Working with the Doshas:
As you are interested in Ayurveda and this course you probably have some awareness of the Doshas maybe in a Yoga class or workshop or with fellow Yoga student girlfriends or maybe via an online quiz you've questioned your Doshic makeup.
The most important thing to be aware of is the meaning of the word Dosha it means simply fault ‘that which continuously goes out of balance.’
They are known as bodily humours that exist within our environment, within our food, within nature, within conversation, within movement, within ideas much like the Maha Gunas, Doshas come into the body and affect the way that we live. When we talk about our Doshic makeup we are talking about two things: the first thing is Prakruti which is your natural state of being, the energetic makeup or constitution that you were born with. this is influenced by; everything down to how your mother was feeling the day that you were conceived, her mood when she first thought that she might someday become a mother, the food that she eats, the conversation that she has and the same for your father as well as where you were born, the season in which you were conceived/born and the energetic make-up of your parents.
Sometimes within the yoga community conversations around Doshas can go something like this “I’m such a Vata” “That’s so Pitta” etc. and the problem with this is that we do not ever want to associate our identity with a fault. I also want to note that undertaking online quizzes to determine your Prakruti will always be incorrect you will be answering the questions from how you’re feeling now and therefore the conclusion that you get will be in fact your Vikruti.
Vikruti meaning your current state of imbalance.
Working with the Doshas is much like sitting on a seesaw, we do one thing to balance one energetic element and the other ones will become stronger in its place. It is constant, it is not something that we do, fix and forget about - it will always be a part of your life once you begin acknowledging these forces.
However working with the Doshas is actually incredibly simple, what can be in fact a very complex system (especially at the level of disease) at the level of preservation and prevention is quite simple there are two very important concepts that you will need to grasp with this work which are:
This concept means that if you are experiencing one particular energy overwhelmingly you will need to find opposing type qualities in order to balance it (this will become more clear as we go on.)
Such a simple phrase that becomes very, very intricate when we begin to examine it within our daily behaviour. For example if we are feeling down, depressed, overweight, we find it more difficult to move our body, we eat heavying foods and this of course is making sure that we remain out of balance.
The idea here is to begin determining what is your conscious awareness and what is these bodily humours taking over or manipulating said awareness. The only way that we can begin to separate these thought channels is through spending more time in a state of pure awareness ie. cultivating your intuition and that is precisely what you are doing with your daily meditation. (yes there is a reason for everything in this course!) Some New-Age thinkers refer to this unhelpful/continuing imbalance mode of thinking as the Shadow - which can also be a beneficial way of approaching your healthy decision making.
~ Spend some time re-reading and sitting with the last few paragraphs before moving on, these are big, important concepts.
Once you feel sure and sturdy let’s continue - so, what are the Doshas?
Elements of air + ether
Creativity, movement, quickness, change, flexibility, multi-tasking, quick, dry, crunchy.
Elements of earth + water
Heavy, grounded, earthy, loyal, compassionate, nurturing, oily, unctuous.
Elements of fire + water
Temper, anger, competitiveness, drive, impetus, heat, passion.
See the above image for more information on how these may become present in the body.
Spend a few moments journaling on which Doshas you relate to today, when you were a child and if there’s anything in your life that you feel exacerbates them ie. Popcorn would exacerbate Vata as would wind, complaining would exacerbate Kapha as would fried food, overzealousness or competition - think a sprinting race would exacerbate Pitta.
Ayurveda has very complex ways of approaching food and how we cultivate energy within our body I am going to offer you just a few concepts because this could be an entire course on its own and I would like to offer concepts that are simple enough for anyone to use them no matter what's happening in their life or their current Vikruti (state of imbalance).
The first one is the idea of the Ayurvedic body clock which is known in modern science as the circadian rhythm. The concepts of the Rishis and sages who wrote the scripts on Ayurveda are being solidified with modern science more and more each day so know that these ideas will be beneficial to you from a health perspective, an energetic perspective if not also an emotional one.
Times of day:
2am-6am Vata (feeling bright, light - a good time to wake up)
6-10am Kapha (heavy, wake up feeling sluggish now)
10am-2pm Pitta (the sun is high, digestion is strong - a great time to eat)
2pm-6pm Vata (creating and light dinner)
6pm-10pm Kapha (eating now will make you feel more heavy)
10pm-2am Pitta (the body regenerates - especially liver)
Therefore, best eating times are 6-7am, 12pm and 5-6pm. In Ayurveda we mainly suggest fasting between mealtimes (ie. no snacking) in order to cultivate Agni.
Agni means digestive fire, it can be related to our metabolism and it effects not only the way that we carry physical weight but also how agile our mind is. Therefore, if our metabolism is slow and sluggish our ability to digest complex emotions will also be slow and lack lustre.
something that i find helpful personally and illuminating while working with my clients is that we have many forms of agni in our being and the state of our physical, digestion agni (metobolism) directly correlates with our capacity for being able to digest emotions, difficult conversations and situations. If you are anxious, depressed, easily panicked, worrisome it is most likely that you have low agni. within my work there is also a clear correlation between low agni, the inability to digest emotional states and food intolerances. Often if we can calm the mind, get agni stoked and building the intolerances will automatically fall away. the same goes for skin conditions.
Within Ayurveda we believe that your body has its own innate serving size, one that is particular only to you and we base this not on the size of your body or your appetite but on the size of your physical stomach. The body has many tools to determine scale a common one used in yoga classes is that the width of your two fists next to one another will often correlate to the width of your hip bones. Within nourishment and Ayurveda the size of your stomach can be viewed as the size of your cupped hands.
One cupped hand = breakfast
Two cupped hands together = lunch
One cupped hand = dinner
Crazy I know! But the beautiful thing about this concept is that it is determined by your own physical vessel not by your mental judgement or cultural standards. to add to the confusion within this measurement we are to allow for 1/3 solid food, 1/3 liquid which may be made up of the liquid within the solid food and one-third air in order for there to be space For Digestive gases and juices.
therefore, your practices for this week are
to make changes to your eating times breakfast 6-7am, lunch 12pm and dinner 5-6pm
to reduce snacking (ideally to none)
to make changes to your sleeping times in bed by 9:30pm if not earlier and up by 6am if not earlier
to begin making changes to your serving sizes considering the method described above
practicing a food sadhana - sadhana means a devotional practice, when we practice a food sadhana we pause at the beginning of our meal, engaging with all of the senses we see, smell the food, we hear/see our environment and with two feet firmly on the ground we imagine, visualise and give thanks to all of the circumstances, energies, efforts and prana that was given in the making of the meal - from the rain to the insects, to the farmers, to yourself for making the money to buy it. this pause is proven to get us into a more restful state for digesting properly and you’ll notice that you start to salivate during this process.
* try to limit drinking cold water, cold foods and raw foods, carbonated drinks and anything iced - this is pouring ice onto the fire of your digestion which will continue it’s slowness.
never eat infront of screens
never eat at your work desk
never eat while walking
try swapping out ceramic vessels and metal utensils for natural materials like wood and earthenware - this will better distribute the earth elements from the food into your body.
a recap - we’re beginning to get you into a more rhythmic and natural routine, slowly becoming more aligned with nature.