Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Basic Overview on Ayurveda

Yoga and Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, the whole of life’s journey is considered to be sacred.
         ~ Vasant Lad

I remember when I was first introduced to Ayurvedic medicine.  A fellow Yoga instructor had a copy of Yoga and Ayurveda, by Dr. David Frawley that she had brought to a Yoga teacher meeting.  Being the curious sort, I promptly ordered the book and then devoured the information.  The Sanskrit language and the ancient information passed down from teacher to student for over 5,000 years seemed so esoteric.

After several years of working through the detailed information, I knew that this was something I wanted to share with my Yoga students.  But the big question for me was how and where to start such a daunting task?  I felt like I was learning Spanish again.  As much as I wanted to speak this new language, I felt very lonely.

I initially had no one to share this information, and no teacher at that time was teaching anything that had to do with Ayurveda.  Luckily, that isn’t the case today.  More than likely, you have heard of Ayurvedic Medicine as articles and books are popping up everywhere with information about these ancient sister sciences.  I no longer feel alone as a self proclaimed Ayurveda and Yoga nerd.

The Sanskrit word Ayurveda can be defined 
as the study or science of life.  
Ayuh = Life
Veda = Science

I think the easiest approach to something so vast is to start with our own body constitutions or in Sanskrit, Dosha.  Once you understand the basic three body types, then the fun begins.  This “basic” information allows the student the ability to understand behaviors of not only yourself but also the people around you, and eventually so much more.  Through this new lens of understanding, you might not take personally something said or done by another, but also it may give you pause to watch your own habits.  Watching what we do makes our lives less robotic and more of a participant in our daily lives.  What a gift that is to ourselves and to others. 

Time to take the Dosha test.  Dosha test by Dr. Vasant Lad

Do note that Ayurveda is a study of life.  Not just human existence, but the cosmos.  I do think that the place to start is with our own personal growth.  If we understand our dosha type and lead a healthy lifestyle, then we are more able to help others and the community around us.  It has to start with taking responsibility with our health: body, mind and soul.

So after I learned the basics of these body constitutions (dosha) I would watch people at various concerts that my children were performing in.  To get a good seat at an event or concert, a parent needs to show up at least an hour before the event.  That hour gave me time to observe various behaviors in real time (and do a little knitting, as well).

Vata dosha has the elements of Air and Ether.  They are movement.  Vata people actually need to sit down and relax, but they love to move.  If you are seated next to a Vata person they will be moving all the time in their seat, or even move around to see or talk with others.  They are easily distracted, so don’t be insulted if in the middle of a conversation they turn to look at a shiny thing or lose focus on what you are saying.

Pitta dosha elements are Fire and Water.  If the room is stuffy or hot, you will know about it because they will definitely tell you their opinions!  I read somewhere that Pitta dosha people should think “happy thoughts.”  During the summer, Pitta dosha are very uncomfortable.  I can attest to this because that is my main dosha.  I cannot eat because everything seems to upset my stomach.  We have very strong Ama (which is Sanskrit for digestive fire) and so we have to be careful what we eat when it is 95 degrees or hotter. 

Kapha dosha elements are Water and Earth.  They are the people that don’t mind sitting for hours without moving much at all.  While Vata dosha can be quick to learn and forget, Kapha dosha are slow to learn but once learned they remember for a long time.  They are slow to get started either moving on a project or physical exercise, but when they do get moving they have the strongest stamina of all the constitutions.

After taking the test, and reading some basic info about the various dosha, you may be starting to visualize the differences.  Vata have a small build, Kapha tend to large and possibly overweight so then Pitta are in the middle weight wise but are quite hungry because of their strong digestive fire.
Does it start to make sense?  I hope so.  But how does this then help me with my Yoga practice? 

Before I started my investigations into Ayurvedic Medicine, I had been told by a seasoned teacher that Yoga students gravitate towards teachers that look like them.  At first I thought that this meant that the student was more comfortable with a Yoga teacher that looked like them in body shape and size.  This still might be true, but also our body type or constitution determines what activities we choose.  Once you understand your dosha, your choices may change.  Just because Vata body type wants to move constantly (thus they forget to eat) doesn’t mean that is the type of Yoga they should be practicing.  Go figure.

A little more info about the dosha:

 Vata:  They are so busy they forget to eat.  When they finally eat, they sometimes make bad choices.  Thin frame, dry skin, small features.  They need to add some calories to their diet, and maybe enjoy sitting in a park.

Pitta:  Since their digestive fire (Ama) is strong, they usually don’t forget to eat.  They can have the tendency towards hypoglycemia if they don’t eat throughout the day.  Not eating regular meals can irritate them (surprised?).

Kapha:  Their digestion is sluggish, thus they can go long periods without eating.  Exercise will help with digestion, as well as spicy foods.

This may be a lot of info to digest all at once but it is my hope that you will reread the information and investigate the wealth of information out there about this vast and fascinating ancient science.  ~Namaste

No comments: