Step into Ayurvedic culture and discover your dosha, learn about vata, pitta and kapha, Ayurvedic treatments and other Indian medicines
Within Ayurvedic medicine, everyone has a type that is the foundation for future treatments, therapies and most importantly, lifestyle changes. These types are known as bioenergies: vata, pitta and kapha. Everyone has one of these Ayurveda types and sometimes you may have more of one type than another. In total, there are 10 different Ayurveda doshas. Some doshas are more prominent than others, which means, if you want to find your dosha, it’s worth looking at the individual types to find out what you most relate to.
Each dosha symbolises the following Ayurvedic principles:
Vata: space and air
Pitta: fire and water
Kapha: water and earth
The theory goes, that to live in harmony with nature, these five elements need to be balanced. Too much of one dosha or another can lead to disturbances through the body, including inflammation and ill health.
An Ayurveda test can be a great way to determine the adjustments you need to make to your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Want to find out if you’re kapha, vata, or pitta? Then take our quiz to find out.
A big part of ancient Ayurveda is incorporating daily wellness rituals to help form a routine that will improve your overall health. By making sure our bodies are nourished, that we prescribe daily self-care and hygiene practises and make time for physical activity, we set ourselves up to be the best version of ourselves.
Some of the day-to-day rituals include:
Starting the day with a large glass of water: beginning your day with a tall glass of water sets you up for what’s to come. Want to make it count? Drink lukewarm water over freezing cold, as a study from the Journal Of Neurogastroenterology And Motility shows that this activates the organs to function properly throughout the day and also supports easy bowel movement.
Tongue-scraping: oral hygiene is considered a very important part of an Ayurvedic regime and tongue-scraping, while it might sound odd, can help eliminate the build-up of toxins in your mouth and improve your overall health.
Dry brushing: this is a highly effective way of stimulating your blood circulation, unclogging your pores and even helping the function of your nervous system.
Morning yoga/Pranayama/Meditation: finding focus in the morning before you begin the day is a great way to reconnect with your body. Pranayama (a breathing practice) is a great starting point before a morning yoga routine.
Eating dinner early: In Ayurveda, it’s believed that lunchtime should be the largest meal of the day, closely followed by breakfast, to help balance your digestive agni (the Sanskrit word for fire).
For many people, finding skincare which works for them can be tricky. Luckily, Ayurvedic beauty rituals can restore harmony and balance to our skincare routine.
Find out eight of the best Ayurvedic rituals to suit your dosha. If you want flawless skin and glossy hair without resorting to harsh synthetics, look no further than Ayurveda.
This gentle practice originated on the Indian continent over 3,000 years ago and is still going strong today. It encompasses both complementary and alternative medicine and is based on the belief that health and wellbeing depend on a delicate balance of the three doshas (energies) kapha, vata and pitta – or earth, air and fire.
Beauty rituals play a large part in both daily routine (dincharya) and seasonal routine (ritucharya) in Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic massage, Ayurveda yoga and spiritual practice is teamed with applications of nourishing fruits, seeds, herbs and warm oil.
These range from gentle cleansing ubtans (pastes) of turmeric, sandalwood, saffron, cashews, yoghurt and rose water to deeply replenishing body treatments using natural oils of coconut, sweet almond and sesame and sunflower. So why not tap into some ancient energy and try one of these gorgeous traditional treats for yourself!
Best for relaxation: Shirodhara: Sometimes referred to as ‘third eye’ therapy, this supremely smoothing treatment involves gently pouring liquids over the forehead (the ‘third eye’) and through the hair and scalp. The name comes from the Sanskrit words shiras, meaning head, and dhara (flow).
The liquids used depend on your dosha type, but they can include oil, milk, buttermilk or coconut water. This deliciously comforting sensation takes the body and mind to a place of deep peace, renewal and effortless clarity.
