The Ancient Art of Ayurveda

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The Ancient Art of Ayurveda

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by Sunny Rose, C.AY, RYT

Bringing balance in the summer season—a summer guide for living in
harmony with yourself.

rose_ayurvedaAyurveda is an ancient system of healing from India (dating back more than 5,000 years). It is still practiced there, and is expanding throughout the west as a form of alternative healing. Ayurveda means “science of life” or “science of longevity,” as it focuses on keeping the body balanced.
Ayurveda is an ancient system of healing from India (dating back more than 5,000 years). It is still practiced there, and is expanding throughout the west as a form of alternative healing. Ayurveda means “science of life” or “science of longevity,” as it focuses on keeping the body balanced.

From consciousness into matter

A health system based on the descent of conciousness into matter: Now that’s getting down to basics. The five elements— ether, air, fire, water and earth—combine to create the entire cosmos, and the bodies in which we live.

They combine to create the tridosha (three doshas)—vata, pitta and kapha. “Dosha” is translated literally as “fault”—that which corrupts the dhatus (bodily tissues). However, dosha is also that which protects, as the doshas themselves will go out of balance before the dhatus are affected. The tridosha is the organizing priniciple that makes up the prakruti (the very basic physical and psychological makeup) of every living thing. The prakruti of a living being is formed the at the moment of conception and never changes; however, the balance of elements and their qualities (gunas) does shift, as everything we take in through our senses and into our digestive systems has an effect on us. The current state of our balance (of our doshas and elements) is called vikruti. When vikruti is the same as prakruti, we are in perfect balance.

In ayurveda, we quickly learn to recognize the symptoms of the doshas being out of balance, and bring balance in simple, yet effective ways: through diet, lifestyle, yoga, breathing practice and herbs. Moment-to-moment awareness of what we need—listening to and following our own wisdom—can keep us in balance and out of any disease process. When we ignore our own inner wisdom, we participate in creating disease.

A primer on the doshic types: vata, pitta, kapha

Most of us have one dominant dosha and one secondary dosha. It is possible but unusual for the doshas to be present in equal proportions.

Vata is formed from the elements air and ether and is responsible for the body’s movement and communication. Vata people typically have a thin frame, creative and expansive nature and when out of balance tend toward anxiety, ungroundedness, dry skin and constipation.

Pitta is formed from the elements fire and water and is responsible for the body’s transformation and metabolism. Pitta people have a medium build, luminous skin and eyes, and are focused, bright and action-oriented. When out of balance, pitta people can be hot-tempered, impatient, perfectionistic and over-achieving.

Kapha is formed from the water and earth elements and is responsible for the body’s structure and cohesion. Kapha people tend to have thicker frames, solid joints and muscles, thick hair and large eyes. Out of balance, kapha can become overweight, lazy and possessive.

These three doshas are also reflected in the seasons, times of day and climates. Northern Utah is, in general, a vata climate—with its high elevation and dry air. However, all three doshas have their seasonal times here. Late winter through early spring is kapha season, while late spring to midsummer is pitta season, and late summer to early winter is vata season. By understanding our own constitution, the season we’re in, the place we live and the time of day involved, we can bring balance to our lives through diet, lifestyle and self-therapy choices.

Summer is the season of pitta. The qualities of pitta are oily, sharp, light, fleshy smelling, spreading, liquid, and hot, as well as the tastes: salty, pungent and sour.

In ayurveda, we typically bring in opposite qualities to seek balance.

Pitta time: Guidelines for summer

First, relax. Take life a little more slowly and avoid becoming stressed or angry, as much as possible, by remembering to breathe and by seeing the bigger picture. If this fails, spray some rosewater on your forehead, upper back and the nape of your neck to cool yourself down. Sit in the shade and have a cooling drink.

Moonbathe. On the nights of the full moon, put on light or white clothing and sit outside with gentle friends and relax. You might also enjoy a cup of milk with a drop of pure rose essential oil.

Honor pitta time of day, which is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. In the middle of the day agni is strongest, so eat the largest meal at this time. If you like to eat raw foods, such as salad, this is the best time to do it as you’ll best digest them at this time. Go to bed by 10:30 p.m. Pitta has the quality of light, and when pitta-predominant individuals stay up much past 10 p.m. the brain turns on, making it difficult to fall asleep.

If you still have trouble sleeping, have a cup of turmeric milk (see “Recipes”). Applying bhringaraj oil, a tridoshic oil that cools the head and calms the mind (available online), to your scalp and the soles of your feet before going to bed will also help.

Eat a pitta-soothing diet. Favor foods that are lightly sweet, such as white basmati rice, whole organic milk, sweet fruits (eat these alone for best food combinations), almond milk with dates, and whole or sprouted wheat breads. Choose bitter foods such as leafy greens, and astringent foods such as pomegranate juice and avocado. Avoid pungent (spicy), sour and salty foods as these increase pitta. If you love ice cream, this is the best time of year to indulge, but go for flavors that have an element of balance to the heavy, cold, sweet qualities, such as ginger, cinnamon or cardamom ice creams.

Drink cooling but not cold drinks. It’s best to keep pitta cool without putting out agni (digestive fire). Especially when it’s very hot, it’s best not to shock the system with very cold food or drinks. Coffee and tea are heating, so go easy on these and have them with cardamom, milk and a little maple syrup. Enjoy coconut water, which is alkalizing and high in electrolytes—it’s also an excellent sports drink!

Exercise: Only in the morning before 10 a.m. between 4 and 6 p.m. (never in the middle of the day). Gentle, low-impact activities are best such as swimming, walking or yoga.

Yoga practice for balancing pitta: Favor asanas which ground apana vayu (the downward moving wind), and those which have a cooling, relaxing nature such as moon salutation, locust pose, child’s pose, garland pose (squat posture), pigeon pose and forward-bending poses. Go easy on backbending, sun salutation, arm balances and all stimulating practices.

Pranayama (breathing practice): Simple belly breathing for relaxation.

Recipes

Turmeric milk: Boil a cup of warm milk with 1 tsp turmeric for 5 minutes, then add a pinch of saffron. Allow to cool 10 minutes before drinking.

Summer tea for pitta: 1 part spearmint, ¼ part rose petals and ¼ part hibiscus flowers. Pour hot water over mixture, steep for about 30 minutes and strain. Sweeten with maple syrup or agave nectar. Keep in the fridge and add a small amount of hot water just before drinking to bring it to room temp.

Ayurwater (ultra hydrating!): 1 quart room temperature water, juice of ½ lime, 1 tsp pure maple syrup, pinch of mineral salt (such as Real Salt). Mix, shake and enjoy throughout the day, or as a sports drink.

Almond milk: Soak 10 almonds and 2 dates overnight. The next morning, pop the skins off and put them in the blender and 8 oz of water. Add a pinch of nutmeg and cardomom. Makes 1 serving. Cooling and nourishing.

Ayurveda is about moment-to-moment awareness of one’s own body and mind. When we listen deliberately, and answer the call to bring balance by using the tools we have, we can experience profound peace, vitality, happiness and longe­vity.

Sunny Rose is the former co-owner of SLC’s Soma Yoga Studio. She has studied Ayurveda for nearly a decade, including intensive work with Dr. Vasant Lad. Sun­ny will ve in SLC this month for consultations and to teach a workshop.www.roseheal.com

 
 
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