What is Ayurveda and where does it come from?
Ayurveda is a mind-body health system developed in ancient India that’s one of the oldest medicinal systems in the world. In Sanskrit, Ayur means ‘life’, veda means ‘science of knowledge’ and together they mean ‘The Science of Life’. Ayurveda is thought to have originated in India around 5,000 years ago and is the practice of medicine that accounts for our natural energies: earth, wind, fire, water, air and ether and aims to balance them all out.
It’s also the sister science of yoga, and therefore compliments it beautifully when practiced and learnt about side by side. Together, they aim to balance your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It’s a holistic way of looking at your health and lifestyle, that aims to bring you into complete harmony.
What are Doshas?
Ayurveda teaches that everybody is different and has a unique set of characteristics, known as your dosha. Doshas are the energy patterns that flow around our bodies, governing our thinking and behaviour. It’s not that one size fits all, instead Ayurveda recognises that we are all unique and that when you know how best to nourish your mind and body, you can make the more empowered choices over your diet and lifestyle. From this you can then learn in the form of foods, herbs and lifestyle activity on how to live a more balanced and energised life.
There are three primary doshas – vata, pitta and kapha. We are all born with all three of them, but it’s the dominance of one or two of these doshas that defines who we are. Here’s a brief intro into the three Doshas:
- Kapha is the energy of water and earth.
The main traits for someone who is very Kapha is that they are usually substantial in body shape, level headed, grounded and calm. But too much Kapha leads to laziness, greed and excessive attachment to objects. Kapha people are most aligned with their 1st and 2nd chakras.
- Pitta is the energy of the digestive fire.
Positive traits for someone who is very Pitta is that they are usually really driven and with a lot of fiery energy. Pitta people also burn energy quickly, have fast metabolism, absorb and assimilate nutrients quickly, but can be quick to anger, hostility, jealousy and hatred. Pitta people are most aligned with their 3rd chakra.
- Vata is the energy of movement, air and breath.
The main traits for someone who is very Vata is that they are very creative, slim in build and sometimes with their head in the clouds. Vata people have variable digestion, are alert, restless and have strong will power. But when out of balance, Vata people tend to be all over the place, ungrounded and fearful. Vata people are most aligned with their 4th, 5th and 6th chakras.
Click here to take a quiz to discover what dosha/doshas you are.
What is your Agni and how best do you look after it?
The word Agni in Sanskrit means your digestive ‘fire’, which in modern terms is referred to gut health, digestive enzymes and the microbiome. There is a verse in Ayurvedic literature that states that the cause of every disorder is an impaired Agni, therefore there is a large focus on having daily practices that help to strengthen it. How to do this can be dependent on what dosha/doshas you have, however here are some tridoshic tips for your Agni for everyone:
- Eat your heaviest meal at lunchtime.
Ayurveda says that the digestive Agni is maximum during lunchtime because our bodies are wired according to the movement of the sun, so our Agni is naturally high when the sun is the strongest
- Eat as much warm, cooked and nourishing foods as you can. Avoid too many raw foods in the evening when your Agni is weaker and will have difficulty digesting them.
- Eat when you feel hungry, and stop just before you feel full.
- Incorporate as many spices and herbs as you can into your cooking.
In Ayurvedic cooking, spices are believed to support long life, aiding digestion and ensuring that more energy and fewer toxins are taken into the body. Cooking with spices will also stimulate the secretion of saliva and stimulate the digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines.
What is the importance of aligning with nature and eating with the seasons?
According to Ayurveda we come from nature and therefore we are not separate from it. Moreover, being in nature actually has the ability to bring us closer to our true selves and strengthens our intuition for listening to what our bodies might need. Another great way to align with nature is to eat seasonally.
Each season correlates to a Dosha; Kapha (Earth) Season starts in the coldest mid-winter until early Spring, Pitta (Fire) Season involves the gradual heating up of late spring and summer and Vata (Air) Season is late autumn and early winter . The best tip for this is to go to your local farmers market and see what seasonal fruits and vegetables they have.
Hope you enjoyed this introduction to Ayurveda and feel empowered to unlock all the self knowledge and wisdom that it has to offer. Good luck on your journey!
Written by Abilasha Bhohi
Abi is the creator and founder of Moonji. Moonji makes plant-based ice cream that’s hand-made with natural ingredients, using flavours that are inspired by Ayurvedic spices and superfoods. Abi’s inspiration for the brand came in 2018, shortly after returning from a transformative six-month trip across Latin America. Having grown up in London, whilst away, she found herself developing a new connection to her own north Indian heritage, and in particular to the foods and flavours that reminded her of home. In the space of a year, her ice cream grew from concept, to being sold in acclaimed vegan restaurant Farmacy and is now also stocked at The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason’s. You can find Moonji on Instagram @wearemoonji and at wearemoonji.com