Best for eye-brightening: Akshi tarpana: A Sanskrit term simply meaning ‘eye nourishment’, this clever beauty booster uses a doughnut-shaped mould made out of black gram flour to create a natural eye bath. The therapist then fills the hole with warm triphala ghee to soothe the eyes, while reducing wrinkles, fine lines and dark shadows to restore brightness.
Best for body balancing: Abhyanga: Another favoured spa treatment, this delicious indulgence often sees two therapists massaging herbal oils from head to toe, paying particular attention to the joints and marma energy points. It increases circulation and helps bring all the doshas into balance, while increasing skin suppleness. This therapy is often followed by a full-body steam or herbal linen wrap.
Best for glossy hair: Shiroabhyanga: One of the most popular Ayurvedic spa treatments, Indian head massage is a great way to keep your tresses in tip-top condition. Replenishing oils such as coconut, brahmi, bhringraj and triphala are massaged into your head, neck and shoulders to not only encourage healing and balance in your whole body, but fabulous hair too!
Best for radiant skin:
Mukhalepam: Great for all skin types, this therapeutic facial includes a steam treatment and Ayurveda massage with herbal oils, followed by a custommade face mask with nourishing herbs, oils, plant extracts and ghee. It helps to tone facial muscles, combat wrinkles and fade pigmentation marks.
Best for detoxing: Potli kizhi: Perfect for purifying your body, this nourishing fix uses warm linen-wrapped pouches (called potli) filled with medicinal rice and other grains that are dipped in herb infused milk or oil to boost skin tone and texture. Team it with a vigorous body scrub or steaming first and a rejuvenating herbal bath afterwards for the ultimate detox.
Best for tired feet: Kansa vataki: This soothing ritual uses a small bowl made from three different metals to massage marma points on the soles of your feet to rebalance the three doshas. It’s the perfect treat to refresh tired feet, boost circulation and improve pranic energy.
Best for body toning: Udvartanam: Using a potent paste of herbs, grains and spices such as triphala, this invigorating body rub increases circulation and breaks down fat deposits. Udvartanam is the Sanskrit term meaning ‘to move upwards’, and the body massage uses long strokes to boost lymphatic drainage. It’s a great treatment for cellulite and weight loss.
In modern-day life, we often feel like we’re running on autopilot. The Ayurveda way of life aims to restore calm back into our lives.
As well as fine-tuning our Ayurvedic sleep cycles (more on this later), rather than detoxing and subjecting your system to a fast or a raw food diet, you can help restore harmony to your body by doing a reset, where you eat the same food at each meal for one day.
Renowned Ayurvedic guru Dr Deepa Apté explains how Ayurveda aims to restore balance and harmony to the body.
“Every sunrise brings a new day and every new day brings a new beginning – this is one of my favourite famous Ayurvedic sayingsm,” says Dr Deepa Apté. “Ayurveda is the ancient medical system from India and is very closely related to yoga. The word ‘ayu’ means life and ‘veda’ means science; therefore it is also known as ‘science of life’.”
“Ayurveda is a system of medicine that sees everything in the universe, including human beings, as composed of five basic elements – space, air, fire, water and earth”.
“Every individual has within them all three doshas, but it is the dominance of any one or two or all three that makes a person’s individual constitution.”
“Although a person’s dosha/body type is determined at the moment of conception, doshas are constantly shifting within the body. Just as the five basic elements fluctuate within nature, these elements fluctuate within the body. Therefore the dosha dominance is different with age, time of day or night and the season.”
Ayurveda definition is to seek to eliminate the imbalances by using five approaches which include diet, herbs, cold and dry therapies, yoga, massage/oil therapies and lifestyle routine.
Some very simple ways to help reset your body are:
“Your body needs warm, nourishing food,” says Joanna Webber, Ayurvedic practitioner and head of herbal education at Pukka Herbs (pukkaherbs.com). “It’s important to remember that the raw food movement originated in Arizona in the US. In a hot, dry climate, eating cold, damp food makes sense, but our climate is cold and damp so we need warming, cooked food to stoke our digestive fire.”
