More and more people are realising food is not just food. It can also be medicine. Food can do more for your body than help you lose 10lbs so you can look hot in a swimsuit.
Food can help heal you. This is a common tenant of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a form of traditional east Indian medicine dating back 5,000 years, but it’s really much more than that.
Ayurveda is a lifestyle, and one can see improvements without a major lifestyle shift. To help me understand Ayurveda better, I reached out to Ayurveda expert Wendy Arneill.
Ysmay: What’s a dosha?
Wendy: Ayurveda understands nature, how nature works, and that each individual is a part of nature.
It utilizes qualities in nature to balance the physiology for health in body and mind. The ancient cognizers of Ayurveda saw patterns in nature and learned that these patterns apply to the human physiology (also a part of nature) in the same way.
There are three doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) and each of them expresses a different use and pattern of energy. Vata, related to the natural elements of space and air, governs communication, movement, and transportation. Pitta, the fire element, governs transformation and digestion. Kapha, earth and water elements, governs structure, strength and lubrication.
This sounds abstract, but it can easily be applied to our physical life: Vata dosha is responsible for communication (nervous system), transportation (vascular system), and movement (of food through the body, movement of the body itself, and movement of emotions, to name a few). Pitta dosha is responsible for anything that transforms with the fire-like element: digestion, heat, inflammation, energy transformation within the thyroid and other body systems, also ‘digesting’ emotions and being determined in mind, such as a go-getter person with direction and determination.
Kapha, then, is responsible for structure (physical structure), strength (strength in immunity AND in body), and lubrication (moisturizing the body, softening the joints with proper fluid, and so on). Each person is a unique constitution of all three doshas. Typically, there is one prominent dosha, a second dosha close behind, and the third dosha may always need some strengthening.
Someone with a prominent Vata dosha, for example, would show many signs of Vata characteristics. The qualities of the doshas are important to understand. Vata is cold, hard, dry, subtle, changeable, light (like it’s elements of space and air).
Pitta is hot, slightly moist, sharp, fiery, pushy, pungent (like it’s fire element). Kapha is cool, heavy, oily, sticky, stable, sweet (like earth and water). Nature always wants balance. If an individual is a “Vata” type (showing primarily vata characteristics, it may be difficult to concentrate for long or stay warm or move food through our GI tract easily. Thus, we would want to balance the vata with the opposite qualities in our lives.
We would eat warm, oily, heavy, sweet (naturally sweet) foods. We would learn how to make our sleep heavier, versus the lighter Vata-type sleep. And so on.
Can someone change doshas over the years, or is it just something you’re born with?
Everyone is born with a unique Prakruti, their natural state of balance. This is their true definition of balance within their physiology. An individual may be more Pitta in mind, Kapha in digestion, and Vata in physiology…or any combination of doshic qualities in body and mind. Some people will appear to be “all Vata” or another dosha.
We could not exist without all three doshas, but each one is expressed uniquely per person. Over time, sooner or later, people will find themselves out of their perfect balance.
This could be due to conscious choices or circumstances. Regardless, when one finds himself overweight, underweight, depressed, having abdominal pains, ill in any way…there is doshic imbalance (and most likely, the imbalances go much deeper than just the doshas). Whatever one’s state of balance/health is, this is known as the Vikruti. The healthier and happier one is, the more likely his Vikruti resembles his Prakruti.
Ayurveda is phenomenal at guiding people back to their own true nature, which creates the health, happiness and fulfillment that Ayurveda is known for.
The term tri-doshic refers to those individuals who express a relatively close balance of all three doshas. Each dosha has it’s pros and cons.
Pittas are driven, but that can also make them highly frustrated or angry if things go wrong. They can easily have fantastic digestion, but it can also get so hot as to cause ulcers or bleeding.
A tri-doshic person may benefit from each of the doshas, but also must learn to balance each of the doshas, and must know the signs of each dosha getting out of balance (before it’s too late and causing uncomfortable symptoms!).
Also, I would like to add that many people take dosha quizes online. Just remember, you may learn what your IMbalances are more than what your natural balance is. You can still use the information, but don’t assume you ARE what your imbalances are telling you from the quiz.
The best way to learn more about yourself, and learn what will serve you in your diet and life, is to see an Ayurvedic Practitioner with great experience. This isn’t a pitch, just the truth! A good Ayurveda Practitioner will teach you, so in time you will be able to make all of the right choices for yourself, without needing guidance from others.
Health, happiness and longevity with Ayurveda.