Questions Answered Here
- Which aspects of our lives do Ayurveda address?
- Deepak Chopra makes the profound point that “Health in its essence is a higher state of consciousness.” How does this relate to Ayurveda and yoga?
- Describe lifestyle and habit recommendations to balance each dosha.
- Describe Ayurvedic dietary recommendations that apply to all doshas.
- In Ayurveda, how is agni related to diet and lifestyle?
- What dietary recommendations does Ayurveda make for each dosha?
- Give examples of conditions said to relate to a particular dosha-imbalance.
- What dietary consideration is recommended for digestive disorders? For irritable bowel syndrome?
As the science of life, Ayurveda addresses every aspect of our lives. It’s aimed at treating the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Just as some students choose, over time, to expand their asana practice to embrace a perspective that no longer begins and ends on the mat, Ayurveda teaches that by incorporating daily prescriptions for good health into our routines, we will experience optimal health and well-being.
In practicing an Ayurvedic lifestyle, we become more aware of how we stay in balance day to day, season to season, dosha to dosha.
Nature Provides Feedback About Our Decisions
Every day, when we choose a certain food, lifestyle habit, or exercise, nature sends us messages about the soundness of our decision. For example, some individuals experience an acidic reaction in the stomach after eating spicy foods or tomatoes; this is the body’s way of saying that a different food choice would be more suitable. – Kam Thye Chow and Emily Moody
The Effect of Seasonal Change
Did you know that your energy may be more easily disturbed during the weeks between the seasons? Detox the buildup of elements from one season before moving into the next. – Kathryn Templeton
Wholeness & Perfect Health
Health in its essence is a higher state of consciousness. For thousands of years, the great Vedic seers have proclaimed that the purpose of attending to the body is to support the state of well-being known as enlightenment. In this state our eternal reference point shifts from ego to spirit, and we recognize that the knower, the process of knowing, and that which is known are one and the same. The boundaries of time and space become fluid as we remember ourselves as unbounded beings temporarily masquerading as individuals. This state of wholeness is the basis of all healing. This is the state of perfect health. – Deepak Chopra
Lifestyle & Habits
The following are general lifestyle and habit recommendations to balance the doshas:
|Regular habits, quiet, attention to fluids, decreased sensitivity to stress, ample rest, warmth, steady supply of nourishment, self-massage (abhyanga), staying away from raw, cold foods, warming up with hot drinks, sticking to a routine
|Moderation, coolness, attention to leisure, exposure to natural beauty, the balance of rest and activity, decreased stimulants, cool down, avoiding the heat of the day, making time to practice
|Stimulation, regular exercise, weight control, variety of experiences, warmth, dryness, reduced sweetness, switching up the diet, getting moving, committing to a routine
Diet & Seasonal Focus
The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in. – B.K.S. Iyengar
- All doshas benefit from eating a sattvic diet. Sattva guna, meaning “pure” in Sanskrit, suggests eating light, fresh whole foods such as fresh veggies. Adopting a vegetarian diet can bring clarity of mind and eat with the seasons is considered key to being in tune with the environment and universal energies.
- In addition, Ayurvedic practices emphasize agni (fire in the form of digestive fire), measuring the quality of life by the demonstration of good digestion, good absorption and proper elimination.
|Balanced by salt, sour and sweet. Heavy, oily and hot is best for vata diet. Choose soothing and satisfying foods, adding ghee and oils. Vata season is windy, cold, and dry. Adopt a more vata diet and routine to keep vata in balance. Stay warm, eat warm foods, and don’t wear yourself out. Vata season: Approximately October through January in Northern Hemisphere and April through July in Southern Hemisphere.
|Balanced by bitter, sweet and astringent. Cold, heavy and dry is best for pitta diet. Pitta season is hot. To keep pitta in balance during this time, eat cool foods, such as salads. Drink cool (not ice-cold) liquids and avoid too much sun. Pitta season: Approximately June through September in Northern Hemisphere and December through March in Southern Hemisphere.
|Pungent, bitter and astringent. Light, dry and hot is best for kapha diet. Minimize ghee and oil. Kapha season is cold and wet. Stay warm, eat light meals, and get enough regular exercise to help keep kapha in balance. Kapha season: Approximately February through May in Northern Hemisphere and August through November in Southern Hemisphere.
