Following my completion of a fantastic Yoga Teacher Training Course (TTC) at Mysore Krishnamacharr Yoga Foundation I came to understand how closely linked Yoga and Ayurveda are and how they complement each other. The course was an eye opening experience and drastically changed my approach towards well-being!
I’ve been inspired to learn about Ayurveda thanks to Kanchen Mala (Krishnamacharr Yoga Foundation manageress). Kanchen created a course which focused not only on Yoga but also on Ayurvedic practices, principles and massage techniques.
During the course I learnt that both Yoga and Ayurveda go hand in hand which was something new to me. Their shared objective is to enable us to live in harmony with our own physical, mental and spiritual constitutions and lead a healthy and well balanced life.
What is Ayurveda
Ayurveda is India’s traditional well-being and medical system. It aims to Protect the health of one who is healthy, cure the disease of unhealthy. Ayurveda describes the do’s and don’ts in life, from simple activities such as brushing your teeth to managing diseases. It is rooted in the knowledge of plants and herbs with medical properties, observation of nature and living creatures as well as the spiritual tradition of Yoga.
In Ayurveda, the Vaidya (physician) approaches each person holistically and as a unique individual, thus there is no room for ‘one size fits all’ in this system.
- Daily lifestyle habits
- Nutrition / Diet
- Herbal remedies
- Environmental factors
- State of mind
Ayurveda Daily Habits
- Pranayama (Breathing)
- Dhyana (Meditation)
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word (आयुर्वेद) which evolved from two words, “Ayush” (आयुस्) meaning life and “veda” (वेदः) meaning knowledge or science. As such, Ayurveda translates to “Knowledge/Science of Life”.
The practice is one of the world’s oldest systems of natural healing, dating back to hunter/gather times (approximately 5000 years ago, with the archeological evidence dating back about 3500 years ago).
According to Indian mythology the god Brahma (Hindu god of creation) compiled the Ayurveda system and the god Dhwanathri (incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu – the god of protection) handed it onto ancient rishis or seers of India, so they could help humanity prevent and cure diseases.
Historically Ayurveda originated in North Indian and Pakistan regions. The ancient rishis dedicated their entire lives to understand the nature of the universe. The knowledge rishis possessed was initially passed orally from generation to generation and was eventually recorded in the Hindu Holy Scriptures called Vedas, in particular Atharva Veda (circa 1000 BCE).
The Vedic philosophy teaches that nature, including human beings, are composed of the Five Great Elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The elements couple up forming three fundamental energy forces, these forces are called Doshas.
The three Doshas are:
Doshas shape our nature and are responsible for the way we look and function.
Vata pertains to Air and Ether elements. It is called ‘King of Doshas’ as it moves other doshas. It means “what blows” referring to the wind and it tends to get imbalanced first. It is a force which governs; movement in both mind and body, nerve impulses, circulation, respiration and elimination of waste.
Vata people tend to display the following traits:
- Light body frame that struggles to hold their weight
- Long limbs, fingers and facial features
- Thin hair frequently brittle, wiry or curly
- Dry skin and cracking joints
- To feel cold due to poor circulation
Digestion and metabolism
- Irregular appetite which goes up and down
- To skip meals
- Generally eats very little but experiences hunger attacks and at that time eats a lot
- Prone to constipation, when metabolising foods
- Doesn’t absorb nutrients fully
- Good abstract thinkers, creative and artistic
- Good short term memory,
- Love being in motion and travelling
- Makes friends easily and goes with the flow
- Talks a lot and fast
- Struggles to focus on one thing at the time
- Prone to experience anxiety and fear
Fire and Water elements. It means “what cooks”. Pitta is present in bodily fluids as blood and digestive juices. It is a force which governs digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food. It is a transformation force which at a mental level rules understanding, perceiving, judging and discriminating.
Pitta people tend to display the following traits:
- Medium or smaller frame with well-defined muscles
- Average height and weight
- Slightly oily skin and hair and loose joints
- Prone to have problems with liver and blood (inflammation)
Digestion and metabolism
- Strong appetite
- Gets angry when hungry
- Prone to have digestion problems such as heartburn & stomach ulcers
- Has very good metabolism
- Passionate, direct, motivated and focused to achieve goals
- Initiator and doer
- When unbalanced can get easily irritable, angry or judgemental and may lack empathy
Water & Earth elements. It means “what sticks”. It governs the form and substance of the body and is in charge of growth, protection, weight, stability and cohesion. It is mainly present in bodily tissues and held in places where mucus accumulates, such us the head, lungs or stomach.
