Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine originating from ancient India thousands of years ago. In Sanskrit it means the ‘science of life’. And still to this day, it offers a wealth of wisdom to incorporate into your life.
One of Ayurveda’s primary focuses is about creating balance - between mind, body and the environment. To do this we need to understand our body composition and what keeps us feeling balanced. And then, we need to build awareness so that we can notice our imbalances and nourish ourselves in ways that help us find harmony again.
If you’re completely new to Ayurveda, the first step to start your journey is to get to know your Ayurvedic mind-body type. In Ayurveda there are three mind-body types known as Doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These are derived from the five natural elements of nature - earth, water, fire, air, and ether or space. And so, each of these doshas express their own unique mix of physical, emotional and mental characteristics based on these elements.
Without going into too much detail, each of us has our own unique body composition of these three doshas. When you’ve identified your unique composition, you can then start exploring different dietary and lifestyle adjustments that support your makeup.
There are many dosha quiz's you can do online to find out what your unique composition is. Then go and read up on your dominant dosha and see what you can relate to and what changes you can experiment with. From there you can go deeper and become aware of your dosha imbalances and seek to correct them.
Although knowing your dosha body composition is foundational to practicing Ayurveda, there are a few easy ways you can bring Ayurveda in your life right now.
So while I encourage you to explore your dosha body composition, here are 6 simple ways you can practice Ayurveda to improve your health and wellbeing.
1. Reconnect with your food
In Ayurveda eating nutritious food is an essential part of wellbeing. Food is life, it is information for our bodies, it is medicine… And while knowing your dominant dosha will give you lots of dietary ideas, there are a few general principles you can incorporate regardless of what mind-body type you are.
Avoid processed packaged foods which have far less nutrition (if any) and often contain harmful additives that don’t support the body’s natural wellbeing. Instead, focus on eating foods that are as natural and whole as possible. Like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Pay attention to your digestion. Maintaining healthy digestion is essential in Ayurveda. So, when you’re having digestive issues - like gas, bloating or cramps - this is a sign that there is an imbalance. And it’s time to make some changes in your diet and lifestyle to support your digestive health.
Start experimenting with more spices in your cooking. Ayurveda uses a wide range of spices, like turmeric, cumin and fennel. These spices not only add a ton of flavour, they also have a variety of healing benefits. Turmeric is one of my favourite spices - I see it as so much more than just food, it is medicine for my body and my mind. And so, have some fun learning about spices and how to use them in combination. Take note of how your food tasted and how you felt afterwards.
In Ayurveda there is a great appreciation for food, as it is a giver of life. And this encourages you to reconnect with it and enjoy it more.
Cook more, try new recipes, add some spice, savour the flavour, eat slower, sit around a table with friends or family and enjoy each other’s company over a delicious meal.
2. Spend time in nature
With Ayurveda, our wellbeing relies on us being in harmony with the elements - earth, water, fire, air, and ether (or space).
Mentioned above, the doshas are each made up of a combination of these elements. Vata embodies air and ether. Pitta embodies fire and water. And Kapha embodies earth and water.
I encourage you to get to know your dominant dosha and the natural elements it embodies. From there you can explore how the characteristics of the elements relate to your nature and the things you’re drawn to.
Because the natural elements make up the doshas - vata, pitta and kapha - we are intrinsically connected to nature. And by spending time in nature, we’re essentially invoking self-healing.
To feel this sense of connection, take the time to connect with nature. Go for a walk, watch the sunset, walk barefoot and feel the ground under your feet. Enjoy the warm sun on your face, swim in the sea, go for a hike in the forest, or lie back and watch the stars.
Ayurveda has a deeply holistic approach to health, considering all parts. And when we spend time out in nature there are many benefits. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about… there is a real sense of relaxation… And this is particularly soothing, especially if you are under stress.
And while being outside we get fresh air and find some relaxation, there is also an element of spirit. Spirituality is essentially feeling connected to something bigger than ourselves, and bonding with nature can inspire this feeling of connection.
3. Practice deep mindful breathing
Deep mindful breathing is an important part of an ayurvedic lifestyle.
Breath is essentially the flow of oxygen and other vital nutrients to all parts of the body. And so, but simply taking the time to breathe mindfully, we can help maintain more harmony and balance in the body.
Throughout our days, there are so many things that can cause imbalances in our bodies and minds. The food we eat, how much sleep we had, the time of day, the seasons, stress, personal events… And deep mindful breathing can really help you self regulate and find more balance.
There are a few ways you can bring deep mindful breathing into your life.
You can take moments out of your day, particularly if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, to pause and take a few slow intentional breaths. Breathe in for a count of 4, holding at the top for 4, and then breathe out fully for 4 or more. Or just simply practice becoming more aware of your breath during the day, and breathing in deeply in and out a few times without counting.
You can practice yoga, referred to as the sister science of Ayurveda. Yoga is a great way to tune into mindful breathing, and move your body at the same time. It’s actually often referred to as a movement meditation, and has been shown to have numerous holistic benefits on the body and mind.
