One writer’s journey with the ancient healing system.
Ayurveda is the holistic healing system indigenous to India. Translated to ‘The Science of Life’ in Sanskrit, the system of knowledge was developed over 3,000 years ago and is based on the belief that true wellness requires a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. In modern society Ayurvedic doctors are considered naturopaths who offer alternative therapies. The system promotes a nuanced approach to prevention and health promotion. As opposed to Western medicine that prescribes treatments, Ayurveda solutions and benefits are tailored to each individual's mental, physical, and spiritual makeup.
From yoga to turmeric teas to hot oil scalp massages, Ayurveda has influenced the wellness industry all over the world. As a first generation Tamil-Australian, beginning my relationship with Ayurveda last summer was a coming home of sorts. While the changes have been small, a shift in my diet here, some time for self-reflection and meditation there, the pay-off has been substantial. All it took was consistency and patience. Since investing in this holistic lifestyle, I have seen a tremendous improvement in my overall mental, physical, and spiritual health. Ayurveda as a system is simple, yet transformative and, if committed to, fosters the potential of one’s higher self. Here’s how it worked for me.
Ayurveda recognizes that just as each human has a unique fingerprint and DNA pattern, every person also has a distinct energy makeup. This energy pattern is known as a dosha and is a combination of physical, mental, and spiritual characteristics based on the elements of ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. The elements come together in unique ratios for each individual through the vata (air and ether), kapha (earth and water) and pitta (fire and water) doshas. Internal and external factors determine the balance of one’s dosha. Diet, weather, relationships, and emotional stress are all factors that can work to imbalance one’s constitution. Understanding the imbalance is crucial for the restoration of homeostasis.
For instance, vata is the dosha made up of air and space. The constitution is described as cold, light, dry, rough, and spacious. Having a vata dosha is indicative of creativity and distraction. There is a general lack of stability associated with this dosha. To balance vata, moist, warm, sweet, and cooked foods are recommended. A daily routine with regular meal times and sleep schedules, and an avoidance of stimulants are advised.
Kapha combines the elements of earth and water. It is known as the heavy, steady, slow, dense, and cold dosha. People with a kapha dosha are diplomatic, strong, and caring. Prone to sluggishness and a slow metabolism, regular exercise and flavors that are light, warm, and bitter are suggested.
Pitta is the last dosha consisting of fire and water. Qualities of pitta are sharp, hot, oily, and light. A pitta personality is tenacious. Radiating a motivated and aggressive nature, adequate time for self-reflection and meditation is encouraged with this dosha. Foods that are anti-inflammatory and sweet are recommended to balance the pitta dosha.
I approached an Ayurvedic doctor in my hometown of Sydney last summer when my health was at an all time low. My anxiety was peaking, my skin erupting, and my emotional state fluctuated. Gaining weight, losing hair, and frustrated at the stagnation of my career, I was unable to pinpoint what lifestyle choices were leading to my overall heavy and moody disposition. Despite practicing mindfulness and yoga for over a year prior to this, I knew I needed to consider a more holistic approach to my wellness. Growing up in a South Asian culture meant natural remedies were always considered before Western treatments to cure sickness. I had brief interactions with contemporary Ayurveda through my work with the online wellness platform, Studio Ānanda, but never truly considered it for myself. After one appointment with my Ayurvedic doctor, I was ascribed with a vata-pitta constitution and given natural additives and a lifestyle plan to continue with on my own.
“Eating sweet and cooling vegetables and switching from coffee to matcha has reduced inflammation in my gut and solved my acne problem, common amongst those with a pitta dosha.”
Vata-pitta combines the hot ambition of pitta with the light, easily distracted nature of vata. Speaking to my energy as a multidisciplinary artist living with ADHD, anxiety and mild autism, vata-pitta types are creative, innovative, and obsessive. Our passion can lead to burn out and depression. Easily overstimulated and inflamed, vata-pitta doshas are sensitive to digestive issues, bloating, restlessness, and rage. While I had understood many of these qualities about myself through years of self-work, therapy, astrology, and my own spirituality, approaching Ayurveda gave me tangible and realistic ways to balance my ferocious and lofty constitution. Waves of healing can often feel unfamiliar when practical structure is not considered. Ayurveda closed that gap for me.
Prior to my dosha diagnosis, I was fatigued and fading. Being self-employed led to an inconsistent sleep schedule, I was either oversleeping or not sleeping enough. I found working out at the gym to be incredibly exhausting, yet due to my weight gain, I believed it was necessary to push my body to the limit in shedding extra kilos. Spiritually distracted, emotional eating meant I was consuming a lot of comfort foods, that more often than not came with intensely inflammatory qualities. Chili, gluten, and processed sugars were all part of my daily diet, often leading to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and acne. Working as a multidisciplinary artist with no real structure led to many manic episodes during the day, and a dissociative crashing by night.
By way of understanding my spacey yet fiery disposition through my vata-pitta constitution, I was able to intentionally eliminate and include various lifestyle choices that have since significantly altered my overall wellness. While previously, meditation was confined to my morning routine, now, I take regular breaks throughout my work day to ground myself in calming energy, balancing out the distracted nature attributed to vata personalities. Practicing mindfulness by pausing throughout the day has alleviated my once manic and anxious tendencies. Being strict about my sleep schedule, and getting at least eight hours of rest a night has eliminated my fatigue. Eating sweet and cooling vegetables and switching from coffee to matcha has reduced inflammation in my gut and solved my acne problem, common amongst those with a pitta dosha. Knowing that I am prone to burnout, rather than putting my body through extreme workouts, I opt for less strenuous sessions. Paying attention to when I am on the verge of imbalance through overwork, overstimulation and exhaustion has cultivated a renewed connection between my mind and body.
Integrating Ayurveda into my everyday life has been challenging yet rewarding. Despite having to compromise a lot of my lifelong habits over the past six months, I have experienced a revived sense of self and feel confident in achieving my full potential. Finding out your constitution through Banyan Botanical’s simple online survey is a great way to get acquainted with the system. Ayurveda recognizes that all humans have the power, and the right to heal. Start your journey today.