Ayruveda | Ancient wisdom for modern self-care
With a recent rise in Ayruvedic books, workshops and products to help us gain control of cravings, sleep better and reduce stress, HLN's Hannah Bullimore finds out what it is and how can it help us, to help ourselves.
By Hannah Bullimore
What is Ayurveda and how can it help us?
It is perhaps no wonder then that many of us are looking for solutions to our health and wellbeing dilemmas, not just one problem but a solution to a long list of concerns. And with Spring the perfect time for self-care and self-love, we have taken a deep dive into Ayurveda.
After all, there has been a recent rise in Ayruvedic books, workshops and products to help us gain control of cravings, sleep better and reduce stress.
But what really is Ayurveda and how can it help us, to help ourselves?
All about Ayurveda – a form of medicine that takes a holistic approach to health
Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga. It is essentially yoga’s holistic medical system and has been around for thousands of years and continues to be popular in various forms throughout Asia.
Ayurveda is a form of medicine that takes a holistic approach to health, considering everything from diet to sleep, sex to body type. It focuses on balancing elements in the body to find an equilibrium that will benefit the body, mind, and soul. It aims to keep the digestive fire working well so that we feel energised and are able to fight off illness, maintain energy and look young.
The main difference between Western Medicine and Ayurveda is that Western Medicine very often focuses on the symptoms or the disease itself. Meanwhile, Ayurveda aims to help individuals prevent illness by finding ways to balance and take care of their bodies.
Practitioners undertake many years of training before they are able to give specialised advice to individuals, however, there is a wealth of knowledge on the market that we can all make the most of.
The Ayurvedic Doshas
Within Ayurveda, there are three body types also known as Doshas. Each body type encompasses physical and mental traits and relates to elements in the body.
The ayurvedic elements include; Ether, Earth, Fire, Air and Water.
The Doshas each encompass a combination of these elements and if you are a particular Dosha your body can become imbalanced and need certain treatments, nutrition or routines to balance all of the elements within the body. We all have each of the Doshas within us but will usually lean toward one or two and this is the dosha that can become imbalanced within us.
Our Dosha type can also change throughout our lives, so you might have been on type as a child and are now a different type. That’s why it’s important to return to the quiz every so often to check in that the practices you are following are still right for your body type.
Here is a quick breakdown of the different ayurvedic body types:
When balanced, the Kapha body type is strong and sturdy, their mind is loving, nurturing and compassionate. When imbalanced, the body is congested, prone to weight gain and they can become envious and hold on to grudges.
The Pitta type is intelligent, has a great memory and strong metabolism and digestion when balanced. However, when imbalanced, they usually are quick to anger and struggle with migraines and nausea.
This creative dosha is usually spiritual and tranquil with great physical balance meaning ease of movements, fast reactions and steady emotions. However, a vata imbalance can mean anxiety and fear and hyperactivity, dry skin and arthritis in the body.
What Dosha are you?
There are many Dosha quizzes available online, with in-depth questions. We have compiled our own mini Ayurveda quiz to help you discover your own Dosha.
My body type is:
a. Tall and thin, I struggle to gain weight
b. Athletic, I carry my weight as muscle
c. Curvy, I struggle to lose weight
My skin is:
a. Cold and dry
b. Smooth, oily and warm
c. Oily and pale
My hair is:
a. Dry and brittle
b. Straight and oily
c. Thick, curly and oily
My appetite is:
a. Irregular, I sometimes forget to eat
b. Strong, I hate to be hungry
c. Slow, I eat regularly but don’t get ravenous
If you mainly chose A you are probably a Vata type, if you mainly chose B you are probably a Pitta type and if you chose C then you are probably a Kapha type.
You can find more in-depth quizzes online or in books such as The Beginners Guide to Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic rituals for health
Ayurveda is a beautiful, holistic approach to health, full of rituals and practices to help you feel well in body, mind and spirit. Here are some of our recommendations for rituals you can start today, after all Spring is the perfect time to start some new self-care routines!
Dry Body Brushing
This practice will boost circulation to the skin while removing any dead skin cells that are making your skin look a little lack-lustre. Use a natural bristle brush to rub the skin in gentle, circular motions working towards the heart. Begin with the feet working toward the ankles, then the legs working toward the stomach and then the arms toward the body. In Ayurveda, this practice is best used before a bath or shower.
Using oil to moisturise and nourish the body is a more natural alternative to the body lotions we often buy. Depending on your body type, there will be a specific oil recommended in Ayurveda, for example, Vata’s should use something like a warming almond oil. Just like with body brushing you should work in gentle movements toward the heart.
Many of us have seen this trend online. It involves using an oil, such as coconut oil, to clean the teeth by swilling with some oil before or after brushing. It is recommended you start with just a few minutes on a morning and build up to twenty minutes of oil pulling.
Drink Warm Water and Herbal Teas
Ayurveda recommends avoiding icy cold drinks as this will dampen your digestive fire. Instead, chose to drink warm water or herbal teas to keep the digestive system working well. In Ayurveda, the digestive system is at the centre of many of the ideas in the health system. Herbal teas are recommended for different body types, for example a warming ginger tea is perfect for Vata types who struggle with an excess of air, or ether, in the body.
Learn more about Ayurveda
As well as discovering more about Ayurveda online, you can also find Ayurveda around the North East. You could consider attending a yoga class at any of the North East’s wonderful studios to try the physical aspect of an Ayurveda practice. In fact, Yoga Therapies has a series of workshops next month called Discover the Doshas with each practice concentrating on a different Dosha. If you want to start your own yoga practice at home, check out our beginner’s guide to yin yoga.
If you would like to meet with an Ayurvedic Practitioner for personalised advice and care, Newcastle’s Purnam Ayurveda is a great place to go for consultations, treatments and various different ayurvedic packages.
For reading and online research, we recommend this video with Lucie Fink that breaks down the different aspects of Ayurveda in great depth. For reading The Idiots Guide to Ayurveda by Sahara Rose Ketabi is probably the most in-depth and accessible book on the market.
About the author
Hannah Bullimore is a yoga teacher and writer from the North East. She teaches writing workshops for all ages and yoga classes for all abilities.
Follow her on Instagram @hannah_bullimore