Vata, Pitta and Kapha - What's it all mean? In a prior blog post, I discussed the basics of Ayurveda. This blog post builds on those concepts and provides an overview of the three doshas made up of the five elements.
Before I share the characteristics of Vata, Pitta and Kapha - let's touch on the golden rules of Ayurveda:
These golden rules are the backdrop to any discussion of Ayurveda. The golden rules offer you the practical knowledge of how to heal through balancing Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Said another way, the golden rules pacify the elements within you that may be out of balance. In order to apply the golden rules, Ayurveda offers a very handy tool called Gunas. The Gunas are ten pairs of opposites that are characteristics of the elements. The Gunas are listed below:
The Gunas are characteristics of the five elements which make up your dosha. For example, when Vata is too high and you are feeling cold, dry, light, mobile, or subtle - you should favor the opposite characteristics to find balance: hot, oily, heavy, static, and gross. As an example, it may be easiest to apply this thinking to foods. Cold, dry, light foods increase Vata while hot, oily, heavy foods pacify Vata.
Now that you have taken the dosha quiz, know the golden rules of Ayurveda, and understand the Gunas; the following slides will help you understand your dosha or Ayurvedic constitution.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of wellness and natural healing that originated in India. The word Ayurveda derives from Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge so it is commonly thought of as the science of life. Unlike your high school and college biology classes that competed with this "Science of Life" title, Ayurveda offers a body of wisdom that through its practice helps you realize your full human potential.
How does Ayurveda help you realize your full human potential? Good question and I'm glad you asked: through daily and seasonal routines that effect all aspects of your life, including: diet, exercise, behavior, relationships, etc. Ayurvedic routines remind us that health is the fragile balance and dynamic integration between the environment and ourselves: body, mind, and spirit.
Prior to reading on about the fundamentals of Ayurveda, I would encourage you to take this Ayurveda quiz. Once you complete the quiz and write down the results, please return to this blog post and continue to learn about the fundamentals of Ayurveda.
Take a moment and picture a deep mountain lake. Visualize the surface of the lake - still and quiet. Picture a rock tossed into the lake and the small ripples that amplify across the surface. Picture nature acting upon the lake - the wind from a spring storm, the heat from a summer day, the ice from a cold winter night. The surface of the lake is always reacting to the environment. Yet the water at the bottom of the lake is unaffected by what happens at the surface of the lake.
Just like the surface of the lake, you are affected by your environment: family, friends, work, play, weather, etc. In Ayurveda, your current state of balance (or imbalance) is known as Vikriti. Just like the water at the surface of the lake, your vikriti can change on a short-term basis: daily, seasonally, etc. The water at the bottom of the lake in Ayurveda that is unaffected by what happens at the surface of the lake is analogous to your natural state of balance. Your natural state of balance is constant throughout your life - from birth to death. This natural state of balance is known as Prakriti.
Now that we know our vikriti is your current state of balance and your prakriti is your state of balance determined at birth, you may wonder - how can we better align the sometimes turbulent water at the surface of the lake with the peaceful water deep at the bottom of the lake?
In order to build daily and seasonal routines in our lives to help you live in balance (i.e., better align your vikriti with your prakriti) and realize your full human potential, we need to look at the Ayurveda quiz results.
Your vikriti and prakriti are made up of certain elements - and no, I don't mean carbon, calcium, etc. These are Ayurveda elements and there's only five: (1) Ether, (2) Air, (3) Fire, (4) Water, and (5) Earth. The combination of these elements give rise to the three Ayurveda constitutions which is known as your Dosha. And yes, every living being has a dosha - including your dog, cat, horse, chicken, etc.
The Ayruveda quiz you took provides you with insight into the combination of the five elements that make up your dosha. If you answered the questions in the quiz while contemplating yourself over the course of your life - you now have a good understanding of your prakriti (i.e., birth constitution). If you answered the questions in the quiz while contemplating a current situation in your life - you now have a good understanding of your vikriti (i.e., current state of balance). Generally, the results of this particular quiz give you insight into your prakriti.
No that you know your dosha, we can discuss what it means to be predominately Vata, Pitta or Kapha and how to stay balanced through daily and seasonal routines to live your best life. And this will be the subject of an upcoming blog post!
Yoga and science. Science and yoga. Two of my favorite topics to read, discuss and practice. So when they overlap, I get really excited! And this article by E.J.. Johnson titled: Should I Go To Restorative Yoga or Just Take a Nap? covers both topics.
In the article, Johnson writes:
"A study from the American Diabetes Association observed a focus group of obese women who practiced restorative yoga over a 48-week period and a group who engaged in a stretching program over the same time period. They found that those who practiced restorative yoga lost a significant amount of subcutaneous fat over the six-month program compared to those in the stretch group, and those same women continued to lose during the maintenance period once the program was over. The study credits this to the practice's focus on relaxation and stress reduction, which led to a decrease in cortisol (the hormone we blame for abdominal fat)."
This study and its findings are intriguing so I set out to do a bit more research and came across the study and the American Diabetes Association conference article on the study embeded below. I wanted to share with you some highlights:
So what is restorative or yin yoga? Essentially, these are yoga practices that a predominantly practiced on the floor, using an abundance of props, and once you settle into the pose - you hold the pose for a long period of time - sometimes three minutes but seven, ten and fourteen minutes or more are also possible. You practice a deep, rhythmic and sustaining breath while in the poses. Sound easy? It's not easy for the body or the mind but with practice, it does get easier, deeper, and more relaxing. And that's the science: relaxing to reset your body chemistry and reduce the hormone cortisol. Cortisol and stubborn belly fat are supportive friends to each other and the scientific thinking about restorative or yin yoga is that the deep, sustained relaxation of this practice reduces your body's cortisol levels. The reduction in cortisol allows for the reduction of stubborn abdominal fat.
I love reading and writing about science and yoga but now it's time for me to unroll my mat, be still and reduce belly fat. After all, it is the holiday season!
According to data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) released in November 2018, the number of American adults and children using yoga and meditation has significantly increased over previous years and the use of chiropractic has increased modestly for adults and held steady for children.
For more on this study, follow this link.