Be Your Own Ayurvedic Realist

Be Your Own Ayurvedic Realist

Some of the reasons people believe Ayurveda will not work for them is because they drink coffee, aren’t vegetarian, or it’s just too complicated. One of the largest misconceptions about Ayurveda is that it is restrictive. As with any lifestyle, there are some who choose to be extreme in their practice, but I opt for a more liberal and manageable approach. Since the beginning of my studies, I’ve been referred to as the Ayurvedic Realist. Maybe it’s that as a mother to five children, I’ve discovered negotiating is the only way to survive. More likely it’s because I am not about to give up pizza and wine.


Doshas: Do Tell


Doshas represent a collection of qualities and those sets of qualities help describe our unique selves. None of us has the exact same ratio of these said qualities, or Doshas, which is what makes each of us special. This is also why two people may not be treated the same even if they present with the same symptoms. Determining your Prakriti–how you were born–and Vikruti–your current state–are essential before you can begin practicing Ayurveda. Take this quiz and follow the instructions at the top (you’ll end up taking it twice per the instructions). If you fall somewhere between two answers, you can score yourself ½ and ½.


Nothing is Off-Limits, I Swear


Knowing the qualities of your Dosha will help when you need to make concessions after indulging in Friday night pizza night with the fam, like I do every week. I have a proportionately higher amount of Vata than Pitta or Kapha per my Prakriti. And according to my Vikruti, my Vata is elevated (vitiated). Doing and eating things that increase Vata (like drinking coffee, exercising excessively, consuming dehydrating foods, going off my schedule, etc.) is not in my best interest. To balance Vata, I need to apply opposing forces, such as eating heavy, dense, oily and preferably cooked foods (when appropriate) like root vegetables with ghee, dairy, meat, avocados, and adding a healthy dose of spices. Overall I can handle that…until coffee o’clock rolls around every morning. Regardless, I keep it in my daily routine because it makes me happy. The way I balance it is by adding cream and ghee (heavy, moist) and cinnamon and cardamom (heating, digestive spices). I also only have 1-2 cups, which I find completely justifiable.


Another food that’s not recommended for a Vata? Salad. I love a good chopped salad, especially in the summer. But Ayurveda promotes cooked food for me, since it’s easier to digest. How do I make it work? Check out my chart.


Coffee

Salad

Vata

Coffee is bitter which aggravates Vata. To balance the bitter taste, Vatas can add cream and ghee. The bitter taste is also cooling in nature, so adding cardamom and/or cinnamon to your coffee which are heating digestive spices, act as opposing qualities.

Vatas, in particular, have variable digestion, so raw vegetables can be problematic. To counter that, add things like avocado and olive oil which provide density and moisture; spices like black pepper, rosemary or oregano which add heat to stimulate digestion; and drink a glass of room temperature or warm water before eating to get digestive juices flowing.  Salads can definitely stay on your menu, but make them the exception, not the rule, in your diet.

Pitta

The bitter taste generally pacifies Pitta, but caffeine is very irritating to Pittas. To quell the provocation, add ghee or milk to the coffee. Pittas should take notice if caffeine causes GI upset; the heartburn and/or diarrhea may make it a dealbreaker.  

Because Pittas have strong digestion (Agni), they can usually tolerate raw vegetables. In some cases, raw vegetables increase GI motility in Pittas. Avoid spicy vegetables, acidic vegetables, onions, garlic, and spices, all which may aggravate digestion. Favor cooling vegetables like cucumber, avocado, and cilantro which are soothing.

Kapha

Kaphas can have black coffee( sorry, no milk, cream or ghee), and may add all the cinnamon or cardamom they like. The natural diuretic in caffeine is helpful for waterlogged Kaphas. Dairy products are Kaphogenic, meaning they increase Kapha and usually have added sugar, so pitch the creamer!

As a rule, Kaphas have sluggish Agni, but raw greens can be detoxifying. Astringent vegetables create a “scraping” action, helping to  remove toxins. Kaphas should add plenty of heating spices to their salads, such as black pepper, cayenne, or red pepper; a small amount of olive or grapeseed oil; and avoid nuts and cheese which increase Ama.  