From the sanskrit word agni, digestive fire refers to the energy needed to break down the food you eat, assimilate what’s useful and remove what’s unnecessary, and, according to Ayurvedic thought, eating cooked food will strengthen your agni. It will also reduce digestive stress, enable you to absorb nutrients more efficiently and remove unwanted toxins.
As well as supporting your digestive fire, to rebalance your system after festive excesses, you might find it helpful to take into account your bodily type. In Ayurveda India, your constitution is known as your dosha – vata, pitta or kapha – and understanding which type you most resonate with can increase your chances of success.
But it’s not just psychological qualities that determine your dosha, your physique is unique too, and will respond differently according to the stress placed on it.
For example, vata types have sensitive digestion. They’re likely to be knocked out of balance by having lunch at 3pm or by eating more than they’re used to, which can mean they end up suffering from bloating or constipation. “If you’re a pitta, you’re more likely to experience acid digestion or perhaps diarrhoea,” says Joanna, “while kapha types are more likely to feel sluggish and be more susceptible to weight gain.”
This year, instead of subjecting your system to a harsh fast or raw food diet, try bringing your body back into balance with a one-day Ayurvedic body reset, where you eat the same food at each meal.
“Eating a simple diet for the day frees up a lot of the energy normally used in digesting lots of different types of food,” says Joanna.
“That energy is then free to go where it’s most needed. Your body is naturally detoxifying and cleansing all the time, but by eating a mono fast – where you eat just one meal type throughout the day – you’re helping your body to metabolise waste and toxins.”
If you want to give it a try, this mung bean soup from the Ayurshakti Ayurvedic tradition (ayurshakti.co.uk) is the perfect way to reset your system whenever you’ve over indulged.
Not only are mung beans a good source of protein, vitamin B1, magnesium and manganese, from an Ayurvedic point of view, they are also ideal for all three doshas. They help remove toxins by clearing the body’s energy channels, rebalance your digestive fire, boost your energy, aid weight loss and combat bloating.
If you’re not a morning person, you may prefer to cook your mung bean soup the day before, otherwise, take your time mindfully preparing your meals for the day first thing in the morning and then just gently reheat on the hob as you need them.
If you want to add some variety add a small amount of steamed or sauteed green leafy veg, such as cavolo nero, spinach, kale and spring greens. Green veg is rich in chlorophyll and will help the liver to do its job more efficiently.
To further enhance the effects of the reset, spend the day doing activities that support your dosha. If you’re a vata person, make time for stillness.
“Vata types are always on the move and even if they’re sitting still, their mind will be super active, so take a break from your usual activities,” says Joanna. If you’re a fiery pitta, going for a long walk outdoors, away from screens, can be really calming.
“Kapha is quite a sticky dosha,” says Joanna, “they can hold onto things, so do some emotional and physical housekeeping.” Try writing a journal and let go of anything you’ve been holding onto emotionally, such as a grudge. “And have a physical spring clean too, getting rid of things you’ve not used for a year.”
Ayurveda treatments for skin problems vary depending on your dosha type. Finding where your imbalances lie is the key to rectifying and issues and improving your overall complexion.
Breaking out in spots? Got itchy-as-hell eczema? You’re not alone. Statistics show that 54 percent of women have some sort of facial acne, and a whopping 15 million Brits are living with eczema.
And while you can apply the latest lotions and potions, there’s the possibility that your complexion troubles aren’t purely skin deep. Instead, it may be that your skincare, diet and hormones, and even the state of the weather, are all interconnected – the net result is showing up on your face.
The Ayurveda meaning is the mind, body and environment – and how these elements change overtime – to find a balance that will lead to healthy skin.
“Our skin is an expression of our health and environment,” agrees Sebastian Pole, Ayurvedic practitioner at Pukka Herbs (pukkaherbs.com). “When we’re tired or unwell, it can look grey and dull, but exploring how herbs can deliver internal changes can lead to lasting improvements.”
Skincare is a big part of the Ayurvedic tradition – it is thought to provide an insight into internal health.
