Ayurveda – or knowledge of life

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a holistic philosophy of health that has been passed down in India, from one generation to the next, for 5000 years. The name “Ayurveda” comes from Sanskrit and is composed of the words “Ayus”, or life, and “Veda”, or science. Ayurveda can therefore be understood as wisdom for living.

As a result of globalisation, Ayurveda has also become popular in western cultures. Maybe you have already stumbled across various Ayurveda services here and there and have wondered “what exactly is behind Ayurveda?”. This article will answer your question.

The objectives and principles of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is primarily about maintaining good health with an appropriate lifestyle. As a result, your own personal well-being will increase and you will avoid serious illnesses.

Ayurvedic life science is based on humans as part of nature; to live a healthy life, they should follow nature’s rules. Ayurveda holds that everything natural is based on the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. These can correspondingly also be found in the human body, and they control all the body’s processes and functions. In their form of expression, these elements are called doshas, which can also be characterised by two elements.

The doshas govern and regulate all physical and mental processes and thus affect human well-being. For a healthy life, the doshas need to be balanced. If they are out of balance, then ayurvedic principles hold that the functioning of body and mind is disrupted.

The doshas

The three doshas, kapha, pitta and vata, are the focal point of ayurvedic teaching, as they are the linchpin of our health. Each dosha is formed of a combination of two elements. The kapha-dosha consists of the elements of earth and water, the pitta-dosha of fire and water, and the vata-dosha of ether and air. Everyone contains all the doshas within them, but the individual expression and how the doshas are combined is unique for each of us. Depending on how strongly any given dosha is reflected, a total of seven constitutional types can be identified:

  1. Kapha type
  2. Pitta type
  3. Vata type
  4. Vata / pitta type
  5. Vata / kapha type
  6. Pitta / kapha type
  7. Vata / pitta / kapha type (tridosha; rare)

Ayurveda has specific recommendations for each dosha type, to keep the constitutional powers in balance and consequently lay the foundations for a healthy body and mind.

Here we present the first three constitution types, as they are also reflected in the other four mixed types.

The kapha type

Kapha manifests as a powerful physique with large, expressive eyes and beautiful, smooth skin. These people have a slow metabolism and a strong immune system. They are highly socially competent and have a great deal of patience and staying power. People with this constitution are calm, stable, balanced, and very tolerant. They characteristically make very loyal, reliable friends. Kapha types do not have a strong driving force, which is why they often need more time before they can start an activity or perform a task.

If the kapha is high and the doshas fall out of balance, this manifests as fatigue, lethargy, weight increase, constipation and feelings of heaviness.

The following factors help to stabilise kapha:

  • Regular movement to boost the metabolism
  • Eating two to three meals per day and avoiding snacking
  • Meals with lots of vegetables and metabolism-boosting spices
  • Sweating (physical exercise or a visit to a sauna)

The pitta type

This type is characterised by a well-balanced, muscular body with a good metabolism. They feel a strong urge to move and get things done, and are very dynamic. People with this constitution are good speakers. Their ability to argue makes them very convincing and they often take a unique position in the discussion. Pitta types are assertive and single minded and are correspondingly often found in leadership positions. Sporting activities help to relax their frequently tense dispositions.

A raised pitta dosha results physically in inflammations, diarrhoea and skin problems. On the emotional level, high pitta manifests as irritation and fits of rage.

Pitta can be stabilised by:

  • Physical activity to release emotional tension
  • Avoiding ravenous hunger by eating regular meals
  • Allowing yourself time to relax
  • Doing activities that are not primarily performance or goal oriented

The vata type

People with this constitution have a light, lean, slender physique and dry skin. Their digestion is very sensitive and their appetite is irregular.
Vata people are very open and sociable personalities. They love change, they are creative, and they have lots of ideas. The curious vata type is excited by new things, which is why they often work on different projects in parallel. Consequently, people with this constitution often find it hard to concentrate on a task. Combined with their low staying power, these people quickly feel overburdened.

If a vata falls out of balance, they experience inner turmoil that makes their minds anxious and insecure. Self-doubt and fears arise, and a feeling of emptiness and senselessness prevails. Physically, raised vata presents as flatulence and diarrhoea, as well as cold hands and feet. They may also suffer from insomnia.

Vata can be stabilised by:

  • A regular daily schedule and routines
  • Eating hot cooked meals regularly
  • Massages with warm oils
  • Giving expression to your own creativity

Would you like to know what sort of dosha type you are? Here you can find a test to identify your own constitution.

You can find more information (in German) about the mixed constitution types here.

Ayurvedic eating

Ayurvedic meals should be prepared in line with the individual’s tolerance level, depending on constitution type. However, there are a few basic nutrition principles that apply to everyone. These guidelines support the balance of the doshas and the best possible digestion.

  1. Enjoy in moderation: approximately ¼ of the stomach should remain empty for optimum digestion.
  2. Freshly cooked: prefer warm meals as they stimulate the metabolism and are easier to digest. Fresh foodstuffs should always be used here, but that is usually the case with meals you cook for yourself.
  3. Main meal at midday: because the digestive fire is most active at this time.
  4. Warm water: cold water puts out the digestive fire. Correspondingly, you should drink mostly still, lukewarm to warm water or herbal teas. You particularly should not drink cold water with meals.
  5. Conscious eating: take your time over your meals. Eat them in peace and quiet and chew each mouthful properly.

Golden milk

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and has been revered in Ayurveda for thousands of years for its anti-inflammatory healing properties. Currently turmeric is used for the popular, fashionable drink “golden latte” or “golden milk”. The drink has a bright colour and tastes spicy, warms you from the inside and is really delicious.

If you would like to make the drink for yourself, use the following recipe:

For one cup, you need:

  • 200 ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 pinch ginger
  • 1 drop vanilla
  • 1 pinch cardamom and/or cinnamon
  • A little black pepper (so the turmeric is better absorbed by the body)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)

Method:
Put all the ingredients except the pepper into a pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Allow to simmer for approximately a minute, then pour the golden milk into a cup. Sprinkle the pepper on top and enjoy!

 

References:
The Europe Ayurveda Academy
Hunger, E. Ayurveda Script für Yoga Teacher Training
Rosenberg Ayurveda Gesundheits- und Kurzentrum. https://www.rosenberg-ayurveda.de/wissen/ayurveda-test-vata-pitta-kapha.html