Meditation and Ayurveda

Below are details of the Ayurveda and Meditation class.

Meditation and Ayurveda: the path to a balanced and conscious living

In today’s world, too often we become over stimulated by news, computers, multimedia, etc. and thus loose connection with our true nature and inner self.

Ayurveda educates us to tune in with our body, vital (prana/life energy/emotional self), mind and to lead a lifestyle that helps us maintain a proper balance. This brings about increased awareness and directs us to live our life consciously.

Meditation is also a process of listening and awakening to the inner dimensions that exist deep inside us. From this standpoint Ayurveda and Meditation go hand in hand in promoting the global well being of the individual. Ayurveda actually promotes the practice of Meditation as part of the daily routine, which is the key to perfect health.

Basics of Ayurveda

Developed in India over thousands of years by the ancient Rishis (Seers), Ayurveda stands for the Wisdom of Life (Ayur – life and Veda – wisdom). As we saw, Ayurveda stresses the importance of achieving an inner and an outer understanding of life, bringing into balance our inner and outer realities to a place where the individual integrally knows oneself.

Although thousands of years old, Ayurveda is just as valid today as it was yesterday. Knowledge of Ayurveda enables us to be empowered with the wisdom to live in harmony and oneness, which in turn brings about health and happiness in our life.

Ayurveda teaches us how to understand our own constitution and to identify what internal and external circumstances alter our balance.

To balance our constitution, we need to take into account:

  • The lifestyle we are leading – the way we choose to live, work, the foods we eat…
  • Our relationships – being aware of the constitution of our loved ones, our friends, our partners at work, in relation to our own nature.
  • The environment – weather, season, social atmosphere, work atmosphere…

On a daily basis we need to make conscious choices to balance and nurture ourselves. We also come to realize that we are all different, so what may be perfectly balancing for one individual can cause the opposite effect in another. This applies also to our relationships with family, friends and co-workers. By understanding the way they are, their tendencies and weaknesses, based on their constitution, we learn how to cope with, rather than fight these differences. This allows us to improve and strengthen our relationships and be happier.

The Doshas

According to Ayurveda nature manifests on Earth through three laws or doshas (subject to change):

  • Vata, the law of movement, governs nature’s growth and decay
  • Pitta, the law of transformation, governs nature’s creation and destruction
  • Kapha, the law of sustainability, governs nature’s strength and stability

As we become aware of these doshas acting in and around us, we can strive for a harmonious balance of the doshas within ourselves. This balance can be achieved through purification, correct nutrition, dietary supplementation, and by going deeper within through meditation. When we achieve balance, optimal health and wellbeing are ours.

Also, as we learn what Vata, Pitta, Kapha mean and how they manifest, it becomes easier for us to accept ourselves and others. We come to understand why different foods suit us differently, why we react to cold and heat or stress differently. We are all different in our constitution, this adds to the richness in life and creating respect for the diversity that exists within humanity.

Each individual has different amounts of Vata, Pitta and Kapha in his/her nature. The fact that we have these different combinations of doshas means we have different personal qualities.

Vata: Human Nature’s Action

Vata is the law that governs movement in the body, vital energy and mind.

Vata manifests on earth through the air and space (ether) elements, which are of low density and thus accommodate the movement of Vata.

The primary seat of Vata in the body is the colon. Vata also governs such feelings and emotions as freshness, nervousness, fear, anxiety…

The actions of Vata are drying, cooling, light, agitating, and moving.

Some characteristics of people with predominantly Vata constitution:

  • Mental quickness
  • Highly imaginative, creative
  • Quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget
  • Thin built
  • Talk and walk quickly
  • Changeable moods and irregular daily routine
  • Variable appetite and digestion
  • High energy in short bursts; tendency to tire easily and to overexert
  • Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance, but respond to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance

Pitta: Human Nature’s Transformation

Pitta means to transform. It is literally the fire that transforms everything in the body/vital/mind. On earth Pitta expresses through the elements of fire and water.

The primary seat of Pitta in the body is the small intestines. Psychologically, Pitta people have a sharp intelligence and tend to be good orators. They can be judgmental, critical, demand perfection, and tend to become easily angry.

Some characteristics of people with predominantly Pitta constitution:

  • Medium physique, strong, well built
  • Sharp mind, good concentration power
  • Orderly, focused
  • Competitive, enjoy challenges
  • Strong digestion, strong appetite; get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal
  • Like to be in command
  • Uncomfortable in sun or hot weather; heat makes them very tire and perspire a lot
  • Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best; aggressive, demanding, irritated and angry when out of balance

Kapha: Human Nature’s Oneness

Kapha allows us to connect, harmonize, balance, solidify and stabilize.

Kapha makes us feel stable, held, content and connected to humaity. We are all held in the loving oneness of Kapha. Kapha uses the elements earth and water to gain cohesion and embrace and hold life.

Kapha is the heaviest of the three doshas and helps to counterbalance Vata’s movement and Pitta’s transformation.