Caring for the skin is a daily Ayurvedic ritual, which begins with self-massage, followed by cleansing and exfoliating with Ayurvedic herbs and Ayurvedic products. Rasayanas (rejuvenating herbs and practices, such as ashwagandha and full-body oiling) are used to support the skin as it ages.
“Ayurveda targets the root cause of a condition, rather than just treating the symptoms,” reveals Sebastian. “If your skin is red, irritated or inflamed, Ayurveda would promote incorporating antioxidant-rich herbs, such as turmeric, and drinks like green tea into your diet. These can fight off harmful toxins that otherwise damage and age skin.”
Burgeoning in popularity, Ayurveda’s holistic approach to health is arguably more relevant to today’s fast-paced society than ever before – a society in which causes of stress, sleep deprivation and poor diet can all lead to skin troubles.
“Ayurveda teaches us that we each have a unique mind-body type known as our dosha,” adds Sebastian, “By identifying your dosha, you can better understand your skin type.”
There are three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha. These are the basic building blocks of who we are, and they’re key to Ayurvedic skincare treatments. At birth, we’re born with the perfect doshic balance (prakruti) but habits, climates, behaviours, diets and other lifestyle changes can lead to an excess of one type of dosha.
When identifying skin health, Ayurvedic practitioners look to complexion qualities and conditions to identify a doshic skin type.
Abida Halstenberg, founder of Ayurvedic skincare company Samaya (samayaayurveda. com), reveals the main things to look out for. Identifying these traits will help you to recognise your own dosha type and how to balance it.
Vata skin: Vata is dominated by air and space, so vata skin tends to be dry, thin and dehydrated. It’s at its most vulnerable in windy weather, during which times rough patches of skin might develop. Eczema is an example of a vata skin imbalance.
Pitta skin: Pitta is governed by fire, so pitta skin tends to be oily and more likely to suffer a breakout when out of balance. Fiery pitta skin is often characterised by a reddish tone, and inflammatory rashes are a common concern.
Kapha skin: Kapha is dominated by water and earth, so kapha skin tends to be moist. When kapha skin is out of balance, there may be clogged pores and excess oil. Kapha skin can be greasy but it doesn’t burn easily.
Combination skin: There are dual dosha skin types, such as vata-pitta (dry and sensitive), kapha-pitta (oily and sensitive) or vata-kapha (dry with an oily T-zone). If you have a dual type, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend altering your diet and skincare according to the seasons.
Suffer from skin bothers? The Ayurvedic approach can help by settling internal imbalances while soothing topical issues. Here, Abida reveals the practices that could calm complexion troubles.
You’re suffering from… Rosacea:
Try… a pitta-pacifying diet that favours cool and nonspicy foods. Take saffron, shatavari, gotu kola, aloe and turmeric supplements, plus drink fennel or tulsi tea.
You’re suffering from… Eczema:
Try… a vata-pacifying diet, which will include soups and stews, plus water-rich fruits and vegetables, to replenish moisture levels. Add turmeric, amla, tulsi and ashwagandha to your diet. Neem oil can be used to reduce itchiness.
You’re suffering from… Fine lines:
Try… using naturally active plant extracts mixed into oils [such as those containing vitamin C and sesame oil]. These are fantastic because their molecular structure is relatively close to our skin, so they naturally penetrate deeply. Massage the oils into skin to promote blood circulation, helping to firm and tone.
You’re suffering from… Acne:
Try… using turmeric, almond, neem and sandalwood topically on your skin (via an oil, for example). It may also help to include more coriander and cumin in your meals, plus to follow a pitta-pacifying diet.
In Ayurveda, the vata dosha is ruled by the air and ether elements. Due to the combination of two air elements, these effects transpire to dry and dehydrated skin, which can then translate to an overall dull complexion.
Turmeric is recommended for vata skin (used on the exterior) due to its natural skin brightening properties. Turmeric contains an active called tumerone, which not only brightens and enhances the skin, but it also reduces inflammation on the exterior and interior of the body.
