Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Ayurveda: what’s it all about? June 14, 2011

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:49 pm
Tags: , , , ,

One of my assignments this month was to complete an ayurvedic questionnaire and explore the results. My first response was, wait, back up, what’s ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an alternative form of medicine traditional in India, with a history going back thousands of years. It’s a system of healthful, mindful living based on the concept of balancing three elemental energies called doshas: vata (air/wind), pitta (fire/water), and kapha (water/earth). Ayurveda holds that each person has different levels of these three doshas, and poor health comes from an imbalance in the doshas. Balancing the doshas, in a unique way for each individual, will lead to better health. This balance can be accomplished by focusing on diet (to improve metabolic system, digestion, and excretion), exercise, yoga, meditation, and even massage. In balancing the doshas and living in moderation, it’s thought that the body, mind, and spirit will also come into balance, improving the health of the whole person.

Each person has a unique distribution of the three doshas. Each person has some of each, but often one or two doshas are more abundant; by examining your physical attributes and personality (for example, in a quiz like this one), you can find out which is your dominant dosha. Your dosha levels can fluctuate, affecting mood and health, which is why it can be helpful to bring them back into alignment and balance! I took N’s ayurvedic questionnaire and came up almost equal in vata and pitta, with a very low level of kapha by comparison.

Vata, the air or wind element, is characterized physically by a thin, delicate body type with low body fat. A vata person is sensitive, jumpy or unable to sit still, easily overwhelmed, flighty, often runs late, easily confused. A vata dominant person who is well-balanced will demonstrate the most positive traits of this type: sharp, quick thinking, creative, while an unbalanced vata person could experience gas, bloating, lack of focus, spaciness, dry skin, nervousness, sleeplessness, and worry. A vata should avoid low-fat, raw, or cold foods in favor of warm, heavier foods.

The pitta element combines fire and water. Physically, a pitta type is medium-framed and well-proportioned; personality traits include being focused, organized, “type A”, workaholic. A pitta person tends to need to eat regularly and gets cranky when she misses a meal. When balanced, pittas are productive, organized, energetic, enthusiastic; unbalanced, pittas become agitated, irritable, and overly competitive and may experience diarrhea, rashes, and perspiration. Pittas should avoid overly spicy foods and red meat, choosing sweeter foods.

Finally, kaphas are earth and water types: physically larger or big-boned, not necessarily overweight but able to gain weight easily, and can be powerful athletes when in shape. Kaphas are grounded, stable, solid, slower moving, sensual. Balanced kaphas are reliable, dependable, calm, even-tempered, and peacemakers, while unbalanced kaphas can be lethargic, depressed, dull and sluggish, congested, and overweight. Kaphas should avoid fatty and heavy foods, dairy, and red meat, and choose lighter grains and proteins.

I think my results are pretty accurate. There were a few questions I could have answered differently, but doing so wouldn’t have changed the overall balance. I have a lot of vata and pitta characteristics. At my best I have the quickness and creativity of vata and the focus, organization, and productivity of the pitta. At my worst, I get the vata’s spaciness, dry skin, nervousness, lack of focus, and worry, and the pitta’s irritability and rashes. I definitely have the pitta need to eat regular meals (as F’s family can attest; I’ve started packing snacks for myself when we visit because they just don’t seem to eat on a schedule!). The food recommendations for vata and pitta are a little contradictory (the above is just a summary) but on both lists I see things that really appeal to me and that I’ve been naturally drawn to: lighter proteins, creamy soups, mashed sweet potatoes (vata), and fresh lime, dark leafy greens, sweet vegetables (pitta). My yoga teacher N is an ayurvedic practitioner, and I’m considering having a session with her to look at these things more closely.

Interestingly, I made F take the questionnaire with me, and he came up almost completely balanced among the three doshas. Looking at the descriptions, F has many characteristics of each dosha: he’s stronger in vata and kapha than pitta, but all three were within four points of each other. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that. Apparently I have a well-balanced husband.

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7 Responses to “Ayurveda: what’s it all about?”

  1. heather Says:

    the last time i did this (a few weeks ago), i came out fairly even, but slightly tipped into the vata category. (no surprise, i’m also a libra – air sign all the way.) i think my distribution was 38-32-30 with kapha being the lowest.

    i think i’m too undisciplined for aryuveda….

  2. R. H. Ward Says:

    I think that if you’re too undisciplined for ayurveda, that makes you a total vata. 🙂

  3. Liz W Says:

    I tend to come out pretty evenly balanced on those things, too. On the one you linked to, I get 10-9-11. I’ve never been too convinced by ayurveda, though – its food recommendations seem to cut across the sattvic/rajasic/tamasic categories, which do seem to be fairly accurate for me. Perhaps I just don’t know enough about it to understand how it all fits, though.

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      Hmm. I’ve never had the sattvic/rajasic/tamasic categories explained to me adequately, although I’m familiar with the terms from the sutras and other study. I didn’t know they could be related to food. I’ll have to check that out, thanks!

  4. omtrekker Says:

    I was just talking to Swami Ramananda while on my yoga journeys. (www.omtrekker.wordpress.com) I was talking to him about ayurveda and how contradicting it was considering I was vata and pitta. I asked him considering I am both, what do I eat? He said eat light greens in the summer and hot soups during the summer. That is funny that you said you are both vata and pitta and think it’s also contradictory. I think the same way.

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      I think light greens in the summer and hot soups in the winter is a good idea for anybody! I’ve been leaning that way anyhow – my husband makes some terrific soups from scratch in the winter, and we’ve been experimenting with summer salads lately. Yum.


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