Ayurveda: How To Implement It Into Your Fall Routine
What is Ayurveda? What is a Dosha? How is it relevant in my life? Can it really heal me? Many questions... many answers.
I will preface this post to say I am NO expert on Ayurvedic medicine. Instead, I'm a 19 year old college student pursuing a degree in Management...so technically not headed in that direction anyway. BUT, I am extremely keen to invest myself into Ayurveda. In my experience, it's a truly healing practice for the mind, body and soul, and should be implemented in everyone's life in some way to truly find peace and happiness within yourself. So, this post (and a series to come...) will include my experience with Ayurveda so far including my reactions & thoughts. I have much to learn and much to experience, but I want to share it with you all along the way! It won't be a huge presentation on the history of the practice (although it is very detailed and you should read up from experts!), but rather how Ayurvedic practices can be done simply in our busy, 21st century, daily life. Because unfortunately, we all aren't able to completely escape that life.
So, if you're into the healing, grounding properties of Yoga and want to extend your holistic awareness further, Ayurveda is for you! But...
What is Ayurveda? Right, so back to that big question. Well, Ayurveda is a traditional healing practice originating from India. The word translates from Sanskrit to mean "Wisdom of Life". I love that. It encompasses everything I believe in -- wellbeing & healing really does lead to a life of wisdom and happiness. Ayurveda is an ancient practice that helps to heal the body far deeper than the symptom. Its rituals and practices seek to balance the mind-body-soul connection, that is in each of us, to ultimately heal our body and finally that symptom. It takes into account our entire state of being when assessing health, including environment, perspective and lifestyle.
What are the Ayurvedic Principles? Ayurvedic practitioners approach human wellbeing with the idea that each body has a unique balance of mind, body and spirit within them that we must reach. Every human has an Ayurvedic constitution, either Vata, Pitta (me!), or Kapha (least familiar with) which I will expand upon below, or a combination. Basically, you have one concrete Ayurvedic constitution, your Prakriti, that is inherent to your genetic makeup. You were born with it and it dictates everything from your physical body to your personality, to your reactions to weather, stress and other outside factors. It emphasizes your natural, uninterrupted state (as if, these days...). Then you have Vikriti, your Ayurvedic constitution that results when we deviate from our Prakriti causing imbalance and health issues. If your Prakriti and Vikriti are not the same, then you have an imbalance that could be causing a number of health issues. By determining which of the Doshas is your principle Dosha and which you are experiencing now, you can utilize Ayurveda to bring your body back into balance. So interesting, right? Take a quiz to determine your Prakriti Dosha here and your Vikriti Dosha here. Once you know your Dosha and whether it in balance or not, you can get that body back in balance!
What are the 3 Doshas?
Vata: Space & Air; characterized often by dry, light, cold, rough skin; mobile and clear personality. Vata regulates movement- chewing, swallowing, nerve impulses, breathing, muscle movements and basically any other body movement. To have balance in these movements, the body needs to have a balanced Vata constitution. When out of balance, Vata person will experience lots of excess wind throughout the body as well as dry, flaky skin. Vata's are quick to change and have creative and inspired minds. More on the Vata constitution here
- Pitta: Fire & Water; Pitta is characterized as being sharp, penetrating (often through gaze), hot, light, mobile, liquid and oily. Like Vata brings about movement, Pitta brings about transformation. This means it's important in body functions that involve conversion or transformation of a substance, such as digestion, metabolism, perception and comprehension. When imbalanced, Pittas will experience inflammation, anger and impatience. Very dynamic and vibrant in personality, bright and fast decision makers (where I'm DEFINITELY not a Pitta...) with a tendency to have a temper when in excess. More on the Pitta description here.
- Kapha: Water & Earth; characterized as heavy, cold, dull oily, smooth, dense, soft, liquid, dense/thick. Kapha is known to govern the body's stability and structure. In excess, Kappas may experience excess heaviness and fluid/mucous in the body contributing to feelings of lethargy and fogginess. Kappa's are known to be full of love and loyalty, and are supportive (as they govern the body's stability system). More on the Kapha here!
