The majority of messages we receive from the mass media seem determined to tell us daily how we should be. What I love about Ayurveda is that it helps us to understand and accept who we are. And when we know who we are, we can make small but powerful changes to how we live which, when they take root, can blossom into great health, vitality, clarity, and personal evolution.
Ayurveda informs us that there is not one perfect diet for everyone, no perfect exercise program, and no one lifestyle plan that suits all. In this ancient science we learn to understand our own natural constitution (prakruti), and our current state (vikruti) and how we can bring our current state closer to our natural state for great health. Not everyone is designed to eat raw. Not everyone is their healthiest with the most vigorous yoga or fitness program. Not everyone needs 8 hours of sleep each night. Some of us would benefit from these practices, but not all of us. Have you ever had the experience of taking on a healthier lifestyle plan that is touted to cure all your ills, and it doesn’t have the desired affect? Perhaps it wasn’t the plan for you?
So, how to find the right plan? Well, the first step is in understanding your dosha. In recent issues of the Messenger I have discussed the three main doshas (constitutions) of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and I hope that has been enlightening for you. As discussed, most of us are some combination of doshas – vata/pitta or pitta/kapha. Less often is our natural constitution singular (just vata) or tridoshic (vata/pitta/kapha). There are great tools online to determine your dosha, but I would highly recommend seeking the help of an Ayurvedic practitioner who can more clearly determine both your natural state (prakruti) and your current state (vikruti) and help you design a lifestyle plan that is most suited to your needs and aims.
Ideally, our aim in Ayurveda is to bring our current state closer to our natural state. So, once you know your natural constitution, you can see where your current state is perhaps out of alignment with your healthiest natural state. From there, making just a few small changes can have dramatic impact. For instance:
- if you are currently experiencing a vata imbalance (nervousness, anxiety, hair loss, weight loss, sleeplessness, chronic pain) eating warm foods rather than cool, practicing yoga, meditation or exercising at lower intensity for longer duration, and making a routine of bedtime are all practices that will be helpful.
- if you are experiencing a pitta imbalance (skin eruptions like rashes and acne, anger, intolerance, acid reflux) then eating milder foods, choosing cooler times to exercise, bringing some self-soothing into your life like long warm baths or journaling, and taking up heart-centered practices like chanting, volunteering, or giving/receiving massage are all helpful.
- if you are experiencing a kapha imbalance (weight gain, lethargy, depression, lack of motivation, sluggish digestion) then eating lighter and spicier foods, reducing snacks particularly sweets and cold/frozen foods, vigorous exercise that gets you sweating, and adding little bits of activity into your day like taking the stairs and walking to work are all highly beneficial.
So, consider where you are at today, maybe take an online dosha questionnaire or seek the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner, and then you can choose one or two techniques to adopt just this month and see how you go. How can you use simple steps to bring yourself back to your natural state this month? I look forward to hearing how you flow with Ayurveda, and I hope you fall in love with this powerful system just as much as I have!