Summer is around the corner (did you need reminding?!), which can mean only one thing – a spell of new diets and quick-fix fitness regimes that promise to turn you into a cleaner, leaner version of yourself. But what they fail to mention is that these low-cal, low-carb, and often extreme diets are near impossible to stick to. It needn’t be a marathon but it’s not a sprint either, achieving your perfect, well-balanced body and improving your health is about incorporating subtle changes that work for you on a daily basis. And where better to turn to than an ancient health practice that has stood the test of time: Ayurveda. We take a look at how you can apply the traditional principles of Ayurveda to your everyday life to solve your on-going health problems, and that will get you into tip-top shape as well as glowing from the inside out.
What is Ayurveda all about?
Developed in India over 5,000 years ago, it is believed that Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical systems in the world. The aim of Ayurveda is to integrate and balance body, mind and soul. It divides us into three constitutional types depending on a person’s physical traits and characteristics, known as doshas: vatta, pitta and kapha. Once you have decided which dosha you are (see our box out overleaf) the Ayurvedic principles will then guide you on how best to live your life. “Ayurveda has nothing to do with rules and restrictions; it is really about offering you insights into how you can fulfil your potential based on your own choice” says Sebastian Pole, Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine Practitioner and author of A Pukka Life. And the best thing is that you don’t have to overhaul your entire life to benefit from it. What’s not to love?
Vata types are usually very tall or short, thin and quite slender. They will generally be underweight and struggle to gain weight. Their skin, lips, hair, tongue and nails will all lean towards being dry. Vata types will have a varied appetite and can suffer from bloating and constipation. Their sleep, too, will be irregular and will often be prone to sleepwalking or insomnia. They will easily feel cold and therefore, generally like warming foods and temperatures. Their energy levels, mood and sex drive can all vary. When balanced they can be creative and inspirational but if imbalanced they risk being erratic and anxious.
Pitta types are full of passion and metabolism and are often associated with heat given that they are full of fire. Their skin might feel warm and be quick to redden with a tendency to freckle, their hair, too, could be redder. They will generally maintain a balanced weight but will have a fierce appetite and be easily irritable if hungry. They are usually good sleepers and will tend towards being night owls. They will have strong energy levels and sex drive. When balanced pitta types will be positive and playful but if there is an imbalance they can become competitive and aggressive.
Kapha types are full of love and structure, they are very stable. They will have big bones and have a stocky body with wide hips and potentially stubby fingers. They will tend to have excess body weight and struggle to lose weight. Their hair skin and nail will be thick, oily and smooth. They could have an increase in bodily hair with dark features and thick lashes. They have a very steady appetite but quite a slow metabolism. Their sleep will be deep and they can struggle to wake, feeling very sluggish in the morning. They will dislike a temperature that is too hot or too cold and prefers to find somewhere in the middle. When they are balanced they are strong and supportive, but if out of balance they can be greedy and lazy.
Ayurveda strives to find an individual’s dosha by asking a number of question about their body, lifestyle and emotions and then works to provide advice based on that dosha. It is also possible that you are a mixture of doshas. There are tests you can do online but if you are interested in getting specific advice, then a visit Ayurveda Pura in Greenwich should be your first stop.
Generally speaking, Vata’s should eat at regular times and practice relaxation. Emphasise warming foods and drinks so a focus on spices (but not too hot) and heavy foods will increase their digestive fire and help rebalance. Reducing sweet, sour or salty foods and those that are hard or cold will also increase their metabolism.
Pittas should look to include cooling foods like aloe vera juice, fresh fruits and vegetables. It is better to reduce spicy, salty or sour foods and increase sweet, bitter or astringent flavours. They should avoid coffee, tea, yeast, cheese, yoghurt and meat as much as possible. Pitta types can be more prone to inflammation so any anti-inflammatory herbs or vegetables are a great choice.
Kapha types should try and eat only at meal times and avoid snacking in between to help regulate their metabolism. They will do best off of foods that are light, dry or warming and thus foods that are spicy or bitter would be good to include. Including ginger with some lemon juice before each meal will help boost their digestion. Kapha types should reduce overly heavy, oily or cold food and also those that are sweet, salty or sour. Avoiding eating too much or late at night will also help them find balance.
To find out more about your specific constitution, there are multiple resources out there. One book we really recommend that has the power to help you find balance from the comfort of your own home was Eminé Rushton’s ‘The Balance Plan’. Along with the book, there is a beautiful website with endless information so a visit there would not be wasted. To get the best possible support, it is always best to visit a practitioner and get them to properly assess what works for you. Finally, if you’re hooked and you want everything possible to help you, Pukka do some beautiful ayurvedic supplements and teas and you can find the ones that you need based on your dosha. Balance is possible for us all, it might just be small changes to our lifestyle that make the biggest difference.
words by Rachel Cruickshank @thebodynatural
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