Kapha people tend to display the following traits:
- Larger and well developed body frame
- Features tend to be round, smooth, chunkier, heavier
- Tends to have oily skin and hair
- Prone to have problems with lungs and mucus congestion
Digestion and metabolism
- Has constant and steady appetite
- Has sluggish digestion and metabolism so tends to feel sleepy after meals
- Puts on weight easily and struggles to lose it
- Down to earth, patient and compassionate
- Doesn’t change opinion easily and frequently feels hesitancy towards change
- Has good long term memory
- When out of balance can become lethargic, possessive, jealous and attached
It is worth remembering that one can have a different mix of Doshas. As an example one can be Vata in terms of mind and Kapha in terms of body. Additionally, one can have one or two predominant Doshas ruling each part of the constitution. For example, someone can be governed by Vata & Pitta across Mind and Body. On rare occasions people have their constitution ruled equally by Vata, Pitta & Kapha Doshas (this constitution is known as Tridoshic).
According to Vedic knowledge there is a concurrent and inherent relationship between the universe (macrocosm) and individual human being (microcosm) and that both are subject to constant changes. As such, in modern days our natural constitution (called Prakriti), given to us during conception in our mother’s womb, can become out of balance (Vikriti) due to environmental, seasonal, dietary, lifestyle, aging etc. changes. These changes can affect us on a daily basis and frequently are overwhelming, disturbing our body’s doshic balance, thus our well-being.
If one’s natural three doshic constitution is in a state of balance then the health thrives, when it is not, then health issues arise and when not addressed may lead to development of disease. As a result it is important to know one’s own natural Doshic constitution, understand what is happening with it at any given time, why and how it is thrown out of balance and how to bring it back to harmony. Once you know your own natural constitution you will be able to learn how to manage it so it stays in balance.
Having a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor is a great way to find out about both your Doshic constitution and any states of imbalance. If you cannot visit an Ayurvedic doctor for a consultation there are multiple Dosha Prakriti and Vikriti composition tests online which you can use.
Once you know your Prakriti and Vikriti and either have recommendations from an Ayurvedic practitioner or have done research on how to stay/get back to balance you can start pursuing your quest to achieve a lifelong state of well-being through practicing Ayurveda on a daily basis.
For now a rule of thumb on balancing Doshas you can aim to bring the opposite qualities of the Dosha, which is in the state of imbalance, into your life. As an example, for a Vata people to balance the cold, dry, mobile and unorganised qualities they could incorporate opposite qualities of Vata into the daily routine. They could wear warm clothes; eat mainly cooked and warming food; practice yoga, pranayama, meditation; follow organised daily routine; use warming up massage oils etc.
More detailed information about each of Doshas will appear in future posts. Keep an eye out for it or just get on with reading books about Ayurveda.
Summing up, Ayurveda is a ‘Knowledge/Science of Life’ which aims to help you stay healthy and well by using natural healing methods. It focuses on treating each individual as a whole, complex, unique being and gives indications on how to perform everyday activities to stay in tune with own natural body-mind constitution and lead a fulfilling and joyful life.
- Prakruti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution, Robert Svaboda, 2002
- Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra, 2001
- The Natural Health Matrix: Eastern Wisdom for Western Minds – A Journey to Wellbeing, Thomas Mueller, 2014
- Ayurveda and the Mind – the Healing of Consciousness, Dr. David Frawley, 1996
Anatomy and Ayurveda – 250 hours Yoga Teacher Training, Yoga Dhama, Indea Yoga, Own Notes, Mysore 2019
Ancient Ayurvedic Medicinal Practices: An insight from Geology and Archeology, K.R. Randive & Shraddha Hatekar, Eastern Geographer, January 2010,
Ayurveda – 200 hours Yoga Teacher Training, Krishnamacharr Yoga Foundation, Own notes, Mysore 2019
Ayurveda and the Min, Dr. David Frawley, 1996
Ayurveda Webinars, Agni Ayurveda, Maria Nowak-Szabat, agni-ajurweda.pl/en/about-us/, Accessed March – May 2019
Heal: The Most Powerful Healer is Within, Documentary Film, Kelly Noonan, 2017
Thrive: Self Healing with Ayurveda Video Series, Gaia.com, Accessed March- May 2019