Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ayurveda

My best friend Melissa, a yoga teacher and all-around health warrior, has been raving about how great she feels since beginning to live an Ayurvedic life.

Ayurveda is an ancient holistic healing system that originated in India. The practice focuses on the use of herbs, massage, meditation, exercise and yoga.

According to Ayurveda, people are composed of three complementary energies, or doshas: vata (movement), pitta (transformation), and kapha (stability). We're all our own special blend of vata, pitta, and kapha, but we usually have one dominant dosha that determines things such as our personality, body shape, health and appetites. Left unchecked, your dominant dosha can cause physical or emotional imbalance.

Someone with vata qualities, for instance, is energetic and talkative, but when that vata gets out of balance it can manifest as anxiety and insomnia. Being creatures of nature, everything -- from the food on our plates to the weather to the color of our walls -- affects our doshas' balance.

The Ayurvedic system uses the principles of nature to bring people back into equilibrium, maintaining well-being. And although diet tends to get most of the attention in Ayurveda, exercise choices are a critical and often overlooked cause of physical and emotional dosha imbalance. Balancing your exercise choices according to your dosha can make a big difference in your overall health and well-being.

Each dosha is naturally inclined toward certain activities, but these should be complemented by their energetic opposites to achieve balanced bodies and minds. For example, if you're a pitta (like me), your passionate, aggressive nature may draw you to competitive, high-energy sports like tennis. But competition tends to aggravate, rather than balance out, pitta. You'll probably enjoy exercise more and reap more health benefits if you also pursue activities that cool your fire, like swimming or skiing.

Whole Living Magazine offers a free test to determine what your leading dosha is, and then recommends exercises that are appropriate for your dosha type .

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