What’s all this talk about Ayurveda?
Have you noticed the new logo and the word “Ayurveda” inserted into The Yoga on High’s Teacher Training Institute’s name? If so, you may be wondering what’s all this talk about Ayurveda, and what does it have to do with yoga and Yoga on High’s Training Institute.
Well, last year I set out on a mission to bring Ayurveda to Columbus, Ohio. Having had firsthand experience with the healing and wellness benefits of Ayurveda, and seeing how this ancient modality supported my yogic lifestyle and led towards wellness and awakening to my true nature, I just had to share it with our greater community.
After spending many months researching and discussing partnerships with different schools and programs Yoga on High partnered with the faculty and curriculum of the esteemed California College of Ayurveda.
The California College of Ayurveda (CCA), founded in 1995 by Dr. Marc Halpern, is a State Board and NAMA (National Ayurvedic Medical Association) approved school, which has been graduating Ayurvedic practitioners for over twenty years. Given CCA’s depth and longevity, we are excited to announce our collaboration. Yoga on High’s School of Ayurveda, opening in May of 2015, will bring CCA’s curriculum and faculty to Columbus, Ohio! It is an exciting partnership that will contribute to the growth and understanding of Ayurveda in the west and support our local community with the many healing and wellness modalities that make up the practice of Ayurveda.
Over the summer of 2014 I visited Dr. Marc Halpern and the California College of Ayurveda’s campus in Nevada City, California. The beautiful campus is a haven for learning Ayurveda and one we hope to replicate in Columbus, Ohio.
But hold on!!! What exactly is Ayurveda and why should you care?
Ayurveda is known as the sister science to Yoga and is one of the oldest known forms of healthcare in the world. Ayurveda originated in India some 5000 years ago and yet many of the wellness and self-care rituals and modalities still apply today.
Ayurveda is a science of personal responsibility and of self-understanding. By understanding your own unique nature or constitution you can begin to understand how you interact with your environment and thus make choices that will lead toward greater health.
Ayurveda recognizes that each individual is as unique as their own thumbprint. Therefore how Ayurveda supports each individual in their healing process varies based on their needs, returning them to balance and harmony within their environment. Ayurvedic practitioners look at something called Tridoshic theory that helps define this path.
In one of his blogs Dr. Marc Halpern explains it best:
Ayurveda defines disease as the natural end result of living out of harmony with one’s constitution. Our constitution is the inherent balance of energies within our bodies and our minds. It describes who you are on the most fundamental level. This unique balance of energy determines everything from our bone structure to our predisposition toward certain health challenges. In fact, our constitution defines what we are naturally attracted to as well as what repels us. It defines what is in harmony with our nature and what will cause us to move out of balance and experience sickness and disease. Because we all have a different balance of energy, Ayurveda shows that the path to optimal health is different for each person depending upon their constitution.
The science of understanding our nature or our constitution is the science of Tridosha. Tridosha defines the three fundamental energies or principles which govern the function of our bodies on the physical and emotional level. The three energies are known a Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each individual has a unique balance of all three of these energies. Some people will be predominant in one while others are a mixture of two or more.
The Vata dosha is said to be made up of the air and ether elements. This means that it has qualities which are similar to these elements. Vata is very much like the wind - it is light, cool, dry and mobile. In the body, those people with a Vata nature experience more of these qualities. Their bodies tend to be light, their bones thin, and their skin and hair dry. They often move and speak quickly. When out of balance, they may lose weight, become constipated and have weakness in their immune and nervous systems
These qualities also reflect in their personality. Those with a Vata nature tend to be talkative, enthusiastic, creative, flexible and energetic. Yet, when out of balance they may also become easily confused and overwhelmed, have difficulty focusing and making decisions and have trouble sleeping. This becomes more apparent when they are under stress. Emotionally they are challenged by cool emotions like worry, fear and anxiety.
