When we eat the proper food and follow the lifestyle that suits our Ayurvedic constitution or body type, there is balance and whole-body healing. Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic, traditional medical system that takes a prophylactic approach to restoring equilibrium to an individual. In this first part of a new series, we will explore how diet affects two aspects of Ayurvedic medicine that correspond to our constitutional type and quality of mind.
According to Ayurveda, humans are made up of three Doshas—areas that left out of balance, can cause health problems—but they also contribute to forming each individual’s own unique constitution. There are three categories, or types, and they make up the subtle forces of how each Dosha governs one’s physical body and mental body, including thinking and behavior.
The three Doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. In the physical body, Vata is the energy of movement, Pitta is the energy of digestion or metabolism, and Kapha is the energy of lubrication and structure. Our constitution is usually a combination of one or two of the Doshas. Your Ayurvedic constitution is like a blueprint to health, and similar to DNA, you are born with a unique combination of these three forces. Your Ayurvedic constitution could be considered Vata dominant, Pitta dominant, Kapha dominant, or any combination.
Vata is composed of Ethers and Air.
The qualities of Vata are cold, light, dry, rough, moving, irregular and changeable.
Vata dominant types are always on the move and can easily overwork themselves.
To balance Vata, Ayurveda recommends: warming, grounding, and nourishing herbs that aid digestion and calm anxious minds, like ginger, fennel, chamomile and ashwagandha.
Pitta is composed of Fire.
The qualities of Pitta are hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp and acidic. Pitta dominant types perspire more than the other Dosha types and
are naturally well muscled. They require strenuous exercise to cool down their bodies. To balance Pitta, Ayurveda recommends: foods that are bitter, astringent, and sweet are opposites that help pacify Pitta, and cooling, soothing and calming herbs that can help alleviate inflammation, irritation and support detoxification, like coriander, mint, rose and shatavari.
Kapha is composed of Earth and Water.
The qualities of Kapha are heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft and oily.
Kapha dominant types tend to overeat, have a sluggish metabolism, and convince themselves it’s a better idea to stay home than start their workout routine.
To balance Kapha, Ayurveda recommends: light, warming and aromatic herbs like turmeric, ginseng, triphala and black pepper.
The Gunas refer to the three qualities of mind in Ayurveda: Sattva mind, Rajasic mind and Tamasic mind. The Gunas, or states of mind, can be achieved via balancing the Doshas and one’s diet. When the Dosha is in balance, the mind is considered Sattvic. Sattvic is experienced as stillness, balance and clarity. Emotionally one feels happiness, peace, freedom, openness, creativity and inspiration. Rajasic is movement, activity and agitation. Rajasic states include alertness, determination, self-centeredness, anxiety, restlessness, anger, greed and worry. Tamasic is the densest of the three qualities and is experienced as inertia, obscuration, inactivity and fear. Tamasic is depression, doubt, sadness, boredom and apathy.