Ayurveda is the ancient medicine
system of India. It is said to be the world’s oldest
recorded system of healing. Ayur means ‘life’ and veda
means ‘knowledge or science’ so put the two together and you
have the ‘Science of Life’.
I have been intrigued by Ayurveda for years and have
purchased numerous books as well as taken a foundation course on
this subject. It was an intense four day course that
inspired me to keep learning. What draws me to this
science is that Ayurveda treats the body as a whole ~ mind, body
and spirit. It looks at what is the root cause of certain
conditions of the body, not just how to treat the symptom of a
certain condition. If you were to visit an Ayurvedic
physician, his or her first question to you may be ‘what is your
purpose in life?’ or ‘how is your digestion?’
Ayurvedic philosophy believes that health is a result
of balance and harmony within one’s Self. It believes that
a strong immune system and healthy digestion are key components
to a healthy person. Stress and negativity can lead to
‘dis-ease’ in the body which Ayurveda believes to be a ‘call to
attention’ or a ‘need for change.’
For example, did you ever overindulge in an area, be it
food, work or even exercise? After a while, if you don’t
check in with your body, it will tell you when it’s had enough.
For instance, eating too fast is something my body had been
telling me I needed to work on. At first I did not listen
and started getting indigestion and even acid reflux. Then
I began to eat slower, and in time, my problem disappeared.
But as soon as I unmindfully started to chow down again, my body
chimed in with the same symptoms saying, ‘hello…..remember me?’
What signs has your body given you lately?
This ancient system of healing is so fascinating to me
and I will continue to study it throughout my life. Its
concepts go very deep into the core of our being and encompasses
every level including mental, physical, energetic, emotional and
Now it’s time to learn about the Ayurvedic dynamic
forces called doshas. These doshas, in Ayurvedic
philosophy, are created by two of the five elements (ether, air,
fire, water & earth) pairing up with each other. The three
main doshas that are formed are Vata, Kapha and Pitta.
There are also sub-doshas which happen when an individual has
many of the qualities or characteristics of two doshas instead
of just one. For instance, one could be Kapha-Pitta or
Are you fiery Pitta? A thin-boned anxious Vata? or a
Aromatherapy and essential oils can help to keep our
doshas more balanced, but before we learn that, let’s take a
look at what the heck a dosha is!
These three doshas, Vata, Pitta, Kapha, are the
categories, or body types in Ayurveda. Much like the three
body types we have in the west, the ectomorph, mesomorph and
endomorph, the three doshas each have their own, very unique
characteristics. According to Ayurveda, we are born with
all three doshas, but the amount of each dosha we have is unique
to each of us and is determined when we are conceived.
This specific combination of our doshas is called our ‘prakruti’
- a Sanskrit term which means ‘nature.’ This unique
combination or ‘dance’ between our three doshas determines our
qualities and characteristics. It is said that when this
‘balanced dance’ of our prakruti develops an imbalance, then
signs and symptoms of dis-ease in the body and mind can
Let’s look at the characteristics of the Vata dominant
individual. Autumn is the season of Vata. Vata
elements are air and space. Vata body types generally have
dry skin, lips and hair. They tend to have a thin body
frame and are often underweight. They have a hard time
sleeping and often have cold hands and feet, thus Vatas love hot
weather and dislike the cold. Vata types tend toward
constipation and some suffer from fear and anxiety. They
are restless, being a fast walker and talker, and are known to
‘multi-task’ quite well. They usually have joints that
crack easily and emotionally, can feel insecure. Vata
individuals usually grasp information quickly, but forget it
just as fast. They also have quick minds and are very
creative giving them excellent imaginations. Vata
individuals usually have a hard time with stability and
commitment. However they are clear-minded and are
sometimes even clairvoyant.
If you’re finding you have a lot of Vata qualities, here are
some guidelines to help keep Vata individuals in balance:
• Stay warm, avoiding extreme cold temperatures & drafty areas
• Avoid raw and cold foods
• Eat warm foods and spices
• Stay calm- try to discover ways to help you stay calm such as
meditating, deep breathing, exercise, journaling etc.
• Practice restorative yoga
• Give yourself a daily massage using natural plant oils (abyanga)
• Keeping a regular routine will help Vata types stay balanced.
Since Vata types in general are more dry and cold, they
benefit from essential oils that are more warming and
moisturizing. Also, grounding essential oils will help
balance Vata types since air and space are their elements.
Some of the best oils for balancing Vata excess are:
Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Patchouli,
Sandalwood, Rose, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, Anis, Ginger,
Basil, Cardamom, Coriander, Tarragon, Lavender, Clary Sage and
Most carrier oils are good for Vata imbalance including
sesame and hazelnut oil. You can make a Vata Balancing
massage oil by choosing 1-3 essential oils from above and
combining 30-50 drops total of your chosen essential oils with 4
ounces of a carrier oil of your choice. Then massage
yourself daily with your massage oil (Abyanga is the Sanskrit
term for massage).
