I’ve just returned from a glorious few weeks in Sri Lanka, and my body and soul are still reeling from the trip. This small island is home to a rich culture and history, delicious cuisine, and some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. One of the things I noticed while traveling around the country was the popularity of Ayurveda. Granted, a lot of it was for the benefit of tourists, but even the sleepy towns found off the beaten path boasted Ayurvedic clinics, shops, and treatments, which I was more than happy to explore…
So What Is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, which translates to “the science of life“, is a practice of natural healing that originated 5,000 years ago in India. The objective of this science is to promote balance and harmony within the body, and to recognise that diseases are the result of a body’s imbalance.
While full understanding of Ayurveda warrants much deeper study, the first stepping stone in learning about the practice’s prevention and treatment of disease is examining the three doshas. Each dosha is an energy created by various combinations of the 5 elements: earth, air, fire, water and space. Ayurvedic practitioners believe everyone is a unique blend of these three doshas, and will determine a patient’s particular reflection of energy in order to personalize treatment (this quiz can help you discover yours). Below is a quick summary of the three doshas:
- reflects qualities of air and space, and rules the winter
- responsible for movement
- Personality Characteristics: vibrant, artistic, resilient
- Physical Attributes: small frame, cold hands and feet, dry skin
- Expressions of Imbalance: pain, constipation, anxiety, inability to concentrate
- reflects qualities of fire and water, and rules the summertime
- responsible for digestion and metabolism
- Personality Characteristics: passionate, focused, natural leader
- Physical Attributes: medium build, rosy complexion, fine hair
- -Expressions of Imbalance: skin issues such as rash/acne, fever, inflammation, quick temper
- reflects qualities of earth and water
- responsible for growth, structure and immunity
- Personality Characteristics: calm, patient, self-sufficient, undemanding
- Physical Attributes: large frame, thick hair, strong, steady endurance
- Expressions of Imbalance: swelling, nausea, congestion
Understanding your body type helps determine what factors may create harmony and balance, or exacerbate imbalances. Based on this, a practitioner is able to personalize a healing process for an ailment or, in the best of circumstances, provide guidance on maintaining inner balance. Ayurveda’s focus on preventing disease in the first place is what makes this practice an important addition to conscious living. According to Ayurveda, everything in the body is connected, and there is a strong relationship between body and mind. It recognizes that we are not just connected to nature, but a part of it, and that adopting a lifestyle that respects this is crucial to living a long, and healthy life.
Ayurveda also has a tasty dimension! The practice does not promote diets, but encourages people to eat for their dosha, and most importantly, to eat with the seasons. There are hundreds of delicious Ayurvedic recipes out there, and you can find a few to start you off here. As a food lover, the culinary aspect of Ayurveda is, of course, the first point of interest for me, but there are many other treatments, and naturally these depend on one’s dosha and their respective balance/imbalance. Some Ayuverda approved treatments include medical oils, blood purification, and cleansing of intestines by way of enemas, laxatives or purgatives. There are also more pleasant treatments such as oil pulling, aromatherapy, meditation, massage, yoga, diet changes and ingestion of specific minerals, vitamins, and herbs (usually as a tea).
Ayurveda is a complex healing system requiring dedicated study, but there is a great deal of wisdom to be taken from the basics alone. Learning to observe the relationship between mind, body and soul and our connection to nature are an important part of healthy and conscious living. Listening to your body and making dietary changes that balance your system catalyse positive changes…as the old Ayurvedic proverb says, “when diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; when diet is correct, medicine is of no need”.
Credits: Visuals & Illustrations by Linda Dieschbourg