Many health trends come and go, but none have been revived for a modern audience quite as much as Ayurveda. Suddenly everyone is talking about this once again, and though it’s easy to roll your eyes and put it down to another bout of wellness-mania sweeping social media, it can be difficult to discount the principles of this ancient and much-loved system.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda dates back over 5,000 years to the ancient Sanskrit texts by the Vedic culture of India. In the word itself, “ayur” means life, and “veda” means science or knowledge, so the phrase ultimately translates to “knowledge of life”. It is said to examine one’s physical constitution, emotional nature, and spiritual outlook.
Prior to the existence of modern and Western medicine, and the scientific evidence to back up its claims, Ayurveda provided a powerful mind-body health system for treating illness. What’s more, it provided a guide to living life in such a way that preemptively prevents illness and unbalanced mind-body connections.
What are the main principles of Ayurveda?
Essentially, Ayurveda encourages people to live in a way that keeps them healthy, energetic and stress-free, in order to discover and live as their best selves. Ayurvedic practice believes that the mind and body are connected more than we know, and that the mind has the power to heal and transform the body. While this might sound a tad hippy-dippy to many, there are people who practice the principles of Ayurveda and claim to experience tremendous results. After all, the law of attraction and the phrase ‘mind over matter’ didn’t come from nowhere.
What are “doshas”?
If you have researched Ayurvedic principles in the past, you may have come across the term “dosha”. The three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, are derived from the five elements of nature; Space (akasha), Air (vayu), Fire (tejas), Water (jala), and Earth (prithivi).
Ayurveda believes that each person has a unique proportion of these doshas, that shapes their very nature. Each dosha represents a different body type - if Vata is dominant, we tend to be thin, enthusiastic, energetic, etc. If Pitta is dominant, we tend to be intense, intelligent, and goal-oriented. And if Kapha is dominant, we tend to be easy-going, methodical, and nurturing. Each person is made up of elements of all three doshas, with a unique combination that makes us who we are.
Doshas claim to be able to tell us more about everything from our body type, to our character and personality, to our skin type, and by identifying your unique dosha combination, you can live your life in a more structured, balanced and intentional way to avoid illness and maximise your strengths.
How can you get started with Ayurveda?
There are lots of places to gain a more robust understanding of the Ayurvedic principles, such as the Chopra Centre, but the key principles to remember are that you must eat a varied, natural diet, strengthen your digestive system, get abundant and good-quality sleep, live in tune with nature, look after your body with exercise, rest to relieve stress, and live according to your dosha balance. Whether you subscribe to the Ayurveda beliefs or not, these are surely all positive ways to live life, regardless of your body type, personality, or indeed, dosha.
Want to discover your dosha? This quiz from the Chopra Centre is a great way to identify this.