Writing a short article about Ayurveda is like trying to summarize the history of the world. However, a discussion of Ayurveda basics can be a great way to help pique your interest in this broad and fascinating approach to healthy living.
Ayurveda is translated as “the science of life.”1 The first record of Ayurveda came between 1,500 and 1,000 BCE as part of the Vedas, the written records of great seers in India. Ayurveda, like many ancient medical practices, treats the imbalances in the patient to avoid having illness or disease set in. This holistic concept treats the body, mind, and spirit as one. The goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to live in balance—the path to health, happiness, and longevity.
Ayurveda treats the individual based on doshas—energies believed to circulate in the body and govern physiological activity. There are three types of doshas, each a combination of two of the elemental energies—earth, water, fire, air, and space (ether). Each individual is a unique combination of these doshas: Vata (ether/air), Pitta (fire/water), and Kapha (water/earth). One or two of the doshas are generally most powerful in each person.
Your dominant doshas make up what might be called your nature, that which is best for your body, mind, and spirit. Going against your true nature results in imbalances. Ayurveda seeks to help you find balance through proper diet, activity, and holistic therapies. Supporting your true nature prevents the consequences of long-term imbalance, which can be pain, emotional challenges, and disease.
Determining your doshas can be a challenge. Here are some basic characteristics to get you started. When you are assessing doshas, consider your present condition and recent history. You can find more detailed tools online and in books to help you understand your doshas. Working with an Ayurvedic practitioner can also help you get a deeper and truer understanding of how the doshas might be working in you.
Vata energy is about movement—all of the body’s activity including the nervous system. People who are strongly Vata and in balance often show these characteristics:
- Artistic, creative
- Flexible flows well with change
- Imaginative, inventive
- Youthful, sunny
- Emotionally cheerful and happy
Pitta is the energy of the metabolism, regulating temperature, digestion, and how the body uses food and responds to its environment. Balanced Pitta individuals often show these qualities:
- Good manager, organizer
- Loves a challenge
- Emotionally warm, merry, funny
Kapha energy is very earthy and stable. In the body, this energy is about structure, how fluids move, and how healing occurs and emotions are expressed. A well-balanced Kapha person shows these traits:
- Powerful and enduring
- Deliberate and methodical
- Healthy and active
- Good mind for recall and retention
- Sensible and dependable
- Kind, loving, and caring
Ayurveda and Essential Oils
Essential oils are one tool used in the Ayurvedic tradition to support balanced doshas. These essences are inhaled or massaged into the skin. As with any application of essential oils, they should not be used at full-strength on the skin. Additionally, essential oils are potent, so they have contraindications in pregnancy and for some medical conditions.
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Vatas are supported by warm, sweet, earthy scents. Single oils for Vatas include eucalyptus, frankincense, and lavender. Blends for Vatas could be Healthy, with its warming marjoram, Vibrant with earthy ginger and bright orange and mint, or Relieve with spikenard and ginger.
Pittas are balanced by cooling, calming, and sweet aromas. Try oils like jasmine, geranium, or lemongrass. Blends that will sooth pittas could include Forest with sandalwood and earthy tree essences, Zen with sweet orange and ylang-ylang, Happy with hints of fennel, and Sleepy with scents of lavender and chamomile.
Kaphas are helped by warming, spicy, and energizing fragrances. These oils include eucalyptus, cinnamon, thyme, and rosemary. Some blends that might suit Kaphas include Active, which offers black pepper and sage, Cheer with frankincense and sweet myrrh and FOCUS with spicy bergamot, black pepper, caraway, cardamom, and cinnamon.
With all the variables in Ayurveda, how can you use this ancient practice to your best advantage? There are fine books available and plenty of online resources. Choosing to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner can give you the most helpful assessment and plan to use Ayurvedic medicine and nutritional support.2
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