The seat of kapha is in the stomach. Psychologically, Kapha is responsible for the emotions and tendencies of calmness, forgiveness, and love.

However when imbalanced this can lead to attachment, greed, and envy.

Some characteristics of people with predominantly Kapha constitution:

  • Easy-going, relaxed, slow-paced
  • Affectionate and loving
  • Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature
  • Stable and reliable; faithful
  • Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build
  • Have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring, not explosive
  • Slow speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process
  • Slow to learn, but never forgets; outstanding long-term memory
  • Tend toward being overweight; may also suffer from sluggish digestion
  • Maybe prone to heavy, oppressive depressions
  • A mild, gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life
  • Excellent health, strong resistance to disease
  • Tend to be possessive and hold on to things, people, money; good savers.

 Secrets to Balanced Living

We live in a fast paced world which demands much from each of us.

It’s important to take time out from our busy lives, reconnect with our deeper self and seek balance.

Together, the three doshas govern all our metabolic and mental processes. Therefore, a balance between all three doshas is necessary for the maintenance of good health.  We will begin to notice that when the three doshas are balanced, we experience psychological and physical wellness. When they become unbalanced, instead, we become prone to illness and unrest.

Each individual has different amounts of Vata, Pitta and Kapha in his/her nature.  In a way, we could say that that’s the imprint that nature gave to each of us. We should struggle to maintain that imprint intact as we move through life and outer factors tend to undermine that original equilibrium.

As we look at the bigger picture, nature follows the cycle of seasons. Each season is associated to a prevalent dosha. For example, Spring is Kapha season. The weather is damp and Kapha is easily aggravated. This is the time when allergies run riots. We need then to focus on foods which will balance Kapha. Similarly the hot Summer is Pitta season, and the windy and cold Fall is Vata season.

In the following are some tips for balancing the three doshas.

Balancing Vata

  • Start your day with warm water, drink water regularly throughout the day and add good quality oil to your foods, to maintain hydration
  • Upon rising give yourself quiet time or meditation to allow the body and the mind to come into the outer world with focus and attention
  • Eat regularly balanced meals with joy, with heavier foods during the early part of the day
  • Avoid dry, cold foods introducing warm moist foods into your diet
  • Gentle exercise
  • Pay attention to create regularity; the mind needs to have peaceful times; and the vital needs to feel dynamic. Take time out during the day to avoid sensory overload.

If you are Vata dominant, Warming and Hydration are most important.

When the Vata dosha is not in balance, you may feel spacey, forgetful, experience insomnia, constipation, flatulence, dryness and general nervousness. If you see this in yourself, you know your Vata dosha is out of balance.

Balancing Pitta

  • Start your day with warm water in winter and cool water in summer
  • Upon rising give yourself quiet time or meditation to allow the body and the mind to come into the outer world with focus and attention
  • Overheating, both physically and emotionally, is very common in the Pitta nature so take time to chill out
  • Watch for your hunger level and eat when hungry without delaying
  • Eat cooling, simple foods such as fruits or rice. Avoid over spicy, oily or sour foods that create heartburn and may cause the intestines to inflame
  • Pitta can be imbalanced by high acidity. Take alkalizing foods
  • Moderate coffee and tea use
  • Keep your body cool
  • Exercise only during the cooler times of the day and take a short rest period during the hottest part of the day

If you are a Pitta dominant, Cooling and Alkalizing are most important.

If the Pitta dosha is imbalanced, the body is heated, you feel irritable and can have diarrhoea, skin rashes and itching, restless sleep, night sweats or inordinate thirst.

Balancing Kapha

  • Start your day with hot water with some lemon to stimulate your digestion
  • Upon rising give yourself quiet time or meditation to allow the body and the mind to come into the outer world with focus and attention
  • Eat heavier foods during the early part of the day paying attention to eating very light food in the evening
  • It is beneficial to eat raw foods, raw juices and take hot ginger tea
  • Exercise in the morning vigorously for a short period to activate the physical body and have one short rest period during the day
  • Spend time with others, to stimulate new thoughts and ideas. Keep your body warm and do daily self-massage.

If you are Kapha dominant, Warming and Moderation are most important.

If kapha is imbalanced, you feel tired and lethargic; you gain weight, oversleep, move slowly, and have excess mucous or slow bowel movements.

Other means of maintaining balance:

Food & Nutrition, Physical Fitness, and Yoga & Meditation

Food & Nutrition

According to Ayurveda, nutrition has to balance our physical body, our vitality and our mind. Good nutrition is not only about eating nutritious food but is also about creating a harmonious environment to support a focused and peaceful mind as well as strong vitality, strong prana.

An individual’s constitution plays a great role in their nutrition, as not all foods act to balance or give good nutrition to all constitutions. Eating foods that are nutritionally balancing to your body, vital and mind, will give prana to your particular constitution and create tremendous healing power within you.