This versatile ingredient is the key component in Urban Veda’s Radiance skincare range, which also harnesses the elasticity-restoring benefits of liquorice and hydrating punch of aloe vera and goji berries.
According to Ayurveda, our skin is a good indicator of what’s going on inside our body. It’s one of our largest organs, with healthy plasma sitting on the top layer of skin, and tissue sitting underneath that. When we become nutrient- deficient, our skin often pays the price, as it can cause chronic discolourations of the skin including eczema, dermatitis, acne, psoriasis and urticaria.
A surefire way to help your skin is to think about herbal remedies and find out what skincare products suit your dosha.
Celebrity yoga guru Yogi Cameron offers his personal program for health and rejuvenation, based on the age-old systems of Ayurveda and yogic philosophy.
“Much of Ayurvedic herbal medicine centres on the medicinal use of certain herbs,” says Cameron. “A trained Ayurvedic therapist or herbalist is the only person who can and should prescribe herbs for certain conditions. However, I’ve provided a sampling of herbs that you may already have in your kitchen cabinets that can be used on a daily basis for improving and supporting the body’s health, vitality and energy.”
Using turmeric medicinally will reduce an overabundance of kapha and pitta energy. While it has a hot property it does not aggravate pitta energy.
Turmeric can also be used to control blood sugar level (diabetes), help skin disease, heal ulcers, purify the blood, help digestion, break up mucus in the respiratory system, purify the liver and relieve congestion. It can also be made into a paste and placed topically on the skin for swelling or bruises to decrease inflammation.
Fresh ginger root reduces vata and kapha energies and dry ginger reduces kapha energy. Ginger can be used to relieve indigestion, strengthen digestion during meals, relieve respiratory problems, reduce coughs, reduce a running nose, help alleviate allergies and help burn toxins in the intestines and stomach.
Use ginger powder and a lemon juice to make a paste and apply it to the forehead to relieve headaches or a paste of ginger and water on joints to relieve pain.
Liquorice root’s sweet and cooling properties can help reduce an overabundance of vata, pitta and kapha energies. It is good for resolving respiratory issues, improving complexion, healing ulcers, soothing the voice, resolving hyperacidity and calming the mind.
This is known as a tridoshic herb in that it can help to balance pitta, kapha and vata energies, but its hot nature can aggravate pitta energy if it is taken in excess.
Tulsi helps to resolve coughs and colds, helps clean the lungs, benefits the memory, helps resolve sinus congestion, helps resolve skin issues and can help to improve the immune system. It also promotes higher energy in the brain and helps to clear the mind for spiritual practices.
Taking aloe vera as a supplement can help reduce pitta energy and can balance all three of the doshas. It is very effective in resolving liver and spleen disorders, skin problems, cooling burns, hyperacidity, ulcers, colitis and for constipation as a mild laxative. When used topically, aloe vera can be used to heal the skin and can cool and resolve the outbreak of herpes.
The ancient yogis devoted years and years of meditation to gain a systematic understanding of how we can use nature to define better health. These teachings refute many different modern strands of information about diet and nutrition, and here I isolate a few of these ideas as they were taught to me.
Modern nutritionists recommend that average adults should consume between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day. It is misleading, however, to assign a general value of energy intake to everyone, as each of us has a different digestion process and different food needs to be based on our size and body type, and each of us participates in different forms and levels of physical activity.
It is better to eat an amount of food that serves our own individual digestion needs, allowing that amount to shift during different seasons and to be defined by whether we need more or less energy.
It is common and accurate to say that refined sugar and sweeteners lead to weight gain and are detrimental to our health.
Our bodies don’t need sources of sugar that have gone through any of these types of processing and the difficulty digesting such substances leads to weight gain and health problems. It is better to use honey, molasses and maple syrup as the primary source of sweetness in our diets.