Conditions Related to Doshic Imbalance
In Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy 2007 pgs 18-21, Mukunda Stiles notes these conditions as being related to imbalance in each dosha:
- Respiratory disorders
- Mental problems
- Neurological disorders
- Difficulties of the head, specifically the brain
- Diseases of the ears, nose, throat
- Speech problems
- Diseases of the chest
- Digestive problems, especially weak or irregular digestion
- Improper formation of tissues
- Menstrual problems
- Sexual dysfunctions
- Problems with immunity
- Circulatory problems
- Coldness of the extremities
- Motor problems
The Yogic term Prana and the more ancient term Vayu, are synonymous with the Ayurvedic term Vata. In the mind, it creates peace, open-mindedness, adaptability, intuition, and a higher intelligence concerned with Oneness….Regardless of which dosha is imbalanced, balancing Vata and returning the pranas to their home region and function can rectify all other doshas. For this reason, all students need to have a sadhana that begins and concludes with Vata balancing. – Mukunda Stiles
- Excessive Self-Criticism
- Dissatisfaction with life
Agni is an interrelated aspect of Pitta. It is the bodily fire that transforms foods into body tissues, and information into knowledge and experience. The main site of Agni is the small intestine… and it is responsible for the primary level of digestion of food. From here, it feeds the other twelve subtypes of Agni situated throughout the body. If the primary Agni is low, other tissues and the mind suffer from lack of the ability to transform intake into usable products. Therefore, ama or waste products begin to accumulate which can damage the tissues by creating sluggish function, obstruction to the movement of fluids or loss of bodily heat. The yoga practices for balancing Pitta energy promote a good appetite with strong digestive fire, heighten our enjoyment of life, and maintain the stability of our vitality. – Mukunda Stiles
- Over-accumulation of tissue
- Hardening & excess mucus
- Slowed metabolism
- Tendency for constipation
The primary form of Kapha [is] located in the chest… It protects the vital organs of the heart and lungs and promotes ease of motion and stamina in the back. It is the storehouse of Kapha and all other forms are governed by its health. For example, clearing the chest of mucus has a longer lasting effect than clearing the symptomatic tissues of its increased Kapha…Good health is the natural outcome of a balanced Kapha quality. This is the biological goal for the Ayurvedic practitioner. The psychological goal achieved by Kapha balance is compassion and a natural charity to help others.– Mukunda Stiles
Note: All Doshas Affect All Organs
Ayurveda works by calming the agitated dosha, restoring balance and returning the dosha to its home site. For instance, if Vata is aggravated, it may produce symptoms in different sites such as constipation, dull pain, dry cough, headache and restlessness. While the doshas have their main region and home organ, they are all pervasive throughout the body. Each dosha produces symptoms that can be in any organ or tissue. – Mukunda Stiles
Recommendations for Conditions
The following include food and lifestyle recommendations for these particular conditions:
- Tummy Tonic – Eva Herriott, Yoga Journal – This brief article provides an overview of the herbal mixture, Triphala, and its common uses in Ayurveda.
- Triphala “helps address a wide range of disorders, from irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, constipation, and diarrhea, to anemia, eye disease, skin disorders, yeast infections, and problems related to the female cycle.
- According to Dr. Mishra, most anyone can benefit from taking triphala, although it is contraindicated for pregnant women, people with chronic liver conditions, and for those taking blood-thinning drugs.”
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Gut Reaction: Ayurveda for IBS – Carrie Demers, MD, Yoga International
- This in-depth article includes a detailed case-study and information on how Vata characteristics relate to IBS. It also provides specific ways to bring more balance
Practices for Winter
In winter, increased vata can cause problems like arthritis, irregular digestion, and lack of concentration, while a kapha imbalance can lead to colds and flus, weight gain, and lethargy. Try these simple tips to stay warm and keep your doshas balanced all winter long. – Yoga International, 7 Ways to Stay Warm
- 7 Ways to Stay Warm – Yoga International
- This is a very brief article but provides to-the-point suggestions for food and lifestyle habits that can bring balance in winter.
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I’m an inclusive, not scary, totally normal yet heavily qualified yoga instructor and founder of YogaBellies® and the Birth ROCKS Method. I’m trained in self hypnosis and meditation and what I love is helping women (ALL women) enjoy yoga without having to whisper all the time and wear fancy activewear that cost a month’s rent.
I believe Yoga is for everyone.