What is it? How does it work...And what does it have to do with Me?
At Ananda Yoga & FItness, I approach to the total yoga lifestyle is holistic and preventative. I strive to embody a healthy lifestyle, and I draw from Herbalism and other integrative modalities, along with cutting-edge scientific research, nutrition and Western medicine.
For wisdom about how to take care of ourselves seasonally, we often turn to Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is India’s 5,000 year-old-healing practice, the art and science of health and wellness. Ayurveda gives us tools that are both powerfully-effective and easy to grasp and implement all at the same time. Using the context of the Five Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space), we can understand the energies around us in nature, and how they are mirrored in our own mental and physical wellbeing.
In is simplest application, it is a dance of balance, adding what we need more of, and regulating what we have in excess. For example, if we’re feeling sluggish and stagnant (associated with Earth element) we might go for a brief, brisk walk (and invite some Air and Space). Or if we have heartburn (which could feel quite Fire-y in the belly) we probably wouldn’t look to hot sauce to soothe our stomachs.
Over time we can attune to the sensations of the Five Elements around us and within us, learning to listen to what the body wants, and developing the tools to give it what it needs.
Here are some basics to help you get informed, empowered and inspired!
Each of the Elements is associated with certain qualities, many of which we might already know intuitively:
~ Earth Element is cool and steady, it is heavy, sturdy, slow/consistent. When we think of fertile Earth we think of nourishment and support for things to grow.
~ Water Element is cool and fluid yet heavy. It moisturizes and nourishes. It is cleansing.
~ Fire Element is hot and active, picture the flames dancing. It burns bright and has the power to transform, as in alchemy or cooking. It can be sharp and intense or warming and light.
~ Air Element is cold and dry. It is also mobile and can be erratic like the wind whipping through the trees.
~ Space Element is the most subtle of them all, with the qualities of smooth expansiveness, lightness and possibility.
These Five Elements make up the Three Doshas or consitutions. Each of us possesses all three Doshas in different ratios, and this might change from day to day, so understanding the qualities of the Doshas and Elements helps us to balance out our wellbeing.
Kapha Dosha – Earth and Water Elements
Picture the steady, peaceful pace of an Elephant. The grounded qualities of Kapha can show up in our personalities as reliability, stamina, dedication and as a compassionate, nurturing heart. Of course, if we sink too far into Earth Element we might become slow, lethargic and stagnant… you can picture the typical “couch potato” and it’s not an accident that the vegetable referenced here is a tuber! We might need a little “fire under our you-know-whats” to get us moving, or a breath of fresh air to lighten us up. Inviting movement and deep breathing with a walk or flowing vinyasa, or lightening up the diet with a salad or bright juice can help lift us out of too much Kapha.
Pitta Dosha – Fire and Water Elements
Pitta Dosha can show up as a warm and even firey personality, quick wittedness, eyes alight with ambition and intellect. The qualities of Pitta help us organize, set goals and achieve. However, if we burn too hot we might present a shouting voice or quick temper… frustration might cause our faces to get red and irritated, and a certain vein to bulge out of our foreheads! We might need to “chill out” and remember to breathe. Cooling pranayama and meditation can quell the flames of Pitta, along with a refreshing glass of iced mint tea.
Vata Dosha – Air and Space Elements
Vata is creative and flowing, inspiration emerges from the expanses of space, and ideas dance like dandelion seeds on the breeze. Vata encourages spontaneity and movement, but in excess can have us spinning out into “monkey mind.” Anxiety can result and we can often feel restless and untethered, “wired and tired” all at the same time. This can lead us to becoming seriously depleted and fatigued. We balance this out by nourishing ourselves and rooting down, cultivating grounding and peace. A warm bath, a cup of ginger tea, a hearty soup and restorative yoga are great for balancing Vata.
If you’d like to Go Deep, there is no more esteemed teacher in the U.S. than Dr. Vasant Lad, founder of the Ayurvedic Institute. His website is an incredible resource. Check it out here, or view his Intro To Ayurveda document here.