To end week 1, we will focus on nourishing your spirit through Ayurveda. This is an ancient Indian holistic health practice and system of medicine. At it’s heart, Ayurveda has the principle of understanding your individual constitution and maintaining balance through appropriate diet, exercise and lifestyle choices as well as herbal medicine. It takes many years of study to become an Ayurvedic practitioner, however there are some simple principles that I have learnt through yoga teacher training which I will share with you today!
Ayurveda and the spirit
I love that Well College Global include an introduction to Ayurveda as part of their personal wellness course. Even for those who are not interested in yoga or Eastern philosophy, there is so much to be learned about the world and yourself through the lens of Ayurveda. It helps us to understand that we are part of something greater and that we are all unique expressions of nature. Instead of judging and critisising ourselves, we can learn to self-reflect with curiosity and live in a way that brings out our best self.
Understanding your constitution
There are three main life forces or doshas according to Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. All of us as individuals are made up of a combination of these forces which relate to the five basic elements and their qualities. Vata consists of the elements air and ether, Pitta is made up of fire and water and Kapha is governed by the elements earth and water. These combinations give rise to qualities such as cold, hot, dry, oily, quick, slow, sharp, dense and light which are expressed in all of nature, including us as human beings.
Typically we have one or two doshas whose qualities clearly dominate our physical, mental and emotional tendencies. I explained the doshas in more detail as well as how to identify your own constitution in the post What is your Ayurveda body type?. I don’t want to repeat myself here so make sure you read that one before continuing, if you haven’t already. Learning about your true nature helps you to accept who you are and know that you are part of the beautiful tapestry of life! It eliminates comparison with others and helps you to appreciate your own strengths and make the most of them.
Adapting your lifestyle to your constitution
Once you understand your constitution, you can adapt your lifestyle to restore or maintain balance. This is empowering information as no longer will you listen to external sources telling you exactly what you need but you will be able to tune into your own inner knowing. There is simply no one true way to live that supports everyone. People can thrive on many different diets, exercise routines, work styles, family life etc. We all have different needs, personalities, preferences and once we understand these we can work with them rather than against them to increase our energy and vitality.
Understanding your constitution also helps you to observe imbalances as the difference between your natural and your current state. If there are imbalances present, this is the first step on the path to disease. Ayurveda teaches to identify imbalances and remedy through lifestyle changes to avoid more serious illness and to create a state of wellness.
Ayurvedic practices can be used to:
- Maintain a healthy balance of the doshas, as per your natural constitution
- Correct any imbalances which could later lead to disease
To understand this, we focus on the idea that like creates like. For example, adopting a lifestyle with vata-like qualities will increase vata dosha in your system. If you naturally experience high vata, you want to make lifestyle choices which balance out this dosha by increasing the qualities of the other doshas. We always want to avoid extremes and maintain a sense of balance.
Lifestyle to support Vata dosha
Vata dominant individuals are spontaneous and creative but tend to experience cold and dryness in their body as well as a chaotic mental state. Therefore, it is best to make lifestyle choices that are warming, grounding and calming.
DIET: Consume warming and easily digestible foods including dairy, oils, salt and sugar and avoid excess raw vegetables
MOVEMENT: Keep a consistent movement routine including calming, grounding practices such as yoga, tai chi and gentle walking
ENVIRONMENT: Avoid excessively cold and dry or windy environments
MINDSET: Practice grounding meditations and body scan techniques to get out of your head and into your body
SLEEP: Focus on a relaxing evening routine to calm an erratic or anxious mind before sleep
Lifestyle to support Pitta dosha
Pitta dominant individuals are energetic and ambitious but can be quick to over heat and anger as well as experience excessive acidity in the body. Therefore, they want to make lifestyle choices which are cooling, calming and promote moderation.
DIET: Choose foods which have a bitter or (natural) sweet tastes and avoid excess spicy, oily or salty foods. Stay hydrated and avoid excess coffee.
MOVEMENT: Get plenty of movement, especially in the morning hours to burn excess energy. Strength training is great for pitta types
ENVIRONMENT: Avoid excessive hot sun or humidity and try to keep the body cool
MINDSET: Practice calming breathing techniques and avoid heated conflict or unnecessary anger
SLEEP: May need less sleep than other doshas but avoid working in the evening hours and minimise stress which can impact sleep
Lifestyle to support Kapha dosha
Kapha dominant individuals are calm, steady and reliable but can fall into the trap of laziness or stagnation. Lifestyle choices which support dynamic energy flow and a feeling of lightness are supportive
DIET: Opt for lighter foods including lot’s of vegetables and raw greens and avoid over-doing it with heavy foods and sweets as these increase kapha qualities
MOVEMENT: Move in a way that increases the flow of energy and reduces stagnation in the body e.g. cardio outdoors in the fresh air
ENVIRONMENT: Keep warm and dry, avoid overly chilly and damp environments
MINDSET: Focus on gratitude, trying new things and challenging your thoughts to avoid getting stuck in a rut
SLEEP: Try to keep a consistent sleep routine and avoid over sleeping or daily napping
Following a lifestyle adapted to your dosha as well as to the changing seasons and environment will support you in connecting your spirit and to nature.
Thank you to Well College Global, My Vinyasa Practice and the Ayurvedic Institute for inspiring this post!
Today’s challenge: Connect with your dosha
If you found this concept interesting, you can put it into practice by identifying your constitution and some simple changes you can make to your lifestyle to support your being and bring yourself into balance. I recommend taking the dosha quiz by Chopra as a starting point. If you are in the Moon Life Well Women Facebook group, I will be sharing some additional resources to help you understand your dominant elements and identify supportive lifestyle changes.
So that is it for week 1! We have covered:
- Nourishing your body with food
- Moving your body for joy
- Getting good sleep
- Being kind to yourself
- Supporting your spirit with Ayurveda
Next week the theme is about CONNECTION, the second pillar in the personal wellness course by Well College Global who have inspired this series. We will we talking all about connecting you yourself, others and the world around you which are all vital if we want to experience true wellbeing!
Over to you…
- Comment: What is your dominant dosha(s)? Is there one simple lifestyle change you could make to support your wellbeing?
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