The Subtle Art of Transformation
Ayurveda evolved at least five thousand years ago on the Indian Sub-continent when people lived closely with Nature. They used their senses to develop a highly refined awareness of the patterns in Nature and humanity’s place within the scheme of things.
ISSANI Ayurveda Sanctuary in the Daintree Rainforest
Coming from the same Vedic tradition as Yoga, Ayurveda sees all life- forms as unique combinations of five principles or “elements” earth | water| fire | air | space.
According to Ayurveda, our body/minds are unique combinations of these “elements”. Understanding these elements and their proportions gives us self understanding. It also helps us to understand others.
For example, a fire/water – Pitta type tends to be naturally warm, have strong digestive “fire” and react to stress by “letting off steam”.
An air/space – Vata type tends towards creativity and sensitivity with an ethereal and changeable nature like the wind. When stressed Vata types are more prone to anxiety, needing ways to come “down to earth”.
A water/earth – Kapha type tends to be steady and calm, with a dislike of change. When stressed they tend to shut down and avoid life.
Right diet for your type is emphasised, yet experiences, as well as food, need to be properly “digested”. Sleep patterns and pastimes to suit our Ayurvedic type keep us balanced and thriving. There are no harsh rules, only insights to be woven gently into daily life with positivity and understanding. Gradual change is encouraged whilst transitioning to optimal health and well-being. Ayurveda gives immediate benefits, whilst working it’s deepest magic over time.
Foods affect people differently. An Ayurvedic diet is about understanding the energetics of different foods their suitability for the season and the individual.
Many people think an Ayurvedic diet is Indian and vegetarian only. Neither are true. The principles are universal, so all food styles are fine when applied with understanding.
Certainly the energetics of vegetables are well understood and a predominantly plant-based diet is advised, yet sometimes meat is helpful for depletion, building tissues, anaemia, weakness and grounding
THE FIVE ELEMENTS
The five Ayurvedic “elements” earth | water | fire | air | space are really the subtle causative energies within matter. When we are conceived, these elements combine to give us our unique Ayurvedic “blue-print”. The Sanskrit word for this is Prakriti. This remains unchanged, however we change constantly in relation to it. Any current state of imbalance is called our Vikriti. Living in such a way that we harmonise with our true nature or Prakriti is the aim of Ayurveda.
Everything in existence, including us, is comprised of five “elements” in endless combinations.
From these come the three Ayurvedic body/mind types called the three Doshas.
THE THREE DOSHAS
Ayurvedic Body/mind types:
Vata-types are typically thin, with prominent joints, speak and think quickly, are creative and sensitive, and can be prone to anxiety. When out of balance, Vata types feel cold easily, eat erratically, have dry skin, become ungrounded & have difficulty sleeping. They need warmth, regularity, nurturing and a warming, slightly heavier, grounding and nourishing diet with healthy oils to counter Vata’s drying tendency.
Pitta-types are typically of medium athletic build, speaking clearly & confidently. They tend to be ambitious, competitive & natural leaders. When out of balance, Pitta types are prone to inflammatory diseases of the skin or digestion and can become easily “heated”, angry or overly controlling. They need cooling foods, plenty of hydration and a balanced approach to competing.
Kapha types are typically of a heavier build, move & speak slowly and calmly, love to nurture, are loyal and difficult to ruffle. When out of balance, Kapha types feel heavy, are prone to congestion of mucus & the skin, have sluggish digestion & can feel lethargic or a heavy type of depression. They need stimulation, activity and a warm, dry, light diet.
Most people have a more complex Ayurvedic Blue-print with more than one Dosha pre-dominating.
Book your appointment with Issani to find out how to live in balance with your personal Ayurvedic Constitution.
The five elements dance through the seasons
For example, during cold autumn winds, the air and space elements increase, manifesting as cold, dry, mobile, erratic influences. Because these are qualities of the Air/Space – Vata dosha, Vata types will lose balance more easily during this time, becoming prone to insomnia, dry skin and constipation. These effects of extra cold and dryness in the environment can be countered by grounding, moistening, warming foods and life-style adjustments.
During the wet, cold weather, the water & earth elements increase, especially affecting Earth/water – Kapha types, manifesting as running streams and running noses! More dry, warming and stimulating foods and life-style adjustments are beneficial to counter these elements.
Similarly in the Summer heat, the fire element is easily unbalanced affecting Fire/water – Pitta types the most. Nature provides us with cooling, moist fruits and vegetables to counter this influence. So….not the best time to have a hot curry every night! Yet, again, there are no harsh rules. Even the occasional curry in the heat can be mitigated by cooling coconut milk and mint lassis. It’s all about understanding and balance and eventually you will realise just what elements you are adding to your meals. it’s fun!
It is important to realise that any type can be affected by an imbalance in any dosha. For example, a Kapha or Pitta type can still develop a Vata imbalance under the “right” circumstances”. It will simply take a bit longer, and the effect will be slightly different. This is where Ayurveda becomes more complex and a trained practitioner is helpful.
THE SIX TASTES
The elements are reflected in the six tastes:
As like increases like, the sweet taste affects the three doshas differently. Unrefined sugars only are recommended. Foods like grains and milk are seen as sweet in Ayurveda. As the sweet taste is related to the water and earth elements, it mostly affects the water/earth Kapha dosha. Kapha types are often sweet natured and love sweet treats as this is their elemental nature. However, they are least suited to assimilating too much sweet taste, as they are already “sweet enough!” having a pre-dominance of water/earth elements. Kapha is the body type most prone to diabetes and obesity. Vata, being air/space benefits from the sweet taste as it has the grounding earth and moistening water elements. Pitta, fire/water types often intuitively crave sweet foods when they overheat, because they need the cooling, moistening and harmonising property of this taste.
The Fire/Air element of the pungent/hot taste will increase Pitta in the body, so Pitta types should minimise this taste particularly on hot days, to avoid inflammatory conditions.
So, you can see how foods affect different people in differing ways.
An important Ayurvedic principle is to include most of the six tastes in every meal. This provides your body and soul with a sense of satisfaction. Cravings will diminish when we follow our Ayurvedic dietary guidelines because your body receives what it actually needs.
Recently, modern science has “discovered” taste buds in our digestive tract. Ayurveda has always recognised that foods change taste as they move through the digestive tract. Our body has evolved a highly attuned response to taste that sets up the incredible process of digestion, sparking our enzymes. Just think how the thought of a squeeze of lemon affects our taste buds. These reactions are taking place at subtle levels with all foods and smells. This is why a calm atmosphere is important for meals. We need to connect with our senses of taste, smell and texture to send the right messages to our body. As the food we eat becomes our tissues and our energy, eating in harmony with our unique constitution confers many health benefits and enhances longevity.
Book an Ayurvedic Consultation in the beautiful Daintree rainforest to learn about your unique Ayurvedic “blue-print” and receive personalised dietary and life-style advice to take into your life.
Ongoing support is available via phone and internet consultations.