Ayurvedic Methods & Wisdom
Ayurveda is an earth-based medicine, meaning that it calls upon the fruits of the earth (e.g., herbs, oils, minerals, and mud) to heal the body. Ayurveda also includes an energetic component and the goal of ayurvedic medicine is to bring the body into balance.
The Three Body Types or Doshas of Ayurveda
Vata is the dosha or body type of air and space. Vata people are characteristically thin-framed and find it difficult to put on weight. Their minds are quick, restless and imaginative and they often learn quickly and forget just as quickly.
The hair and skin of vata people tends to be dry. Their sleep is often a light and interrupted sleep. They are easily excitable, stressed and anxious. Their moods can change quickly. The appetite is irregular.
Pitta is the dosha of fire and water. The pitta person generally has a medium-frame and maintains an average weight most of the time. They tend to have sharp, efficient and perfecting intellects.
Hair is often fine, thinning, reddish, and prematurely grey for pitta people and the skin is soft and ruddy. They have a sound, medium-length sleep. They can anger and become irritated and critical easily. Pittas usually experience sharp pangs when hungry.
Kapha is the dosha of earth and water. Kaphas can tend towards heavier builds and put on weight easily. They tend to be calm, steady and stable with good long-term memories.
Kapha hair is generally thick and oily and the skin is oily and moist. The sleep of a kapha is sound, long and steady. A kapha is not easily excited and can be rather stubborn and unchanging. Kaphas can easily skip meals.
Basic health care the Ayurvedic Way: Diet, Herbs & Oils
Most people are classified as one body type primarily: vata, pitta or kapha. But nearly everyone has some characteristics of the other types. Some people are even about 50/50 on two body types, such as pitta-kapha. Depending on how you are composed of the three doshas, regular care is recommended to help balance your body for optimal health.
Vata (air and space) is connected to flow and motion in the body. The following signs are commonly indicative of vata imbalance:
- The skin is rough and dry and may appear thin.
- You are underweight and find it difficult to put on weight.
- Your mind is constantly going.
- You worry incessantly.
- You experience restlessness and agitation often.
- You are constipated.
- You have insomnia.
- You have ongoing vaginal dryness.
- You frequently experience forgetfulness.
- There is often discomfort in your joints.
- You are easily fatigued.
If you identify with over half of these statements, you need to balance vata. Vata people can be very flighty and “gone with the wind”. They need extra grounding, like a regular routine, to stay balanced.
Because blowing in the wind can be rather unnerving, vata people also benefit from calming practices such as daily hot baths and massage. Here are some suggestions for balancing vata:
- Drink calming teas such as chamomile, hibiscus, herbal sleep teas, etc.
- Apply calming oils and diffuse them in your environment (valerian, hops, chamomile)
- Season meals with cardamom, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed, and black pepper.
- Massage your body daily with warm sesame oil
- Stay in warm temperatures
- Eat warm, cooked foods (less raw foods)
- Go to be early and get lots of rest
- Eat warm, oily, heavy foods and sweet, sour, and salty tastes
- Avoid light, dry, cold foods and pungent, bitter and astringent tastes
- Stick to a regular routine with your day
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine
- Try to have regular, daily elimination
- Stay warm in cold, windy weather
In addition to the above suggestions, eat a vata-balancing diet:
- Eat larger quantities of food, but not more than you can digest easily.
- Dairy. All dairy products balance vata. Always boil milk before you drink it, and drink it warm. Don’t drink milk with a full meal.
- Sweeteners. All sweeteners are good (in moderation) for balancing vata.
- Grains. Rice and wheat are very good. Reduce intake of barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye and oats.
- Fruits. Favor sweet, sour, or heavy fruits, such as oranges, bananas, avocados, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, berries, plums, pineapples, mangos and papayas. Reduce dry or light fruits such as apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries, and dried fruits.
- Vegetables. Beets, cucumbers, carrots, asparagus and sweet potatoes are good. They should be cooked, not raw. The following vegetables are acceptable in moderate quantities if they are cooked, especially with oil and vata balancing spices: peas, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini and potatoes. It’s better to avoid sprouts and cabbage.
- Spices. Cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed and small quantities of black pepper are acceptable.
- All nuts are good.
- Beans. Reduce all beans, except for tofu, mung beans and dahl.
- Oils. All oils balance vata.
Pitta (fire and water) is primarily in charge of metabolism and transformation in the body. If you have a pitta imbalance, you may notice the following signs:
- You tend to be demanding or critical.
- You are often frustrated, angry or intense.
- Your skin is ruddy and prone to rashes and eruptions.
- You are often irritable or impatient.
