Ayurveda 101: A Healthier, More Vibrant Life with Ayurveda

I’ve been deep diving into living a healthier and more vibrant life. My desire to live the best life possible led me to Cate Stillman’s Body Thrive course. The course is fully rooted in healthy habits and Ayurvedic principles. I’ve been feeling so great, that I committed to doing her twelve month Yoga Health Coaching course (I’m in month one as of May 2018)! This little blog post is simply meant to be an intro to Ayurveda, an Ayurveda 101 if you will. ūüėČ

Ayurveda 101: What is Ayurveda?

ayurveda doshas thriving

Ayurveda is an ancient science that originated during the Vedic era in India, thousands of years ago. When one looks at the Sanskrit roots of the word Ayurveda we see Ayu = life and Veda = science or knowledge, so Ayurveda is literally the science of life. Ayurveda is not just a way to cure disease, it is also a way of life.

Following an Ayurvedic lifestyle leads to overall health, improved immune system function, weight loss/weight maintenance, lowered risk of disease and improved energy. I think we all want more of that!

Ayurveda 101: Ayurveda and Your Whole Being

ayurveda doshas balance

Ayurvedic practitioners take into account the person’s entire being: physical, mental and spiritual. They assess diet, lifestyle, daily habits, imbalances and instances of dis-ease. Ayurvedic practitioners look at your¬†prakriti¬†(or constitution) and your vikruti¬†(current state of imbalance) and work on bringing the patient back into balance by balancing the doshas.

The Ayurvedic College defines “a person’s prakriti¬†[as] the inherent balance of the three doshas at the moment of their creation.” To know a person’s constitution is to know their tendencies. And to know your own prakriti is a way to step into your own power and live a vibrant, healthy dis-ease free life.

Your prakriti, or constitution, is determined by the balance (or imbalance) of your doshas. It is common to have one or two dominant doshas. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each of the doshas has very specific tendencies and are identified by different characteristics of body type, energy, digestion, personality and so much more. Want to find out your dosha? I like the Banyan Botanicals quiz (although they do try to sell you their products). Here is a link to the Banyan Botanicals dosha quiz. I’m Kapha-Pitta, and almost NO VATA!!! I’ve been working on balancing my own doshas and it’s been a fun experiment in self-care.

Your vikruti is your current state of imbalance and is not static. Your vikruti changes at different times of day, seasonally, your stage of life and with lifestyle changes. Would you like to determine your vikruti? Here is a short worksheet from the Ayurveda Institute that you can take.

Once you’ve discovered your prakriti¬†and vikruti, and therefore your dominant dosha(s), you can begin to make lifestyle changes to balance your doshas and thrive. Three easy ways to balance your doshas are to eat a diet to pacify your dominant dosha(s), establish a dinacharya practice, and align your lifestyle with the ayurvedic clock.

Ayurveda 101: Ayurvedic Diet

ayurveda doshas spices

In Ayurveda they have broken down our tastes into six dominant tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Certain tastes increase or decrease the qualities of each dosha.

For example, pitta types typically tend toward hot and oily need to eat foods that are cooling and drying to balance the firey qualities of pitta. They do well with smoothies, fresh and raw foods and should avoid garlic and heating spices. Spicy foods can aggravate pitta and bring it out of balance. Salty, sour, and pungent foods increase pitta, while sweet, bitter and astringent foods pacify pitta.

ayurveda doshas diet

Kapha types who tend toward heaviness will do best with astringent, bitter and pungent foods, while vata types who tend to be light and airy need foods that are warm, rich, and heavy or foods that are characterized by sweet, salty and sour.

You can see here that the Ayurvedic diet is one way to find balance and overall health.¬†Quote¬†by Hippocrates: ‚ÄúLet¬†food¬†be thy¬†medicine¬†and¬†medicine¬†be thy¬†food.‚ÄĚ

Ayurveda 101: Dinacharya

ayurveda doshas meditation

Another way to balance your doshas is to establish a dinacharya practice. Dinacharya is a daily routine, specifically a morning routine. The Ayurvedic morning routine begins with rising before the sun and involves a handful of self-care practices. For most of us, we don’t have hours to dedicate to our morning practice, but I’ve found it pretty easy to streamline.

For example, I wake early, sit upright in bed and meditate for a few minutes, I get up and scrape my tongue and brush my teeth, evacuate my bowls, hydrate, walk the dogs, and then hop in the shower. After my shower, I use a little oil to massage my body and joints and then I’m ready to go.

Do I do all of the dinacharya practices? No, but I have it down to a habitual flow and it works wonders. The trick with waking early begins with eating an early dinner and going to bed at a decent time the night before. The beauty of following Ayurvedic practices is that we immediately tune in and honor our body’s natural rhythms.

Ayurveda 101: Aligning With The Ayurvedic Clock and Your Physiology

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Our 24-hour clock and the doshas are also aligned: certain times of day align with certain doshas, which means that certain tasks are better done at certain times of the day. Here is a simple breakdown of the Ayurvedic clock:

  • 10 pm to 2 am Pitta
    • From 10pm-2am it is possible to get a second wind, want to snack, etc. It’s best to head to bed before 10 pm, so that your second wind doesn’t keep you up later than you intended. This is also the time of organ healing and restoration, so it is best to skip that midnight snack.
  • 2 am to 6 am Vata
    • This is the time where energy is most fluid. This is also the time when many people need to get up for a late night bathroom break. It is best to wake up and start your day before 6 am. This time of day is also characterized by active dreaming and is a time of expansion and awe.
  • 6 am-10 am Kapha
    • The morning hours between 6 am and 10 am are characterized by a steady energy and it is the best time of day to get your daily exercise in.
  • 10 am-2 pm Pitta
    • Digestive fire is the strongest during this time, so it’s recommended to eat your largest meal of the day between 10am and 2pm. This is also the time of greatest productivity.
  • 2 pm-6 pm Vata
    • This is the time to work on projects or do seated tasks and it’s a good time to tackle problems as you may feel both alert and creative. It’s best to eat dinner before 6 pm to allow for proper digestion before bed.
  • 6 pm-10 pm Kapha
    • This is a time of slowing down. It’s a great time to spend with friends and family or to get your daily exercise in.