As you can probably tell, the three doshas are vastly different. You may find you have qualities of two or maybe even all three, and that is perfectly normal. Definitely take the quizzes to determine your constitution so that you are better able to bring them all into balance and revert back to your Prakriti!
Now, back to how you can use Ayurveda at the change of seasons to better adapt to cooler weather! Ayurveda uses a number of dietary changes, breathing techniques, supplements, and herbs to balance the three doshas.
At the start of the fall season, our bodies tend to feel more Vata qualities as the air cools down and the wind picks up. However, because the Vata dosha lacks oil and fire, its hard to keep our bodies functioning as they should metabolically. This can lead to dry skin, constipation and general "airy-ness" within the body when we really should be focusing on warming up to prepare for winter. SO, I've been informed that to counter balance this rise in Vata, we need to increase Pitta too. THE FIRE! Agni, sanskrit for internal heat, is necessary for digestion during cooler months. To get that Agni going, we have to incorporate Pitta-increasing foods in order to reignite our digestive fire and warm up our souls!
Here are some easy practices and foods to incorporate into your fall diet to make the transition from warm, sunny days to cool, windy ones the Ayurvedic way.
- Eat warm, cooked foods: This is crucial and so incredibly important to do for your body as the seasons change. Cool, raw foods are fine for summer time, but often hard for your body to digest when it's devoid of external heat. That means, yep, salads are OUT. Phew. Trade your raw carrots for cooked ones and as many cooked veg as possible to each meal. Your Agni will be LIT.
- Spices: To add to your cooked vegetables, try out warming spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, fennel, licorice, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and any pepper you like. These spices will bring the heat to your dishes and to your digestive system and will wipe out that excess, airy Vata-ness. Plus, turmeric, cumin, and coriander make a fab curry which is without a doubt one of my go-to dishes this fall (sneak peek into upcoming recipe!!). OR cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger make a festive pumpkin-spice blend. Anyone fancy a PSL?
- Pranayama & Yoga: This is a yogic breathing technique that can build crazy heat within the body. Its the one you use during your Vinyasa flow, with the loud inhales through nose and exhales through nose with slight constriction of the throat. These breathing exercises are perfect to practice during your heated yoga class, which will also pacify Vata tendencies with the body. I love hot yoga and find it totally grounds me and removes any anxiety, airiness, or worries that pop up when my Vata rises! In my experience, heated yoga (the only yoga I really do) is best for Vata Doshas as its obviously warming and grounding. Get to your mat this fall! Do I sound like an infomercial yet...? But seriously, hot yoga will do wonders for balancing your Doshas.
- Lifestyle: Meditation and lots of good sleep are essential for pacifying Vata this fall. Light a nice candle, grab your meditation app and let your mind observe and dismiss its thoughts 100% objectively.
- Food Choices: THIS is important. Many foods aggravate Vata, but many help pacify it. To transition to fall and winter, focus on incorporating these foods into your diet:
- Ghee: an Ayurvedic "must-have" and personal favorite!
- Most animal products (grass-fed, organic, free range, you know...)
- All nuts and seeds
- Rice (not for me personally, but is a staple in Ayurvedic nutrition and Kitchari).
- Root vegetables: totally grounding and warming and squashes are everywhere this time of year!
- Citrus and dense, dry fruits (I've always associate citrus fruits with winter, maybe this is why?)
I've really gotten into learning about Ayurveda, and while I am still very much in the "information overload" phase, I know writing about it will better help me sort through it. Hopefully you've learned something interesting from this post and there will be more to come! If Ayurveda doesn't really seem to be your thing, no bother. Just read a little more about it, change one habit, and see how you feel! I personally love it just because it takes into account YOUR body as your body was made individually and embraces change that we really cannot avoid.
Do you know your Dosha? Take the quiz and comment below what you are! I am a Pitta with some Vata tendencies.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Ayurveda and please share anything else you'd like me to spotlight!