Enjoy this bountiful read on what is Ayurveda, as it’s shared by the brilliant Staraya McKinstry. Staraya’s background is in public health, yoga, and Ayurveda. More of a listener? Tune into this podcast episode!
If this topic interests you, we will be starting a membership (limited to 5 people, so get on that!). The goal of it is to foster integration of your yoga into your life, as well as design a holistic wellness plan to start living more consciously and in alignment. What you will receive:
- 12 week commitment (3 payments of $250 or up front $700)
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- 4 Ayurveda meetings (1, 1 hour consultation, 3, 30 minute check ins)
- Entry into one of our dosha workshops (March 24 & Oct. 16, 2020)
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Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga – it is being in tune with and providing what the body needs so that we can dive into our spiritual practice of yoga and carry out our purpose. Most students gain the initial impression of ayurveda as a practice that centers around what we eat and drink. In reality, ayurveda involves much more than food, and the foundation of ayurveda is the cleansing of the mind. The mind controls all else in the body, down to the cellular level. Negative thoughts in the mind coincide with negative health outcomes – disease in the body and many other less severe bodily imbalances.
Students of ayurveda can cleanse the mind through meditation – the meditation journey can be targeted to address a specific dosha. Overall, self care opportunities abound practicing ayurveda. We cleanse and clear the channels, and in doing so nourish our bodies. Two common practices are oiling or oil massage before a shower each morning, or dry brushing. These are not interchangeable, but the choice of how to cleanse yourself in this moment comes from how you are feeling and what your body is needing in that moment. Other forms of cleansing include drinking warm water, how to eat, various routines, and meditation.
“Customizing” your practice of ayurveda – that is, listening to your body, can be informed or structured in part by your self-knowledge of the doshas (and more specifically, your doshas). Ayurveda practice is based on the elements – space, air, fire, water, and earth- and the doshas:
- Vata – space and air elements. Vatas are creative, spontaneous, fun, and joyful. Vatas may struggle with brittle hair, dry skin, eczema, gastrointestinal issues, and arthritis in old age. Vatas tend to have slight builds. Self care for Vatas centers around moisture in the body. Vatas often moisturize, using oil both inside and outside their bodies, eating and drinking warm things, and leaning into routine.
- Pitta – fire and water elements. Pittas are goal-oriented, driven, direct, competitive and focused. Pittas often struggle with burnout, excess heat, headaches, acid reflux, breakouts, and bad temper. Pitta’s balancing self care to-do’s include focusing inward toward the heartspace, cooling practices, eating and drinking cooling foods, pranayama practice and meditation.
- Kapha – water and earth. Kaphas are known for their stability, reliability, and for being solid within themselves. Kaphas tend to have big strong bones and hold onto weight – they are strong, stable, and grounded. Kaphas are loving, warm caretakers. Kaphas might pursue balance by eating foods with certain spices and overall enhancing digestion.
Your Dosha (Take a test to find out what yours is here!)
You can consider the most prominent dosha within you to be “your dosha.” Perhaps you feel torn between two- that duality is common.Each of us has all three of the doshas inside us – the proportions are what varies among us. We are each born with our prakriti pulse – the baseline balance of the three doshas within us. Our prakriti informs how we can play with our doshas to keep in balance so we can optimize our health. Our vikriti pulse changes from moment to moment through the seasons of our lives as our needs change.
The Doshas through the Seasons
Each Dosha correlates to a season of the year:
Vata time is fall and early winter. Our world is cold and dry. We nurture ourselves in Vata time with nourishing, warm foods – more nuts, grains and breads. It is more natural to have these heavier foods needed to ground us during vata season. Oil practices to prevent dryness are important during vata season as well.
Kapha time is late winter and early spring. Our world is wet and muddy. Herbs and warm teas can assist us through any needed cleansing of the lungs or sinuses during kapha season. Generally we want to be physically active during this time, incorporating chest openers into our yoga practice.
Pitta time is summer. Our world is hot. We can assist ourselves through this season by avoiding excess heat. One practice we might use to cool us down is to place our feet in cold water, drawing the blood from head to toe (literally). Foods we might lean towards to stay cool include berries, lettuces, spices like cumin, coriander, fennel, cilantro, mint. We eat lighter during this time of year.
Eating to abide each of these doshas is eating what grows naturally during each season. The foods that grow naturally are needed in the same season in which they are fruitful. The seasonality of the doshas is simple and powerful – following a seasonally appropriate diet alone will help your doshas right away. How beautiful is that sneaky nature coordination?
The Doshas through the Seasons of Life
The seasonality of the doshas applies not only to seasons in a year, but seasons of a lifetime as well. We are born into the Kapha season of our lives. We are building and growing throughout this time, and we need more nourishment and fats during this time in order to grow. Our bodies as children crave sweetness. Whereas later on Kapha types may avoid sweets to restore balance, during the kapha season of our lives we can have our needs met by foods like sweet potatoes, dates, ghee, white rice, beets, fruits. As we become adults, by our early twenties we have continued into pitta time. We are making and meeting career goals, raising families, dreaming up entrepreneurial pursuits, going on adventures of many kinds. We are using our minds during this time. Things can be intense and overstimulating – hot. Around age 55 through our movement from this life, we experience the vata season of our lives. In India, the deep appreciation for and celebration of this season of life comes from the ability to indulge in spiritual practice. The veil between one’s life and the universe is said to be thinner – it becomes easier to practice and pursue closeness with the universe and contemplate the beauty of it all.
How Yoga and Ayurveda Interact
The two practices support one another when combined. Two of the most important pieces of practice – meditation and pranayama (breathwork) – are shared practices of yoga and ayurveda. Working on our doshas helps us to optimize our health, empowering our practice of yoga. On the other hand, yoga poses can also support our dosha work – the pace of our flows, where we gaze, the ambience of where we practice – each of these has an influence on our dosha. During vata season for example, practicing grounding poses such as balancing postures can really support that dosha work. Consideration of how poses may be cooling or heating or grounding is all that’s needed, mindfulness in our practice of yoga.
Ayurveda Starter Kit
Ayurveda is a great opportunity to pursue living more consciously and just generally expanding yoga practice beyond an hour on your mat. Staraya does do individual work, in addition to her youtube channel with 52 brief videos of ayurvedic tips (NEED LINK FOR HERE). Otherwise, Staraya let us know four ayurvedic practices that can benefit us anytime, no matter the season and no matter our dosha:
- First thing in the morning, brush your teeth and scrape your tongue (really, scrape your tongue). The white film we wake up with on our tongue each morning comes from the toxins released from our gut at night. Without removing them, our bodies just reprocess these toxins.
- Second thing in the morning, drink a glass of hot or warm water, adding lemon if you prefer.
- For at least one meal a day, sit down with no phone, no tv, no work computer at lunch. You can sit down you, your food, and perhaps other people. Experience what you are eating.
- Turn off anything with blue lights two hours before bed.
+ Here are some free recipes to get you started!