In my previous post, Moving Forward with Yoga, I had mentioned that over the course of the next few weeks I’d introduce and explain a number of Yoga poses to weave together into a home practice for you. In this weeks post, I’m going to take a break from the postures, and bring your attention to Ayurveda, the traditonal Indian science of life.
Ayurveda is often referred to as the “sister science” of Yoga. This is because what Yoga does through movement and meditation, Ayurveda does through diet and self-care. Together, Ayurveda and Yoga create a complete holistic kit to bring your body into its unique state of balance.
The base principles of Ayurveda treat the mind and body as a unit, so what affects one affects the other. When we’re feeling out of sorts, in Ayurveda this would be indicative of our balance being upset. What balance am I talking about? The balance of our mind-body type or Dosha.
Now let me back track a moment here: according to Ayurveda, in the universe there are five elements – ether, air, fire, water, and earth. This may seem novel, but if taken as a metaphor, it is a pretty fair assumption without going deeper into modern science. The universe and everything within it (you and me too) is made up of these five elements. In a person, these elements manifest as Doshas.
There are three Dosha types, each a pairing of the five elements:
Vata is the Doshic mix of ether and air, often simply depicted by air.
Pitta is the Doshic mix of fire and water, often simply depicted by fire.
Kapha (or Kappa) is the Doshic mix of earth and water, typically depicted by water, but sometimes earth.
There are a number of characteristics that are associated with each Dosha to which we can relate to figure out our dominant Dosha. Again, if taken as a metaphor, Doshas are a fair way to assess one’s self.
Vata reflects qualities of the air and ether (or space) element, so if you can relate to being a dynamic individual who is light in body and mind, this may be your dominant Dosha.
Pitta reflects the qualities of fire and water, so if you can relate to being a passionate individual who is mentally and physically ambitious, this may be your dominant Dosha.
Kapha reflects the qualities of water and earth, so if you can relate to being an individual who is steady yet fluid in body and mind, this may be your dominant Dosha.
The Doshic characteristics can and do go into far more depth, but that explanation is outside the scope of this article. The image at the top of the article (click to enlarge) lists a few more specific traits for each Dosha. Also, this quiz offers a quick way to ascertain your dominant Dosha.
The Ayurvedic method is to balance our Doshas through our actions. One of these ways is, you guessed it, through yoga. In the posts to come, as I present a yoga pose, I’ll incorporate an Ayurvedic description as to how it effects each Dosha, including modifications to the posture to help you bring yourself into balance.
I’m going to assume I’ve created more questions than I’ve answered, so for more information about Ayurveda check out Ayurveda.com’s Online Resources. Even Dr. Oz is interested in Ayurveda, presenting easily accessible information as Ayurveda enters mainstream culture.