The amount of water we consume is based on the amount of water we need to satisfy our thirst. Those who sweat more, such as people with excessive pitta energy, will likely require more water than those with kapha energy, who sweat less. Drink as much water as is needed to quench your thirst and no more.
The many millions of people who have sustained long, healthy lives over the many thousands of years of Ayurvedic practice are a testament to how unnecessary it is to consume excess quantities of animal proteins.
We can get whatever protein we need from dairy, nuts, legumes, grains and vegetables and the prominence of these foods in our diets will enable the body to also produce protein itself.
The human body is a part of nature and like the rest of nature has its own ability to clean itself out. We wind up getting burdened by the many toxins present in our everyday lives, and by further burdening ourselves with constant eating, we undermine the body’s ability to detoxify itself.
The body invests a lot of energy in digesting food and when this job is removed the body is able to invest more energy in restoring balance.
Beginning a fast requires no physical preparation but it does require mental awareness.
All that needs to be done at the beginning is to set an intention to fast at the beginning of a day before any food and drink has been consumed. Drink hot water throughout each day of the fast.
A sign of a successful fast is when, after some days of detoxifying, the body and mind experience a lot of energy and lightness.
With the many communication devices and other forms of stimulation today, it’s common for us to fill our lives up with activity. Often this need for stimulation stems from a fear of being alone or without purpose.
To have a silent moment is to have a moment free of the need for stimulation.
Finding more moments of silence in our lives will inevitably lead to greater silence in the mind, and a silent mind is a happy mind. As you continue to practice, work to find at least one silent moment each day
Renowned Ayurvedic doctor, Dr Deepa Apté, tells how to eliminate excess heat in the body to beat psoriasis. “Ayurveda looks at the skin as a fire or pitta-related organ. Skin reacts best to sunlight, for example, you get tanned, burnt, or can simply be sensitive to the sun. All skin ailments, including psoriasis, are considered as pitta imbalances, therefore you need to reduce excess heat or pitta from the body if you are suffering from one.”
“Psoriasis is a pitta ailment – the heat has exceeded its limit and is causing an imbalance.”
Foods: Ayurveda stresses avoiding certain ‘faulty food combinations’. The most common of these are fruit and dairy (therefore no fruit and yoghurt or strawberries and cream), meat and dairy, and fish and dairy. These combinations lead to the toxin accumulation in the body that directly attacks the skin causing psoriasis.
Lifestyle: Lastly, if you’re an overworked and stressed person, try to keep work away from your bedroom. Sleep time is so important to achieve complete rejuvenation and healing of tissues.
Your dosha can affect everything in your body, right down to your hormones. Find out how your dosha influences your mood, PMS and much more. Understanding your Ayurvedic menstrual cycle can help you feel better acquainted with the body’s innate rhythm and the natural wonder of this process.
“In Ayurveda, the three main stages of the menstrual cycle – vata, kapha and pitta – possess their own unique characteristics,” says Eminé Rushton, co-author of Sattva: The Ayurvedic Way to Live Well (£14.99, Hay House).
While you’re menstruating, vata rules movement and flow, and Ayurveda encourages us to support the downward swelling of this hormonal change. After menstruation, the nourishing stage of kapha is dominant. This part of the cycle is where we build up our inner uterine lining, and we often feel softer and more supple in our bodies at this time.
“This lasts from the end of the bleeding phase to the point at which we prepare to ovulate,” says Eminé.
At the stage of ovulation, we enter the pitta point of the cycle. This is when the endometrium becomes fully congested and filled with blood, ready to receive the ovum. “We can often feel emotional or even angry, and physical symptoms of this heightened acidity can appear as spots or perspiration,” says Jasmine Hemsley, author of East by West (£25, Bluebird). Many women also experience a surge of motivation to do, create and socialise.
While every cycle plays out in the same way, from vata-kapha-pitta, there’s often one that is more dominant, causing dosha-specific-imbalances.
While vata types typically experience short, vacant periods, if out of balance they can be painful. “This is due to the effect of vata on the blood vessels – constricting, cooling, tightening,” explains Eminé. But when we bleed, our bodies naturally seek release.
