Earth Wind and Fire
As soon as I started pondering this week's Wellness Wednesday, I felt led to talk about one of my favorite dietary theories: Ayurveda.
The change of the seasons always brings my awareness to the effects of Ayurveda, in nature, in myself, and in others. As someone who struggled for quite some time with an eating disorder and a desperate need to shape my body to fit some sort of imagined ideal, I immediately connected to Ayurveda and the beautiful expression of individuality it promotes.
Ayurveda is a pretty crazy/nonsense word unless you're familiar with the term, so I wanted to present it in a way that would be accessible and easily disseminated via a 5-10 minute radio spot. My guy advised me not to use any Sanskrit at all, instead to speak in layman's terms, and I totally agreed. I'll get into it more below, but basically, Ayurveda is broken down into three essential "doshas" or energy types that account for the five elements:
Earth (& water). Wind (space & matter). Fire (& water).
Hence, the connection between this post's cover image, the album cover from "Powerlight" put out by Earth Wind & Fire (the 1970's group known for the likes of "Shining Star" and "After the Love is Gone") and this week's Wellness Wednesday topic.
First, how is a dietary theory different than embarking on a diet?
In my book, a dietary theory is a holistic approach to the whole body, bio-individuality, and our food as a nourishing fuel for the body, while a diet is a restrictive approach to food that does not take into consideration the individual and instead tries to impose rules and guidelines onto each person, regardless of the individual's needs and/or makeup.
Diets = no thanks.
Dietary theories = fun experiments and information and room for exploration.
So what is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is so much more than a way of eating—it is a five thousand-year-old system of healing with origins in ancient India.
Five thousand years!? Tried and true, much?
Ayurveda can be translated to "the sacred knowledge of life," and it is a guidepost and entire system for living. (Compare that to most diets out there that do not address the whole person, and Ayurveda has got some serious LEGS. Like, work it, girl!)
In Ayurveda, each of us has a constitution as unique as our individual DNA, and that constitution is made up some combination of each of the Five Elements: Earth, Space, Air, Water, and Fire.
Because I can't put it any more succinctly than this, I will quote Banyan Botanicals (a great source for Ayurvedic information) directly:
In Ayurveda, everything is medicine and everything is poison; what might be beneficial to you could harm someone else and visa versa.
In Ayurveda, the Five Elements are expressed in three different doshas, or energy types:
Vata: Space and Matter
Pitta: Fire and Water
Kapha: Earth and Water
One (or two) of these three doshas is then expressed most predominantly in every substance, every cell, and every person... essentially, in every aspect of life.
Each of these doshas is reflected in our individual makeup, and, ideally, we balance all three doshas according to our particular blueprint of "ideal balance of energies" to achieve perfect health. But... that's a very difficult balance to maintain. Each of us tends to have one dosha that we lead with, and that is our constitution. Of the other two, one typically follows closely behind while the third takes up the caboose.
When our particular blueprint for dosha expression gets misaligned or aggravated, we begin feeling out of whack.
So how does this apply to you and making choices when it comes to food (and other areas of life)?
The dual ideas that "like increases like" and "opposites provide balance" are central to working with the doshas, so understanding your dosha and which one dominates your constitution can be a useful tool for guiding your day to day choices.
Take a fun and quick dosha test over here to get some insight into what your dosha makeup may be and where you may be experiencing imbalance.
To take myself as a prime example, I am like... SUPER VATA. It's almost annoying how very Vata I am. And then I'm just Pitta enough to be dangerous. Kapha... is not my wheelhouse.
Here's my little pie chart:
I am always cold. I prefer dry and cold foods (like salads, smoothies, juices, and vegetables), light colors, metallic finishes, clean spaces, and flowy yoga. Since I prefer these things, I attract more Vata qualities into my life... too much Vata in my world actually aggravates me, even if I don't realize it...
Out of whack Vata looks like anxiety, nervousness, dry skin, low body weight, total intolerance to cold temperatures, excess thinking or worrying, and a spacy scattered feeling. All of this is the story of my life. In fact, after a Hypothalamic Amenorrhea diagnosis, I sought out an Ayurvedic specialist who confirmed my suspicions: I had a super Vata aggravation, and the only answer was more Kapha.
Like had attracted like, and I needed to balance it with more Kapha: warmth, warm and oily foods (like meat and butter), routine, slower paced exercise, peace & serenity, and more overall nourishment.
I kid you not: one month after addressing this out of whack imbalance, Hypothalamic Amenorrhea disappeared. In the year and a half since, I've achieved a consistent, reliable, and healed cycle, and I continue adjusting and addressing my body through the lens of Ayurveda because it resonates with me so beautifully.
Strangely, it seems I'm now experiencing a Pitta imbalance. It's a continual practice and adjustment as our environments change, from jobs to seasons to home environment and more, there is a WHOLE lot more to this theory than merely the food we eat. This perfectly portrays the very essence of Integrative Nutrition.
What works for me may not work for you because we are so beautifully different. My medicine may very well be your poison. However, I am of the firm belief that we can all benefit from more whole foods, movement that brings us joy, and soul fueling activities. That doesn't take a dietary theory to figure out!
I invite you to explore Ayurveda and see what your predominant dosha may be. And if you're curious to dig deeper into this concept, hit me up! We can chat about this and other areas in your life you'd like to address (check out the Inquiry Session Breakthrough). It only takes 45 minutes of your time and the willingness to invest in yourself.
How does your dosha reflect in your world experience?