The amazing thing that happened to me was that my energy improved. I’ve had more energy to do the things I want to do. I’m also more in tune with my body and its needs. Do I need to rest? Do I need to eat? What foods make me feel good and what foods make me feel “blah”. I love it!

 

Over the next few months I will work on sharing more info about Ayurveda, changing your habits and living a healthier life, so if you have questions please ask!

So many blessings to all of you!

Love and Light,

Autumn

Ayurveda doshas

 

What is Dinacharya?

What is dinacharya?

Dinacharya is the daily ritual to live a healthy and balanced life according to the ancient tradition of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is yoga’s sister science. The two traditions have been practiced side-by-side for thousands of years. Yoga supports many of the functions of Ayurveda and Ayurveda supports many of the functions of yoga, so the two are often intertwined.

Most humans, especially in the United States, don’t have time to practice the full dinacharya practice… it’s just not practical with jobs, kids, etc. I’d rather not bore you with too much information, so here is a list of a fairly attainable morning practice of dinacharya…. but it’s still 13 items!!! Okay, but lets be honest you most likely at least do 5 of them already without thinking about it.

Sunset meditation

1. Rise early before the sun.

 

I’m not going to lie the morning hours are beautiful and peaceful, but I am kapha and getting out of bed in the morning is often the hardest part of my day. No joke. At least one day a week though I wake up before 5:00 am and I’m probably better for it.All my kaphas out there…. you understand¬†how hard it is to get out of bed early (early I mean 6-7 am), but if you can stomach it just try to get up at 4:30 am or even 5 am before the first kapha cycle of day begins (first cycle: 6-10am; second cycle 6-10pm). According to Dr. Vasant Lad, the leading Ayurvedic doctor in the United States,¬†“It is good to wake up before the sun rises, when there are loving (sattvic) qualities in nature that bring peace of mind and freshness to the senses. Sunrise varies according to the seasons, but on average vata people should get up about 6 a.m., pitta people by 5.30 a.m., and kapha by 4.30 a.m. Right after waking, look at your hands for a few moments, then gently move them over your face and chest down to the waist. This cleans the aura.”

2. Drink a large glass of warm lemon water.

Well this one is easy. Slice up a lemon and squeeze it into some warm water. Drink your lemon water before anything else goes in your body (including coffee). Warm lemon water helps jump start your metabolism and digestion and also flushes the kidneys.

3. Wash face and clear out sinuses with neti pot.

Likely you already wash your face in the morning, but using a neti pot might be new to you. To be honest I don’t neti pot everyday, but I do use it when I feel congested, when I am experiencing allergy symptoms, or suspect that I might be getting sick. I also will use my neti pot if I plan on having an extensive pranayama session. Want to try out using a neti pot? Watch this Web MD video first (also, please feel free to contact me if you have questions).

4. Scrape tongue.

Yep, give it a good scrape before you brush your teeth. The build up of ama (toxins) in the body is what causes that white filmy layer on the tongue. The practice of tongue scraping takes just a couple of seconds and helps improve overall oral health. You can purchase tongue scrapers at most natural food stores like Whole Foods or Natural Grocers.

5. Brush teeth.

Brush your teeth. Please tell me you’re already doing this!

6. Evacuate your bowels.

It’s time to go number 2. The warm lemon water should assist with emptying your bowels. In a perfect world you would relieve yourself within one hour of getting out of bed. When we are unable to evacuate our bowels a build up of toxins within the body can occur. Anyone else get headaches when the plumbing isn’t working right? I do… and it’s terrible. If the whole morning routine is new to you it may take a couple of days to get into the rhythm. Don’t stress.

7. 10-20 minutes of yoga.

Once you’ve had your bowel movement begin your yoga practice. A few simple stretches and movements to the body can help “clear out the cobwebs” that built up overnight and improve mood and overall wellbeing.

8. 5-10 minutes of pranayama or breathing exercises.

A very simple pranayama exercise would be 1:1 ratio breathing. An example would be inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 4 counts. Another option would be to practice nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing). If you will be venturing into more stimulating/challenging pranayama exercises please consult with your yoga/pranayama teacher. You may even want to consult with your doctor.

9. 5-15 minutes of meditation.

I recommend practicing meditation seated and not lying down. Find a comfortable seat in a comfortable quiet place. A simple meditation would be to follow the breath as it flows in and out of your body. There are also plenty of meditation apps that you can use for a guided practice.

10. 5-10 minute abhyanga.

Abhyanga, the self massage, is the best part of dinacharya. Use a warmed sesame or coconut oil and massage the limbs in long strokes, the joints and abdomen in circular strokes. Don’t forget your back, scalp and face. (I have sensitive skin, so I use a different blend on my face than on my body.)

11. 10-20 minute oil pulling.

Oil pulling might take a little time to get used to. Oil pulling clears out any residual bacterial buildup in the mouth. It improves breath and overall dental health. Use a tablespoon or so of coconut oil and swish it around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. Spit it out when you’re finished. Do not swallow the oil. You can oil pull while you’re doing your self massage or while showering to save time.

12. Shower or bathe.

Yep, hop in the shower or bath and you’re good to go.

13. Eat breakfast.

Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast.

I’d love to hear about your morning ritual. What do you do to make sure your day gets started on the right foot?

Love and Light,

Autumn