Let’s see how each Dosha can accommodate 2 different types of exercise:



Hot yoga

Winter Skiing

Vata

Given that Vatas are naturally dry and prone to dehydration and hot yoga induces profound sweating in even the most non-sweat prone people, care and caution needs to be taken here.  While Vatas like to push themselves, they aren’t too hearty and it may take them longer than others to recover from Hot Yoga. If you are a Vata, but you looooove hot yoga, try and find classes that aren’t superheated and don’t combine a heated class with Vinyasa flow. Limit how often you attend these classes and hydrate before and after class. Don’t be surprised if hot yoga triggers headaches or migraines. Rehydrate with plenty of water or a natural electrolyte drink. Watermelon is another good option.

It’s not that Vatas don’t enjoy the act of skiing or other winter sports, it’s that they loathe cold, wind, and snow.  Since you can’t downhill ski indoors or on the equator, there are obstacles to address. To enjoy the activity and not completely throw Vata into orbit, you will need to dress in layers, bundle up completely (hat, scarf, long johns), and drink warm beverages while you’re out . When you’re done with the slopes, take good care to warm up with a long bath/shower and use Abhyanga oil to moisturize and nourish your skin, drink warm tea/water and eat soup or some other warm meal to warm your insides.  

Pitta

A Pitta in a hot yoga class is like throwing a cat in water. The one thing Pittas are most averse to is heat, so I don’t if you will find many Pittas in hot yoga, but if you do, they will probably be the reddest and intense people in class. But if you are a Pitta and you still want to go to hot yoga, I suggest you do not combine a heated class with a Vinyasa flow (too superheating).Try finding classes that are not crazy-hot (less than 90 degrees), keep a cool cloth by you during class to keep from overheating, and rehydrate with cucumber water after class. Cucumber is cooling and soothing.

Pittas rejoice! Winter sports are your happy place.

Kapha

Hot yoga is your friend.  Sweating profusely is really good for Kaphas, but rehydrate with lemon water post-workout. Lemon is drying and detoxifying.

Winter sports aren’t necessarily Kaphas’ favorite pastime either owing to the cold and possibly damp climate, but getting out and moving is still a positive that will boost your spirits along with your core temperature. As with Vatas, be sure to bundle up, dress in layers, and when you’ve had your last run, warm up completely. A hot sauna will be very comforting to Kaphas and Abhyanga may not be necessary unless your skin is unusually dry. Do eat warm, cooked food with added spices but avoid excess dairy, oils, and dark meat.


More From the Ayurvedic Buffet Table


  • Nasya
  • This is the process of adding a few drops of usually medicated oil or ghee to your nostrils. It may sound strange, but this is actually one of the easiest and most effective ways to treat afflictions above the collarbone, like headaches, insomnia, hair loss, etc.

  • Pranayama
  • Pranayama is not a practice that is specific to Ayurveda, but it is commonly practiced among Yogis. The act of breathing and learning to control one’s breath has far-reaching physical and mental health benefits.  Head over here to learn more about the power of the breath.

  • Sleep Schedule
  • Getting on a regular schedule is important, especially if you are a Vata, but it is good for all Doshas because it keeps you accountable. Pittas need to be reminded to go to bed, and Kaphas need to be woken up. It is best to be in bed by 10pm and awake before the sun comes up. There can be some deviation to this given kids’ schedules, and working shifts. Let’s face it–sometimes it just isn’t possible to be in bed by 10. I get it. As a rule of thumb, maintaining a relatively consistent sleep schedule will help you feel your best and it also protects your immunity.

    This Week’s Takeaway

    Everything in life is possible with Ayurveda as long as you understand the uncomplicated system of opposites: hot/cold; moist/dry; light/dense. Get familiar with the qualities that make up your primary Dosha. When you find you are slipping out of balance, refer to charts that illustrate how to reestablish equilibrium.

    Next Week:

    What do you do when you have a partner and/or kids and everyone has a different Dosha? Do you make four different meals? Only if it’s by accident! Learn how to cook Ayurvedically for a family and when to seek out the help of an Ayurvedic professional.

    See you then!

    Tracy

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