07/19/2013 12:22 EDT | Updated 09/18/2013 05:12 EDT

What Is Ayurveda, Anyway?


Back when I did my yoga teacher training with 889 Yoga in Toronto, I was really stoked to find out that Ayurveda was going to be a huge part of the program. I had dappled in Eastern medicinal practices off and on up until then, but had never fully embraced the idea of working with my specific body constitution, or dosha, to improve my health and achieve proper life balance.

And once I decided to start seeing an Ayurvedic Practitioner on a weekly basis as part of my wellness plan at that time, I was floored to see how quickly the diet and lifestyle changes he suggested rewarded my body and mind in ways I had not seen through any other plans I had worked with. The changes I saw in my strength; both in my muscles and in my heart, were almost unfathomable.

With my upcoming move to Costa Rica and future living yoga life, I have decided to again explore the benefits of working with an Ayurvedic professional, as it has been a while since I have had any input as to how to continue levelling out my excess Vata, while still pacifying my Pitta and Kapha. Huh, you say? Pitta, Vata, Kapha? What language is that? Well, it's sanskrit, and the aforementioned names are the three types of doshas, or constitutions that comprise our energetic makeup. Confused?

Well, I asked Dr. Gita Gupta, an Ayurvedic Practitioner here in Toronto to explain a bit about what her practice is, and why balancing one's dosha is so important when it comes to healing dis-ease, and improving health:

Ayurveda has been in practice for more than 3,000 years, and its success as a medicine is often attributed to its natural application, and whole body approach. While the definition of Ayurveda is specifically known as "the science of life," it is more a system that incorporates our individual characteristics -- physical, emotional, and environmental -- that are rooted in the energies of the universe. Every one of us has a specific 'energetic' make up, or our constitution, that dictates how we respond to our environment. Theses three life forces that make up the universe are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Ayurvedically, these are what make up our doshas. They are considered the applicable forms of the elements that define our growth process, development and biological tendencies.

Vata: Wind -- "that which moves"

Vata has always been the primary dosha, and the motivating force behind Pitta and Kapha. Its governing elements are Ether and Air, hence its ability to move. It is said to govern sensory and mental balance.

Pitta: Fire -- "that which transforms"

Pitta is considered the to be the power behind digestion and metabolic processes in the body. Its ability to breakdown and transform our food into nutrients, makes it our most powerful dosha.

Kapha: Water & Earth -- "that which holds"

Kapha is the most grounded and stable of all the doshas. It provides substance and support to our body, and also keeps us emotionally sound. It is known to be the root of compassion, patience and modesty in our lives.

Ayurveda is all about seeking to restore and maintain energetic balance. Once you find your doshic make-up, or Prakrati, you can begin directing your lifestyle choices to best suit it, and start to balance your Vikruti (current state), removing the harmful agents in your life. Working with an Ayurvedic professional ensures that you are able to correctly identify your Prakrati, and ensures you an important source of guidance, encouragement, and support as you explore your very personal relationship with the universe.

Dr. Gita Gupta practices both Chiropractic and Ayurvedic Medicine at Integrative Health Institute in downtown Toronto.