To counterbalance and restore harmonious flow, warm, nourishing foods with moderately heavy texture such as warm milk, cream, butter, soups, stews, hot cereals, fresh-baked bread, raw nuts, and nut butters are good for vatas.
Drinking a hot or herbal tea with snacks in the late afternoon can help ease the pain by warming and loosening the muscles. In the days leading up to menstruation, soak a long length of fabric (cotton, wool) in warm caster oil, wring out and then wrap around the pelvis.
“Alternatively, relax in a warm bath, and kindly remind yourself to let go and release as your body cleanses,” says Danah Mor, author of Shine Brighter Every Day: Nourish, Balance and Repair your Life (£16.99, Watkins).
Derived from the elements earth and water, kapha is the heaviest and most sluggish of the doshas. The leisurely flow and stagnating quality creates obstacles, making it difficult for things to move around the body; causing fluid retention, bloating and swelling.
Seeking out lightness and fluidity will work in opposition to the stickier and heavier nature of kapha. So lean more towards light broths, flavoursome soups and spicy bean curries and stews, while avoiding heavy grains and milk products.
“Rest and reflection is also considered an important endeavour,” says Jasmine. So, in the runup to menstruation, forms of yoga such as kundalini or vinyasa and deep cleansing or breathwork are known to support the kapha well at this time, too.
Pitta types are naturally fiery, so can often feel extremely hot and bothered. With this rush of heat, they’re more likely to experience loose bowel movements during their cycle. One of the most important ways for pitta types to restore balance is to lighten up in all aspects. Start by removing competitive, aggressive, and overly challenging activities.
“Coconut oil and milk, mint, nettle, lavender, chamomile and coriander are all cooling additions and can be used freely in whatever combinations are desired,” says Eminé. A few days before you start menstruating, heat a little coconut oil in a pan, then soak a cotton flannel three folds thick into the warm oil. Lie down on your back with a cushion underneath your knees and rest it across your abdomen.
While you’re menstruating, vata rules movement and flow, and Ayurveda encourages us to support the downward swelling of this hormonal change.
Hot flushes, anxiety, sleeplessness and brain fog – going through the menopause can be quite challenging to say the least, but taking a few tips from the gentle art of Ayurveda can help to guide you through this important time of change.
Established more than 3,000 years ago, Ayurveda encompasses every aspect of physical, spiritual and emotional health. It is based on the belief that ultimate wellbeing depends on a delicate balance of the three doshas (or energies): kapha, vata and pitta or earth, air and fire.
Menopause is the transition from the pitta to the vata phase of life, and Ayurveda aims to bring these energies back into balance.
“Ayurveda is also known as ‘the science of life’,” says top Ayurvedic expert, Sebastian Pole of Pukka Herbs (pukkaherbs.com). “It takes a holistic approach to health and medicine, encompassing therapies such as yoga and massage along with herbs and nutrition. In this way, it teaches us how to achieve the right balance.”
Just like puberty and pregnancy, the menopause is a special time in a woman’s life – a time of transition from one phase of life into another – and a time that, if possible, should be cherished and celebrated. Learn how to alleviate menopausal symptoms with our advice over the page and bring some harmony back into your life.
Your diet: Diet plays an enormous part in Ayurvedic healing as certain foods have different properties – such as bitter, salty, astringent and sour – to help bring your body back into balance. A healthy digestive system that prevents the buildup of toxins (or ama) is essential when going through transitional times.
Avoid eating foods that are packaged or processed and instead choose fresh and organic produce. The bulk of your diet should consist of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and pulses along with light dairy products such as milk, lassi or paneer cheese for protein. Sebastian recommends choosing foods which will help to balance oestrogen levels. Here are a few of his top tips:
• Cruciferous veggies: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage contain several powerful nutrients that help metabolise oestrogenic molecules.
• Healthy fat-rich foods: These are foods that are rich in saturated and omega 3 fatty acids.