You can also explore Pranayama - yogic breathing practices. There are a few different techniques, from simpler to more challenging. These breathing practices are particularly helpful in balancing the doshas.
You can take your mindful breathing a step further and start a meditation practice. Even just sitting in stillness for 5 or 10 minutes in the morning practicing mindful deep breathing can have wonderful effects on the body and mind.
The simple things are often overlooked when it comes to health, and breathing is often one of them. Take some time out of your day to breath more intentionally, and you’ll self regulate and create more harmony in the body.
4. Detoxify your body
Ayurveda values detoxification of the body.
Over time, as our body constantly digests the food we eat, toxins can build up in the digestive tract. Especially if we eat processed foods, these built up toxins can lead to a digestive imbalance and cause inflammation.
Ayurveda promotes cleansing the body to help flush the system and get rid of any buildup. This basically aims to loosen and get rid of these toxins, known as Ama, in the body. By removing the Ama, you're cleansing the digestive tract and restoring balance.
There are a few ways to detox in Ayurveda. One of the main practices is known as Panchakarma, which means “five actions” or “five treatments” in Sanskrit. This is a specific process you can follow for a week or even a month, specifically focused on cleaning the body of toxins.
However, to keep it simple, you can also promote detoxification in simpler ways.
You can make yourself an Ama Pachana Spice Water. Simply boil water with fresh ginger, cumin, fennel, black peppercorns and mint. You can sip on this throughout the day.
Even simpler, you can just fill a flask with hot water and sip on it over a few hours. The water should be hot, just to the point of not burning you. This helps dislodge any leftovers along your tract and helps detoxify. This is something I sometimes do for the first few hours in the morning.
And even simpler, you can just increase your water intake. Water helps flush the system of accumulated toxins and promotes smooth digestion.
Water, just like breathing, is under-rated because of its simplicity. When in fact, it is a powerful healer.
5. Prioritise sleep
Getting enough quality sleep is very important in Ayurveda. After all, the three pillars of health in Ayurveda are sleep (nidra), food (ahara) and energy management (brahmacharaya).
To emphasise this, here is a quote from the classic Ayurveda text The Ashtanga Hridayam: the “Heart or Essence of all the Eight Branches of Ayurveda”:
“Happiness and unhappiness, nourishment (good physique) and emaciation, strength and debility, sexual prowess and impotence, knowledge and ignorance, life and death—all are dependent on sleep.”
Sleep is part of our basic cycle of life, and when we don’t get enough of it, all our systems move out of balance. As a health coach, I’ve seen this firsthand. When a client isn’t sleeping well, everything else starts to go out of kilt. Hunger levels rise, cravings for coffee, sugar and fatty fried foods flare up, there is a lack of focus, and perhaps even mood swings or a lowered immune system… It’s crazy how much our sleep affects the balance of the body, mind and emotions.
In Ayurveda, sleep is foundational. And while we’re all different, Ayurveda recommends going to bed earlier and rising with the sun. It’s like moving with the natural cycles of the earth.
And, when you rise earlier, you have more time to do nourishing activities like a morning walk, some meditation or making a healthy breakfast. Not to mention you can also enjoy the peaceful calm the morning-time brings to sooth your spirit before the rush of the day begins.
6. Create a nourishing daily routine
Ayurveda prioritises taking care of one’s self - listening to your body and being aware of what you need to feel at peace - mind, body and spirit.
Creating a daily routine is a great way to encourage consistent holistic healing.
This is time dedicated to doing those activities that you know make you feel good and bring health, wellness and harmony into your life. Whether you prefer a morning routine or an evening routine, do what works for you.
There are many activities you can include in your routine, but remember it’s personal to you. So think about what you truly need. You can also change up your self-care activities depending on how your needs change over time.
Think about how you can introduce a self-loving daily routine into your life. Look at where you can schedule it into your day and how much time you have. Then think about what you truly need, and create your routine using 1-3 activities. Keep it simple and manageable to start, and see how it works. Even if you only have 10 or 30 minutes, anytime dedicated to your wellness is time well-spent.
Here are some Ayurvedic inspired activities to incorporate into your routine:
Practice meditation. Go for a walk in nature. Do a yoga routine. Practice Pranayama (yogic breathing). Drink water on rising. Make a detox drink to kickstart your digestion, like warm water with lemon. Add some turmeric, black pepper and coconut oil to your warm lemon drink for an extra health boost. Eat a wholesome breakfast. Use a tongue scraper. Make your own skin pack using natural food ingredients like honey, oatmeal, and yogurt. You could even take your Ayurveda one step further and give yourself a massage, gently rubbing warm herbalized oil all over the body.
Ayurveda is such a rich and holistic approach to healing, that it is well worth exploring. It not only promotes health - mind, body and spirit - it also encourages you to build self awareness. This adds a wonderful depth to your holistic healing journey.
I hope that the above inspired you in some way. And if there is one of the above activities that you’re inspired to incorporate more of into your life, let us know in the comments.
Words by Sian Lloyd.
Sian is a holistic health coach and content creator currently based in Italy. Her passion is helping women turn their health challenge into an easier and MUCH more joyful journey to feeling amazing from the inside out!