As summer settles in, I thought it might help to get a better understanding of the three doshas in ayurvedic therapy.
Ayurveda is a nature-based path to healing that explores the unique difference of every individual and, because every one of us is unique, every illness is unique; so, no ailment even if it goes by the same name, can be the same. Then in Ayurveda, we seek to treat not the disease, nor the symptoms, but the person – the whole person. And by doing this, we dissolve the underlying cause of suffering and re-establish the fundamental state of wellbeing.
While it is a very personalized theory of medicine, there are simple, intuitive and universal thresholds for healthy living.
The first element behind Ayurveda as it relates to food is to eat nature. That may sound simple but you may not have time, so you feel pressured to eat processed foods. For example, frozen foods, microwaved-lunches, fast-food and snacks in a bag. Remember food that is grown by the forces of sun, soil, wind and water is best for longevity. So, start by eating nature’s produce, as fresh and as close to the source as possible so that it retains its living intelligence, light and energy. This is what we call Prana or life force. Eating light enriched foods, means living even lighter.
Look to eating natural foods as close to your dosha as possible. For instance, Vata doshas should favour stews, soups, leeks, artichokes, okra and beetroot, but reduce broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. When you eat food that is cloest to your constitution you will eliminate, detoxify and feel warm in the winter and cooler in the summer heat.
Another element is to maintain a strong Agni. Agni, meaning digestive fire, is the Sanskrit root for our word ignite. For longevity and optimial health you have to have fire in the belly. Heavy foods, too much food, cold food, old food, frozen, canned or processed food, even cold water taken with your meal, contribute to reducing the digestive fire.
Imagine the digestive system as a large fire always aflame in the body. If you add too much wood, say a Sunday brunch or late Saturday night dinner, then you will put the fire out. If the wood is too wet, heavy, or too hard you are likely to put the fire out. And if you add artificial materials, as with most “food” these days, you will certainly reduce the flames – or at least, create a lot of toxic smoke.
There are three doshas: Vata, Pitta Kapha. If you’ve never understood doshas, they are self-organizing energies that we all have within our dynamic bodies. The essence of happiness relies on the individual and what they manifest or unmanifest. The Great Spirit gives us knowledge of love and fear, and though our body’s appetite for food is a must, some of us may not understand that since we are made up of ether, water, fire, air and earth if we approach our eating the same way, then the energy we take in will make our organism adapt to the light or the dark. So when you sit down to eat all that yummy food remember, when we eat become new cells, new skin, legs, arms, brain tissue, muscles and bone. So with that, the doshas are simple ways to place order, rejuvenation, growth and healing in our daily lives. Understanding, that food is indeed our medicine.
The Vata Dosha
Vata: The Energy of Movement
Vata is composed of the elements of air and space, light, subtle, and cold.
Vata is the principle of mobility that regulates all activity in the body. It is in charge of functions such as the pulsation of the heart, respiration, circulation an elimination. It is responsible for joy, happiness, creativity and speech. Vata is also in charge of the vital life essence, or prana. The colon in the most important seat of Vata dosha.
A person with a predominance of Vata dosha walk more quickly, has a lighter build and has colder and drier skin than someone with a predominance of Pitta or Kapha dosha in their constitution. Vata-types also tend be very quick, and to have agile minds and bodies. However, if their body goes out of balance through excessive movement or irregularity they can suffer from feelings of restlessness, boredom, fear, stress, and anxiety. This may manifest in the body as poor circulation, cold hands and feet.
- Chronically underweight
- Anxious, prone to worry
- You experience constipation
- You suffer from insomnia or have unsettled sleep
- Vaginal dryness, menstrual cramps
- Spells of forgetfulness
- Discomfort or stiffness in the joints or lower back
- Become easily fatigued and have poor endurance
Tips for balancing Vata:
- Favor cooked foods rather than raw and salads
- Early bed time for you, the body needs lots of rest
- Diffuse calming and grounding aromatic oils or incense in the home. Orange, geranium, lavendar, basil and fir
- Warm sesame oil Abhyanga massage
- Ensure you have daily elimination. Triphala herbal tea
- Stay warm
- Wear calm colors: pastels, green and brown
Vata Balancing Diet:
- Favour warm and nourishing foods with added butter and oil. Salty, sour and sweet tastes
- Hot, milky, creamy cereals such as: wheat, oatmeal, rice. Soups and stews are all very good
- All dairy products are good
- Oils: coconut, ghee, olive, flax, pumpkin and sesame
- Reduce your intake of light, dry and cold foods: crackers, nuts, seeds and salads
- Reduce the intake of all beans except: mung, red lentils and tofu
- Favour stewed and well-ripened sweet or sour fruits such as: apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries and dried fruits
- Avoid stimulants: coffee and alcohol. But really, all in moderation
- Sip hot water throughout the day
Ultimately there is no end to this gentle, natural and synergistic method of healing. The Great Spirit and nature gives us exactly what we need. For this, we bless our food. We give thanks for the nourishment. Let’s remember that food is what we are made of. Choose wisely and give thanks. It is a miracle, and you are a part of that miracle.
Please come back to Ilé Aiyé throughout the month to learn more about Doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha
If you would like to learn more about other foods and spices in the ayurvedic kitchen, to know your dosha and how to implement a healing and cleansing daily routine, please feel free to consult by email: email@example.com
Writing refereces: Vishnu Dass
Essential Ayurveda: Danny Cavanagh x Carol Willis