It includes plant-based fats such as coconut oil, hemp seed oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. Raw nuts (other than peanuts) and seeds contain oestrogen balancing plant sterols.
• Allium family: The alliums include garlic, onions, scallions, chives and leeks. These are all rich in sulphur-containing amino acids and the powerful flavone antioxidant quercetin that both help the liver detoxify and reduce the production of oestrogen.
• Herbal teas: Green tea and liquorice specifically balance oestrogen levels.
• Lentils: All lentils contain phytoestrogens that help to balance oestrogen and progesterone levels. Soy is well known for this but all pulses are also helpful.
• For both pitta and vata imbalances, ayurveda recommends eating cooked apples, prunes and figs for breakfast to balance the doshas and cleanse the digestion.
If you are prone to pitta-based symptoms, such as hot flashes or excessive irritability, try to avoid spicy foods like chillies, cayenne and black mustard seed.
Another no-no is salty and sour foods such as ketchup, mustard, and other salad dressings and condiments made with vinegar. Instead opt for cooling foods that are bitter, astringent and sweet as these are soothing to the pitta dosha.
Bitter and astringent foods include most vegetables, while sweet foods include rice, milk and cream, lassi and wheat products. Sweet, juicy fruits such as pears and plums also pacify the pitta dosha.
For vata-related symptoms such as memory loss or vaginal dryness, you need to bring your vata dosha back into balance. Eat foods that are cooked, warm, and unctuous (meaning that they contain good fats such as ghee and olive oil) along with foods that are sweet, sour and salty.
With its gentle, holistic approach, Ayurveda recommends incorporating nurturing yogic techniques and balancing routines into your life:
• Have a teaspoon of grated ginger with lime and a pinch of salt before and after meals.
• Drink tea made from cumin, coriander and fennel throughout the day.
• Soak five almonds overnight. In the morning, peel off the skin and grind them to a fine paste.
• Grind three black peppercorns, two pieces of cardamom and one teaspoonful of anise seeds and mix them with almond paste. Add this paste to 250ml of boiled milk along with one teaspoon of honey for a fortifying drink.
• Boil one teaspoon of carrot seeds in one cup of milk for 10 minutes. Drink it once daily.
• Drink a small cup of beetroot juice three times a day.
These ancient massages have been used for centuries to bring balance and harmony to mind, body and soul and can help ease menopausal symptoms:
This healing massage is one of the most effective ways of calming vata and the nervous system. It uses soothing essential oils rubbed into the skin to increase circulation and help bring all the doshas into balance while increasing skin suppleness. A full body steam or herbal linen wrap often follows this treatment.
Sometimes referred to as ‘third eye therapy’, this is a classic treatment for calming the mind and involves gently pouring liquids over the forehead (the ‘third eye’) and through the hair and scalp to take you to a place of deep peace, renewal and clarity. The name comes from the Sanskrit words shiras ‘head’ and dhara ‘flow’. The liquids used depend on your dosha type but can include oil, milk, buttermilk or coconut water.
Using a potent paste of herbs, grains and spices such as triphala, this invigorating body rub increases circulation and breaks down fat deposits. A Sanskrit term meaning ‘to move upwards’, the massage uses long strokes to boost lymphatic drainage and is a great treatment for cellulite and weight loss.
For many years, Ayurveda has been used not just to restore harmony to the body, but to help cultivate relaxation as well.
There are many different types of Ayurvedic therapies to promote healing. Here are a few of the most common ones:
Want to learn more about Ayurveda healing remedies? Dr Deepa Apté, our Indian medicine guru, explains how to combat greying hair using this ancient wisdom. According to Ayurveda, greying of hair is a vata and pitta imbalance. The dryness and excess heat in the body result in grey hair. Here’s how to treat it:
Cleansing: A week of detox including regular mung bean soup intake, triphala three times daily, and chyawanprash twice daily can show great results. Repeat this detox every six weeks. Carrying our purgation, with castor oil, once every two or three months will help to stop greying of hair.
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