Here comes some of that „basic Ayurveda stuff“ I have been meaning to write about. I have been using terms such as „Pitta“, „dosha“ and „dominant dosha“ without actually explaining them. Maybe you’ve looked them up yourself, maybe you just overread them.
The ten pairs of gunas
Ayurveda is much about qualities (gunas) of things, more precisely: keeping the balance of pairs of qualities. The Charaka Samhita, tells of twenty different qualities, or ten pairs of qualities (a pair consisting of two opposite qualities):
- heavy – light
- cold – warm
- oily – dry
- dull – sharp
- static – mobile
- soft – hard
- cloudy – clear
- smooth – rough
- dense – porous
- solid – liquid
Two basic rules
These qualities are used to describe especially food but also the different doshas, our environment, etc. When it comes to the relationship of the pairs, Ayurveda knows two basic rules:
- Like increases like.
- Opposites balance each other.
It is important to remember that everything is relative here: „hot“ can be „cold“ when compared to something even hotter, etc. Also: like is often drawn to like. This is the part where listening to your intuition gets a little tricky. For example, sometimes your body seems to be craving exactly what it actually has too much of.
Space, Air, Fire, Water, Earth – the five elements
These qualities can also be found in the five elements, that everything in the world consists of – according to Ayurveda:
- Space – cloudiness
- Air – lightness, mobility, dryness
- Fire – warmth, lightness, sharpness, liquidity
- Water – cold, liquidity, softness, smoothness
- Earth – heaviness, density, stability
Vata, Pitta & Kapha – the three doshas
These five elements in turn make up the three vital energies (doshas) that are the foundation for all physical and mental processes in body and soul:
- Vata – consisting of air and space, air being the dominant element
- Pitta – consisting of fire and water, fire being dominant
- Kapha – consisting of water and earth, water being dominant
Click on the excerpts to get to the source and read a little more about each dosha:
„Vata is the principle of mobility that regulates all activity in the body. It is this energy that governs the movement of everything from our own thoughts to the food in our intestines. Vata is responsible for creativity, speech, inspiration, excitement, adventure, happiness and joy.“
„Pitta is the principle of combustion and integration. Pitta is responsible for the absorption and assimilation of foods, thoughts, experiences and emotions, and is signified by order, logic, and reason.“
Do you recognize yourself in any of this? Maybe in more than one dosha? That’s what I like about Ayurveda: although it may at first seem like this is about filing people away into one of three neat little drawers – the system is actually quite complex, and helpful and easy to apply to yourself all at once.
Your dosha constitution – your finger print
According to this, yes, we all are a combination of only these three doshas. Yet, there are many possible combinations: some have one very clearly dominant dosha, others two (with one being dominant over the second), very few are evenly balanced. Yet, even individuals who have the same dominant dosha (combination) can be very different, for each dosha has many qualities, and we all express different aspects of each dosha, so it’s kind of like with finger prints: we all have them, yet no two people’s finger prints are the same.
Obviously, there is a lot more to learn about this than I can convey in a single blog entry. This is really more to give you an overview of what I find fascinating. If you’re hooked: Once again, I recommend Judith H. Morrison’s The Book of Ayurveda. Also, for the Swedes among you: Skapa din hälsa med Ayurveda by Maivor Stigengreen (available in German as Ayurveda: Die eigene Gesundheit stärken).
So what is the point of knowing your dosha(s)?
To put it simply knowing your nature is what it takes for you to be able to live according to that nature. Maybe you are so in tune with your intuition that you already do – then you don’t need any of this. This is just the irony: Ayurveda is actually a tool for following your intuition – which only those of us need who have forgotten/“over-written“ our ability to do just that. My guess is that there are many more like me who have been taught, and allowed others to teach them to obey somebody else’s rules rather than the signs their own body gives them. How many of us weren’t taught that everybody in the family eats at the same time, the same food? But what if we have different needs? The idea to make everyone equal is not a bad one. However, we are not all the same, so what’s really important isn’t „the same for everyone“ but creating the same opportunity for everyone to meet their individual needs.
Living in tune with your nature according to Ayurveda does not mean balancing out all three doshas so that you have exactly the same amount of each in you. Maintaining a balance means taking into account your personal dosha constitution and living according to it. This is nothing stable – your constituiton can change, and is dependent on factors such as environment, age, your particular situation in life (work environment, relationships, etc.). Everything is connected. Also, since like increases like, and like is often drawn to like, you will most likely develop imbalances in your dominant dosha(s).
Who are you?
Maybe you are curious now as to what your dominant dosha(s) might be, and whether you have any imbalances. Or maybe you just enjoy these kind of „personality tests“. Either way, here is a link to an online test. If you want to figure out whether you have any imbalances: take the test twice. Once answer according to your current situation, the second time answer according to what you would consider your normal state. The areas where you get different scores show you where your imbalance lies.
PS: This is a scheduled post by the way, like most everything today, Friday and Saturday will be. Contrary to what it may seem like, I am not a only a homemaker, I do have another job, one that society deems worthy of recognizing as such (= I get paid for that one). I have a weird schedule where I sometimes have long periods where I am off work, followed by days where I do nothing but work and sleep. So that’s that.
The Ayurveda book that I like the most out of the bunch I picked up at the library is Judith H. Morrison’s The Book of Ayurveda. It gives a great overview over pretty much all aspects of life, has lots of info boxes and lists, which appeals to me.
I found a simple recipe for some herbal tea that is supposed to be good for those of us with a dominant Pitta dosha or excessive Pitta (over the past week’s reading I have realized that I have both right now, almost freakishly textbook definition thereof!).
So this is it: mix equal parts of fennel, cilantro and caraway seeds. Use one teaspoon per cup. Just boil some water and add. Done!
Due to the hot water the tea as such is obviously „hot“. But according to Ayurveda, the quality of the ingredients (the seeds) and therefore: the quality/effect of the tea is „cold“ or „cooling“. Ideal for me because I prefer drinking warm stuff but I really don’t need to pour any more gasoline on that Pitta fire right now!