnia and digestive issues can set in.
Pittas are fiery and intense. So it should not be surprising that they are represented by fire and water. They tend toward medium/muscular builds, thinning hair and strong appetites. Look for passionate, ambitious, focused, goal-oriented individuals. On the flip side, out-of-balance traits include aggression, irritability, heartburn, ulcers and acne.
Kaphas are the earth and water babies among us. Their physical bodies are heavier, thicker and sturdier, and they tend to gain weight very easily.
Psychologically, Kaphas are more grounded that the other two – generally very calm, content and consistent. They like routine and are resistant to change. When out of balance, however, they experience weight gain, sluggishness and lack of motivation.
The Ayurveda Rx
Dosha imbalances occur when we essentially overdose on our natural energies. For example, Pittas get unbalanced (remember, these are our fiery types), if there’s too much heat outside, by eating a lot of hot and spicy foods, working too much or overthinking everything.
The remedy? Chopra says “moderation” for Pittas, “movement” for Kaphas and “routine” for Vatas. The Chopra Center offers a free online quiz to discover your dosha type (if you’re willing to give them your email address.
I’m a combination of Vata and Pitta. Knowing this, whenever I feel out of sorts, I ask myself if I am in need of moderation or movement? I may need to step away from my work and take a break, or hit the gym for a good workout.
For in-depth guidance on how to make adjustments in your life based on the principles of Ayurveda, visit an Ayurvedic health practitioner in your area. The National Ayurvedic Medical Association offers an online practitioner search tool.