In order to bring balance to Vata, programs are designed which emphasize the opposing qualities of warmth, heaviness (nourishment), moistness and stability. In the diet, this is reflected in the consumption of cooked grains such as rice and cooked vegetables as well as the intake of warm milk with spices. Pungent herbs like ginger which increase internal heat and nourishing herbs like ashwagandha bring balance to Vata. Ayurvedic programs include not only herbs and diet but also color and aroma therapies, detoxification, yoga and meditation.
The Pitta dosha is said to be made up of the fire and water elements. Fire is more predominant and those people with a predominant Pitta nature have many of the qualities of fire within them. Pitta tends to hot, sharp and penetrating. It is also somewhat volatile and oily. The oily nature of Pitta is related to the secondary component of water. People with a Pitta nature reflect these qualities. They tend to feel warm, have somewhat oily skin, penetrating eyes and sharp features. They tend to have moderate weights and good musculature. When out of balance they tend toward diarrhea, infections, skin rashes and weakness in the liver, spleen and blood.
These qualities also reflect in their personalities. Pitta people tend to be highly focused, competitive, capable, courageous, energetic and clear communicators who get right to the point. They like to solve problems and when under stress they dig in their heels. They can however also become overly intense and speak with a sharp tongue. They make great friends but feared enemies. Emotionally they are challenged by the heated emotions of anger, resentment and jealousy.
In order to bring balance to Pitta, programs are designed to emphasize the opposing qualities of coolness, heaviness (nourishing) and dryness. Cool spices like fennel are recommended in the diet along with foods such as raw vegetables, cooked rice and wheat as well as most beans. Sweet herbs like shatavari are used to nourish the body while bitters like dandelion root temper the fire. A Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist puts together programs that not only include foods and herbs but also aromas, colors, massage, detoxification, yoga and meditation.
Within the Kapha dosha there is a predominance of the water and earth elements. Like these elements Kapha tends to be cool, moist, stable and heavy. In the body these qualities manifest as dense, heavy bones, lustrous, supple skin, low metabolism, and large, stocky frames. In addition, those with a Kapha nature tend to feel cool. When out of balance, Kapha individuals are prone to gaining weight and tend to have weaknesses in their lungs and sinuses where there is an accumulation of mucous. Those of Kapha nature are also most prone to non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
The elements of water and earth also reflect in the personality. The heavy, stable nature of Kapha reflects in a stable personality which is not prone to quick fluctuations. Those with a Kapha nature handle stress very well, often not even noticing that it exists. They don't like change, are generally conservative and would prefer to keep things just the way they are. Those with a Kapha nature are also comfort seekers. This relates to the soft watery nature of Kapha. Too much comfort however can lead to a lack of motivation and feeling of becoming stuck. When Kapha is out of balance, the heavy emotions of depression and lethargy result.
In order to bring balance to a Kapha nature the opposing qualities of lightness, dryness and warmth are recommended. These qualities are integrated in dietary and herbal programs as well as aroma and color therapies, detoxification, yoga and meditation. Grains such as quinoa and amaranth are recommended as well as hot spices like cayenne pepper. Lots of vegetables and very little nuts or dairy are prescribed. Cleansing herbs like guggul and pungents like clove bring balance to Kapha.
We must remember that we are all a combination of the three doshic energies. On the most fundamental level, Pitta is our metabolism, Kapha our structure and Vata the mobility that brings action and life into creation. Without all three energies, we simply could not exist.
To determine a person’s constitution, a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist conducts a two hour consultation taking a look at every aspect of a person. This physical, emotional, and spiritual evaluation identifies the balance of energies in a person's body as well as areas of imbalance. Once the nature of the person and the imbalance are identified, the Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist can then put together a treatment program utilizing the appropriate diet and herbs, aromas, colors, yoga and meditation aimed at restoring or maintaining balance.
Optimal Health is achieved through Ayurvedic Medicine when we are living in complete harmony with our environment. In order to live in harmony we must first understand our own natures. Only then can we intelligently make choices which support us on our journey.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what Ayurveda is, and how and why it is now part of the Yoga on High offerings, we hope you join us on the wellness journey and celebrate the opening of the Yoga on High Teacher Training and Ayurvedic Institute: School of Ayurveda. Learn more about our programs and workshops here!