When we enter the cold, cloudy, heavy season of Winter,
we enter the Kapha dosha season. Qualities of this dosha
are slow, heavy, cold, damp, soft, smooth and viscous, just like
the qualities of winter. The two of the five elements that
represent the Kapha dosha are water and earth.
Those who have predominantly Kapha qualities have strong muscles
and large, heavy bones. They easily gain weight and have a
hard time losing it. The digestion of a Kapha individual
is slow and so is their metabolism. However, Kapha people
have a tendency to be healthy and they have very good stamina.
They may be slow to start something, but once they get going,
their endurance is excellent. Their hair is thick and wavy
and skin is thick, smooth and oily. Their eyes are large
and attractive and they have large, white teeth.
One of Kaphas downfalls is they have a sweet tooth.
If they give in to the temptation of eating sweet, heavy foods,
then they can gain weight very easily. Balanced Kaphas
have long life spans, but if they do not keep the weight off,
then ‘dis-ease’ can creep in such as diabetes and high blood
pressure. Kaphas will feel better eating lighter foods,
staying away from salty, sweet and oily foods.
Due to the qualities of Kapha, they have a harder time
getting up in the morning. Their sleep patterns are
usually long and deep. Because of this, it is best to rise
before the sun to keep Kaphas in balance. Also, more
vigorous exercise is good for the Kapha individual. Sinus
congestion can also be an issue for this dosha as well as colds,
sinus headaches and water retention.
Kapha individuals have a loving and compassionate
nature. When balanced, they are forgiving, peaceful,
tolerant, loyal and patient. When not balanced, they can
suffer from jealousy, greed, attachment and possessiveness.
Here are some guidelines to keep Kapha individuals balanced:
• Avoid sweet, salty and oily foods
• Go to bed early and rise early
• Get plenty of exercise - an early morning brisk walk works
• Do not eat or drink iced foods
• Avoid dairy foods
• Eat lighter foods such as fruit (not sweet fruit but more
astringent fruit such as apples, berries, cranberries, peaches
and pears), and for meat choose chicken, turkey and fish
• Eat pungent and bitter vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli,
cabbage, spinach and kale
• Meditate and Breathe (good for everyone!)
Since the natural qualities of the Kapha dosha are
cold, moist and slow, essential oils that would best suit Kapha
types are those that are warming, drying and stimulating.
Here are some essential oils that would help to balance
excess Kapha: Juniper berry, Orange, Lime, Ginger, Cumin, Basil,
Cinnamon, Clove, Black pepper, Rose, Eucalyptus and Thyme.
When we enter the summer season, we enter the season of
Pitta. The two of the five elements that come together to
form the Pitta force is water and fire. The qualities of
this dosha are described as hot, light, sharp, fluid, soft and
clear. Pitta governs the quality of transformation.
If we have too much Pitta, this can cause hormonal imbalance,
ulcers, anger, and irritated skin conditions. If we have
too little Pitta, our metabolism can become sluggish, and we can
experience indigestion and a cluttered, confused mind.
Are you a fiery, passionate Pitta? Check out
these characteristics of a Pitta individual below to see if any
sound familiar to you.
The Pitta body type is comparable to the Western,
mesomorph body type. Their body frame is proportionate and
they can gain and lose weight relatively easily. Their
skin is usually sensitive, oily and warm to the touch.
They are prone to acne and their skin can burn easily with moles
and freckles being fairly common. Pitta types usually have
blonde or reddish hair with sharp, penetrating eyes.
Because they can be aggressive in nature, they love competition.
Their memory is sharp and their speech can also be sharp and
somewhat sarcastic. Pitta individuals can become angry and
jealous when under stress. Their dreams are like their
personality - fiery and passionate. If they become ill,
Pitta individuals usually will experience fever, inflammation
Here are some guidelines to help keep Pitta individuals
• Choose cool foods and drinks; foods to choose are those that
are sweet, bitter and astringent in taste.
• Take a walk in the cool air
• Have fresh flowers in your house
• Wear blue and green clothing colors
• Meditate twice a day
• Wear silver jewelry as opposed to gold
• Avoid excess sun exposure, saunas and hot tubs
• Massage your scalp with coconut oil
• Practice cooling breath – roll your tongue and inhale through
your rolled tongue then exhale through your nose – do a couple
rounds of this breath
Since the qualities of Pitta are hot, light, sharp, and
fluid (wet), essential oils that would help pacify Pitta are
cooling, drying, calming and ones that dispel heat. Some
of these essential oils are chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint,
spearmint, yarrow, lemongrass, clary sage, lime, lavender,
sandalwood, rose, tea tree and ylang ylang.
Remember, we all are a combination of the three doshas:
Vata, Pitta and Kapha and everyone’s life circumstances and
geographic location are different which can affect this
Each season brings about different changes in our
bodies and emotions. Being aware of these changes and
taking the appropriate actions such as changing your food
choices, exercise routines and essential oils can help ease the
transition through the seasons and keep your dosha in balance.
*This article is intended to give out information only, not
replacing medical care. Always seek medical attention when
starting a new diet or exercise program.
Gina Rafkind is founder of VedaSun--using your
senses as a pathway to presence.
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