3 Powerful Lessons from Ayurveda

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Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, is a 5000 year old science (“veda”) of life (“Ayu”) and holistic medicine system from India. Ayurveda is based on the concept of doshas, or constitutions that make up everything in Nature from the seasons to the time of day,  to even our individual constitutions. In Ayurveda, there are three Doshas: Kapha (earth + water), Pitta (water + fire) and Vata (air + space).

Late Spring to Summer through an Ayurvedic lens is also known as Pitta season. The qualities of Pitta are hot, sharp, spreading, oily, pungent, astringent, fast, and bright. Someone who has a lot of Pitta is usually charming, charismatic, ambitious, organized, competitive and courageous. In balance, they will have a strong appetite for food and life, good digestion, an athletic build, and warm body temperature.

Interestingly, being in Pitta season makes everyone, not just the “Pitta” types, more prone to having a Pitta imbalance. This rule applies to other times of year and their associated Doshas as well. For instance, the heat of summer can manifest as a Pitta imbalance through physical issues such as migraines, inflammation, gastritis, heartburn or skin rashes. A Pitta imbalance can ALSO manifest more psychologically through impatience, aggression, anger, temper, and lashing out.

Pitta also rules the time of life from our late teens into early 50’s, so if you fall into this age group, and suddenly find yourself in the unbearable humidity of July in New York City yelling at your co-workers and friends, then Ayurveda has an explanation for you! Some recommendations for how to pacify a Pitta imbalance may include practicing more Restorative yoga (no Ashtanga!), and swapping out some foods that aggravate Pitta (caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol) with cooling foods (greens, avocado, cucumber), and using coconut oil for cooking and self-massage (abhyanga). You may also need to focus on DOING less and BEING more.

In my own experience, studying Ayurveda has been immensely supportive, healing, and empowering in the recovery process. Here are some guiding principles from Ayurveda that  I hope can continue to  spark your curiosity.

  1. “Like Increases Like”, “Opposite balances Out”:  In Ayurveda, we are naturally attracted to foods, habits, and ways of being that are most similar to who we are. However, this is usually NOT the best choice for us to stay healthy. For instance, as someone who has a fair amount of Vata energy (airy, creative, heady), I dislike following a routine, and I LOVE to eat airy veggies like brussel sprouts and cauliflower which only increase my Vata!  However, because Vata types usually have poor digestion and need routine to stay grounded, I have learned that what serves me best is to do the opposite: eat earthy root veggies and protein, as well as implement  structure into my schedule.
  2. Accepting our Natural State: In Ayurveda, we each have an individual “Prakriti”, our natural state when we are born and that we do not choose! While we contain all three doshas, typically two doshas are dominant in most individuals. I believe that accepting our Prakriti can also allow for more acceptance in certain areas of recovery such as body image. More specifically, when my mentor pointed out my qualities that are more Kapha (nurturing, gentle, sensual, curvy), I was able to appreciate my body’s natural curves rather than fight against my body’s wisdom.
  3. We are our own healers: The beauty of the Ayurvedic system is the notion that we have the power to heal ourselves. Through understanding and acceptance, we can make choices that allow us to feel healthy and balanced or we can continue to engage in behaviors that are harmful. Once we are aware of this, I believe it is more difficult to continue the harmful behaviors. The practice, then, is to continue showing up for ourselves with honesty and compassion even when we may stray from the path.

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