Ayurveda is what?

I could feel a sense of panic creeping in. I needed help. I had awoken to feel and see that one of my eyes had been replaced by a golf ball. It consisted of pink and white layers of swollen skin, and my eye had just about disappeared beneath it.

I was far from home, in the Yoga Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, India and part way through my Akhanda Hatha Yoga teacher training with Himalayan Yoga Master Yogrishi Vishvketu (“Vishva”). As soon as I could, I sought out Vishva and asked him to help me. Unphased by my now rather distorted and odd looking face, he took a look at me and simply said, ‘no more rice’.  Okay, so I respected his skills and knowledge that included many years studying Ayurvedic medicine and healing, but I felt sceptical hearing that as my prognosis.

I was also a little deflated. Since starting my teacher training course I had wholeheartedly embraced the sattvic diet and foods provided. However, as a chocolate lover with a sweet tooth it was a tough path to sustain. Now rice was off the menu leaving me with meals of lentil dhal and chapatti. Thankfully I still had my 4pm sweet Chai tea to keep me sane. After halting my rice consumption immediately, my eye returned to normal within a matter of a day or so. It was rather miraculous! Through our training we were introduced to some basic principles of Ayurveda and after my unexpected experience with it, I was curious to learn more.

As many of you know, Yoga is an ancient tradition originating from India encompassing ways to restore and maintain a balance and connection between our mind, body and breath. Perhaps slightly less known is that Ayurveda also has a long history as a sacred science born in India. Known as the Vedic science of healing or natural medicine, it complements the aims of yoga. As with yoga, there is much to study, deep roots of knowledge to explore, or you can take it at face value and simply enjoy the process of unfolding and the journey of discovery it facilitates.

Here are a few of the basics of Ayurveda as a refresher, or to get you started and ignite your curiosity about your own internal make-up and how it relates to your yoga practice. If you want to explore Ayurveda further, I recommend delving into some of the works written by David Frawley.

Gunas – in Ayurvedic terms there are three primary mind/body types or qualities:

  • Rajasic an active driving force for change
  • Sattvic a neutral balancing force embracing harmony
  • Tamasic a passive, negative force of inertia and stagnation

Whilst we have qualities of all three within us, usually one will be the most prominent. Understanding which is predominant can help you to consider and gain insight into your preferred style of yoga and to understand which styles or particular postures may suit you in certain circumstances. For example, people who find themselves to be rajasic types can often feel drawn to the challenge and achievement of a Bikram/hot yoga practice. They may, however, find a more cooling, slower paced practice such as that featured in an Iyengar class serves better in helping them to slow down, pause and move towards a state of balance.

Whereas gunas help us to gain insight into ourselves with regards to our yoga practice, understanding our dominant dosha can help us to see what we need more or less of in our life relating to our health constitution.

Doshas – in Ayurvedic terms there are three primary ‘psychophysical’ types or constitutions:

  • Vata meaning Air
  • Pitta meaning Fire
  • Kapha meaning water

As with all yoga, developing our knowledge and practice helps us to shine the mirror of awareness on ourselves. There are short questionnaires you can take to help determine your dominant dosha.

Once you ascertain your two predominant types (your guna and dosha), it can help you to understand some of the ways in which you act or react in relation to your yoga practice, food choices and other aspects of your life. It can guide you in making decisions such as what type of food to eat today if you are feeling sluggish, and what yoga poses will help to stimulate you.

So I know that I’m a Pitta Rajasic type. I actively seek achievement and success and with that comes controlling tendencies. Having this basic insight helps me work on moving towards a place of neutrality, better balance and harmony – that is certainly a goal worth working towards! I wonder what small changes you can introduce into your health and yoga practices, and what choices will support your journey towards better balance?

LINDSEY PORTER  www.yoganuu.com

Lindsey of Yoga~Nu~U is a RYS 200 Akhanda Hatha Yoga teacher, Reiki Master, NLP Practitioner, Holistic Therapist, Project Manager and writer. She offers yoga classes, one to one instruction and co-hosts Wellbeing Retreats (Yoga, Hill Walking and NLP Coaching) in the Scottish Highlands and overseas. Find out more at: www.yoganuu.com or Facebook site: Yoga~Nu~U.