Ayurveda places considerable emphasis on good digestion where the food we eat is converted into energy, tissue and other building blocks. When we experience low energy, the body’s capacity to turn food into energy is low. Therefore it is important to help the body to increase its digestive power, called agni.

When the digestion power or ‘agni’ is strong we are able to absorb the nutrients from our food into our tissues and expel toxins, which can accumulate as ‘ama’ in the body. According to Ayurveda, the accumulation of ama in the body’s tissues is one of the main precursors to illness.

Physical Fitness

Regular exercise and good nutrition are two of the cornerstones for healthy living. Having good physical fitness can also prevent many health conditions brought on by unhealthy lifestyle or aging.

Any fitness program needs to take into account the general health, strength and age of the individual and should be implemented gradually to allow the body, mind and emotions to adjust.

Having an understanding of your Ayurveda constitution can help you develop a fitness program that best augments your lifestyle leading to optimal health.

For the Vata dominant individual – Start your exercise programs with gentle stretching or yoga, and if necessary, follow this with more vigorous exercise. Be careful to maintain your hydration before, during and after exercise. Keep your body warm and do daily self-massage, applying oil to make sure your skin is moist and doesn’t dry out.

For the Pitta dominant individual – Exercise only during the cooler times of the day, avoiding the sun and hot weather. Keep your body cool and do daily light self-massage, using oil to ensure your skin is moist and not dry.

For the Kapha dominant individual – Exercise vigorously in the morning for a short period to activate your physical body and metabolism. Keep your body warm and do daily self-massage to stimulate your system. Make sure your skin is moist and not dry by applying oil.

Yoga and Meditation

Yoga comes from Sanskrit. It means ‘union’, union of the lower self with the higher Self.

In the West, the term ‘yoga’ is usually taken to be ‘Hatha Yoga’ – a form of exercise. Hatha Yoga asanas (postures) are designed to bring concentrated awareness on a part of the body, and through that to establish a communication between body, mind and consciousness.  Thus the practice of Hatha Yoga not only benefits body and mind, but also helps us begin to look deeper inside ourselves. Ayurveda suggests different asanas for the different doshas.

In the Indian philosophy, the term ‘yoga’ is takes instead in a broader sense: the search for a higher meaning of life, of a connection with this higher reality.

Meditation is part of Yoga. The process begins with the quieting of the mind, detaching from and observing our life. In time, meditation leads us to explore and be in touch with the deeper part of ourselves.

Meditation helps us in many ways: it calms emotions, settles and focuses the mind, and slowly brings to the fore the qualities and capacities that are stored deep within ourselves.

Ayurveda and the Mind

Ayurveda views the mind as an instrument to process sensory information. As such, it is a storehouse of the impressions we access through the senses. Everything we see or feel leaves an imprint upon the mind. Therefore, too much, too little or wrong use of the senses results ultimately in unhappiness, pain, illness, etc.

A brief overview of the connection between the five elements in nature, the senses and the affected dosha:

ElementSenseDosha
EtherSoundVata
AirTouchVata
FireSightPitta
WaterTasteKapha
EarthSmellKapha

This means that, for example, too much over-stimulation of the eyes affects Pitta. Conversely, high Pitta may bring about eye-inflammation.

Similarly too many noises or very strong winds affect Vata, etc.

As we begin to pay more attention to what is going through our mind, we may notice that initial ‘warnings’ of disease start in the mind. If we carefully listen, we can stop the process of getting sick while it is still in the mind.

It’s true that at time disease starts in the body – for example we catch cold, but in many cases disease starts in the mind, as a response to negative thoughts or emotions.

Since the mind is nothing but thought, much of the healing consists of changing our thought pattern and learning to embrace positive thoughts. Thoughts of love, peace, and harmony counteract the weakening disturbing and negative thoughts. This can be achieved through positive affirmations, but also chanting.

By nature the mind is changing, volatile, and thus difficult to control. Concentration techniques allow us to gradually hold the mind in place.

Like the body, the mind is material and part of the external world. Simply, it is made of matter of a more refined, subtler nature. To achieve awareness of our inner self, we must then go beyond the mind, into the realm of the spiritual heart. Through the practice of prayer and meditation we gradually gain control of the mind. Eventually, we become aware of the different levels of the mind: the sensorial mind, intelligence, imagination, intuition and finally go beyond the mind into the realm of pure consciousness within our heart.

Summary

In Ayurveda, the three doshas are reflected at a higher, non-material level by the primary qualities of nature, the three gunas.

EssenceManifestation
SattvaConsciousness or intelligenceGrowth in consciousness
RajasMotion and actionExpanding of ego
TamasInertia which resists themStagnation in ignorance

At any time, there is an interplay of these three forces inside each and every human being. To enhance sattvic qualities, a diet rich in fresh, organic, light, soothing foods in moderate amounts is required.

In addition to wholesome food, we should have sufficient sleep and activity, cleanliness, pleasant environment, constructive social interactions…