- Your hair is prematurely gray or thinning.
- You wake up in the early hours and find it difficult to fall asleep again.
- You feel discomfort in hot weather.
- You are perfectionistic.
- You experience hot flashes.
- You have excess stomach acid.
- You experience loose bowel movements.
If you identify with over half of these statements, you need to balance pitta. Pitta types can easily overheat, so the key to balancing pitta is cooling and calming practices that help the pitta person to simmer down. Here are some suggestions for balancing pitta:
- Drink tea that has a cooling effect such as mint, rose petal and fennel teas.
- Season meals with coriander, fennel, cumin, dill, mint, and turmeric.
- Rub pitta balancing oils on your wrists and temples or diffuse them in the air around you (lavender, lemon, sage, geranium, peppermint).
- Keep cool. Avoid hot temperatures and food.
- Favor cool, heavy, dry foods and sweet, bitter and astringent tastes.
- Reduce pungent, sour, salty tastes and warm, oily and light foods.
- Aim for moderation, avoid overwork.
- Allow for leisure time.
- Stick to regular mealtimes, especially lunch at noon.
- Massage a cooling oil such as coconut oil into your body.
In addition to the above suggestions, eat a pitta-balancing diet:
- Dairy. Milk, butter and Ghee are good for pacifying Pitta. Reduce yogurt, cheese, sour cream and cultured buttermilk (their sour tastes aggravate Pitta).
- Sweeteners. All sweeteners are good except honey and molasses.
- Oils. Olive, sunflower and coconut oils are best. Reduce sesame, almond and corn oil, all of which increase Pitta.
- Fruits. Favor sweet fruits, such as grapes, cherries, melons, avocados, coconuts, pomegranates, mangos, and sweet, fully-ripened oranges, pineapples and plums. Reduce sour fruits such as grapefruits, olives, papayas, and unripe pineapples and plums.
- Vegetables. Favor asparagus, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, okra, lettuce, green beans and zucchini. Reduce hot peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, radishes and spinach.
- Spices. Cinnamon, coriander, cardamom and fennel are all right. But the following spices strongly increase Pitta and should be taken only in small amounts: ginger, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, clove, celery seed, salt and mustard seed. Chili peppers and cayenne should be avoided.
Kapha (earth and water) concerns structure and the fluid balance in the body. The following signs are commonly indicative of kapha imbalance:
- You tend to be overweight even if you exercise and eat an average diet.
- You often feel slow-moving and lethargic.
- You experience sinus problems somewhat regularly.
- You sleep long hours yet wake up feeling unrested.
- Your skin and hair are oily.
- You tend to be possessive and over-attached.
- You feel discomfort in cold, damp weather.
- You feel lazy or complacent much of the time.
- You experience bloating, water retention somewhat regularly.
- You often feel stiff and heavy, especially in the morning.
- You feel congested somewhat often.
If you identify with over half of these statements, you need to balance kapha. Since kapha runs on the slow, cold and sluggish side, the keys to balancing it are warmth and stimulation. Here are some suggestions for balancing kapha:
- Drink earthy teas such as
- Season meals with turmeric, ginger, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, anise, black pepper, basil and parsley.
- Rub kapha-balancing oils on your belly, lower back and feet, or diffuse them in the air around you (juniper, clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus).
- Vigorous regular exercise, a little each day.
- Warm temperatures.
- Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes.
- Favor pungent, bitter, astringent tastes and light, dry and warm foods.
- Reduce heavy, oily, cold foods and sweet, sour and salty tastes.
- Seek out variety and new experiences.
- Stay warm in cold, damp weather.
- Put yourself to bed early and wake up early.
- Use a neti pot every day or every other day to clear the sinuses and avoid congestion.
In addition to the above suggestions, eat a kapha-balancing diet:
- Dairy. Low-fat milk is best for kaphas. Heat milk before you drink it, making it easier to digest, and drink it warm. Do not drink milk with a full meal or with sour or salty food. Add one or two pinches or turmeric or ginger to milk when you heat it to make the milk even more kapha-friendly.
- Fruit. Lighter fruits, such as apples and pears, are best for kaphas. Reduce heavy or sour fruits, such as oranges, bananas, pineapples, figs, dates, avocados, coconuts and melons.
- Sweeteners. Honey is excellent for balancing kapha. Reduce all other sugar products, as these put kapha out of balance.
- All beans are fine, except tofu.
- Reduce all nuts.
- Grains. Most grains are fine, especially barley and millet. Do not eat too much wheat or rice, as these put kapha out of balance.
- Spices. All are fine for kapha balance, except salt.
- Vegetables. All are fine for kapha balance, except tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and zucchini.