I learned a lot about Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, while in yoga teacher training. It is actually the oldest known healing system! Ayurveda focuses on balancing the body’s system through diet, herbs, self-care, and preventative care. Ayurveda and yoga share the same Vedic roots and are considered sister sciences. While they offer different paths, they both provide self-understanding, consciousness, and living in harmony with the laws of the Universe.
What I loved most about Ayurveda is that it encourages preventative care and for people to be their own health provider, to really get to know their body and recognize when something isn’t right. I think in the western world, this is something that many have lost touch with. It also looks at treating the root cause, which as a Holistic Nutritionist is always my goal when working with my clients. Ayurveda also believes the key to health is in the gut, which is something we are definitely picking up on in the West- Things like coconut kefir, Kombucha, sauerkraut, and probiotic supplements are all the rage these days (and rightfully so).
According to Ayurveda, everything in the Universe is made up of qualities from the 5 elements: Earth, fire, water, air, and space. These elements are present in all of us, but in different amounts and this makes up our dosha (or body constitution) and is expressed through our mental, physical, and emotional features. So while all 3 doshas exist in everyone, usually 1 or 2 dominate. What Ayurveda teaches is how to make choices that are ideal for your state of wellbeing based off of your dosha, and also to recognize when a dosha may be out of balance.
Doshas and their characteristics:
Kapha (water + earth)- Slow-paced, relaxed, loving, reliable, faithful, nonjudgmental nature, easygoing, strong with heavier build, calm, most energy of all the doshas, but it is steady, slow speech, learns slow, great long-term memory, soft hair and skin, large soft eyes, reflects during thought process, gentle, prone to depression, can struggle with weight or slow digestion, undemanding, great health and immune system, peaceful, not easily upset, doesn’t like cold and wet weather, possessive, colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems.
Vata (air + space)- Quick learner, but quick to forget, thin, tall, walks fast, creative, moody, irregular daily schedule, tires easily, enthusiastic and joyful when balanced, cold hands and feet, lively, fun, anxiety, fear, and worry when stressed or out of balance, impulsive, racing thoughts, dry skin and hair, little sweat, headaches, nervous stomach, menstrual cramps.
Pitta (fire + water)- Medium physique and strong, orderly, focused, assertive, self-confident and entrepreneurial when balanced, aggressive, demanding, and pushy when out of balance, competitive, passionate and romantic, strong digestion and appetite, moody when they miss a meal, can become angry, impatient, and irritated, fair skin, doesn’t like hot weather, sweats a lot, good leader and public speaker, acidic stomach, insomnia, acne.
From the qualities alone, you may be able to guess or pinpoint which dosha you likely are. There are plenty of dosha tests online you can do to verify your dosha and that will give you more insight. Just make sure you take a test from a credible source.
If Ayurveda interests you at all, you can start by trying to incorporate a few (or all) of these traditional Ayurveda self-care practices into your own wellness routine and then making the delicious kitchari recipe below…
I did most of these at YTT…so fun! I especially loved the tongue scraping (which I already used regularly at home), oil massage and neti pot
1) Tongue scraping- You can find a tongue scraper at your local health market. Every morning as soon as you rise and ideally on an empty stomach, go into the bathroom and scrap your tongue 7-10 times. Starting in the back, working your way forward to get the unwanted coating off of it. Rinsing it off in the sink before scraping again. Tongue scraping helps get rid of toxins and bacteria that build up on the tongue, removes the coating that leads to bad breath, is great for overall oral and digestive health, increases your taste, and stimulates your internal organs.
2) Rinse eyes- Bet you never thought to do that, am I right?! To wash eyes (make sure you aren’t wearing eye make-up ladies), fill an eye cup ½ way full with quality + organic rose water (my fav), then the rest with warm water. Bend over and press the cups in your eye sockets, with eyes closed. Then lift your head upward as you tilt your head back. Once tilted back, open your eyes and have the water soak in your eyes for a few moments, blinking a few times. This is nourishing to your eyes as it is antibacterial, it is also stress relieving, and reduces fatigue. After doing this at YTT I felt energized!
3) Self message- Known as Abyanga, giving yourself a daily self-message can restore balance of the doshas, and enhance well-being. It is also a great time to check in with yourself and connect to your body mindfully. To start, you want to use an oil that is beneficial to your specific dosha: Vata (seasame or almond oil), Pitta (coconut oil), and kapha (almond oil). Make sure you get a quality + organic oil to use. Warm the oil (about ¼-1/2 cup) and while undressed, apply oil on the crown of your head and slowing working down from there in circular strokes on your head and face (if you choose). Then focus on the rest of your body stroking upwards toward the heart. You may want to spend some extra time on your feet, or any area you feel can use it. Keep the oil on for 5-15 minutes so it can be absorbed, then take a warm bath or shower. Massage yourself with love and patience for 15-20 minutes daily (or as often as possible). This nourishes the entire body, lubricates the joints, increases circulation, stimulates the internal organs, stimulates the lymph which helps detox toxins, calms the nerves, keeps the skin nourished, and can aid in better sleep.
4) Neti pot for clearing colds and sinus issues- Pour 8 oz. of filtered water in neti pot with ½ tsp of sea salt. Standing over a sink, place the spout in one nostril and tip your head back and gently over to the opposite side allowing the solution to run into your nostril and out the other nostril. Doing this daily or weekly supports a healthy upper respiratory system, removes excess mucous, relieves dryness in nasals, gets rid of dust and other environmental irritations, and clears your head.
This is a classic Ayurveda dish, and while it tastes super comforting it is actually super detoxifying and great for digestion. It also balances all three doshas, making it great for everyone! It provides an abundant of nutrients for the body while getting the toxins out. One of the main ingredients is mung beans which are full of plant-based protein, known for removing toxins (even pesticides!), boosting immunity, fighting cancer, and being a great source of vitamins and minerals. We had this dish quite a bit during my yoga teacher training program and I fell in love with it, so I had to remake it as soon as I got home, and it turned out delicious! It’s a great meal to make on Sundays to have on hand throughout the week.
2 cups soaked mung beans
1 cup sprouted brown basmati rice (however, white rice is recommended for easier digesting)
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
Spices (season to flavor): Curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon
2-5 cups of chopped veggies of choice: I used sweet potato, peas, spinach, carrots, onion, celery, and carrot
½-1 cup cilantro
8 cups water
Optional- 2 cups coconut milk
Place mustard and cumin seeds in large cooking pot on stove (medium heat) with the garlic ghee. Sauté for 2 minutes.
Next, add the additional seasonings (curry + turmeric + cinnamon).
Then, add in the mung beans and rice, and mix well so everything is coated in the ghee.
Add in the water (+ 2 cups of coconut milk, if desired- I think it makes it creamier)
Chop the veggies and add in
Add cilantro, and bring to a boil
Once boiled, cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for about 40-50 minutes, until an oat-like consistency has formed
Puree (lightly) in food mixture so the veggies, rice, and beans become one consistency. (Recipes don’t usually call for this, but I think this is KEY)
Serve in a bowl and garnish with cilantro and an extra tsp. of fourth and heart garlic ghee
My dosha is vata, so I made a vata friendly churry sauce that consisted of sesame oil, cilantro, and mint and lightly drizzled it on top of this scrumptious dish.
What dosha do you think you are? Share below and cheers to preventative health and ancient medicine xx